Campus council debates antifa ideals and rhetoric

There was a discussion about antifa ideology during campus council this Wednesday. Contributed graphic.

By Lily Bohlke
bohlkeli@grinnell.edu

At Campus Council on Wednesday night, Delegate Isaac Gold ’19 and Junze Yao ’20 came forward with a request to discuss “the art and ideals of antifa,” according to SGA Senator Jenkin Benson ’17. Gold said that he was concerned by a group labeling itself as antifa, short for anti-fascist, at Grinnell, referring to an incident at UC Berkeley where protests stopped Milo Yiannopolous from speaking, also causing monetary damages to the institution. Gold said he associated the label of antifa with violence.

Gold felt that some of the images used by antifa groups suggest that Grinnell as an institution is fascist.

“The antifa signs that came up … to me sounded like a call for violence,” Gold said. “Are they trying to say that Grinnell College is a Nazi? I wanted clarification on that, because obviously it would be ridiculous to assume that a liberal arts college that supports social justice, diversity and inclusivity would be called a Nazi. It’s entirely the opposite.”

According to Benson, Gold and Yao thought that an anonymously published zine was intended to encourage violence against anyone who doesn’t agree with antifa ideology. The zine in question was not associated with antifa or any official student group.

“They presented antifa ideology as ‘anti-Grinnellian’ and illiberal. And like, in their defense, yes antifa is a leftist organization opposed to liberalism, but no, people who subscribe to leftism are not going to roundhouse kick liberals, or even conservatives,” Benson wrote in an email to The S&B.

Gold said that the response from members of antifa, as well as other students not directly involved with the group, was that antifa does not intend to encourage people to beat up conservatives or destroy things.

“It’s in a metaphorical sense,” Gold said he realized after the clarifying discussion. “From other antifa groups [on other campuses] we had seen that if you support Trump, if you support Republicans, or if you just don’t even agree with us, we label you fascist. They explained it’s in a metaphorical sense.”

Benson said that his understanding was that Gold and Yao wanted to urge antifa further towards civility politics, which antifa opposed.

“The general consensus [among antifa] was that debating whether or not art that conveys active opposition to neo-Nazis and white supremacy is ridiculous,” Benson wrote. “Nazism is obviously indefensible.”