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Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy
By Andy Ngo
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With a new afterword from the author.
In this #1 national bestseller, a journalist who's been attacked by Antifa writes a deeply researched and reported account of the group's history and tactics.
In Unmasked, Andy Ngo tells the story of this violent extremist movement from the very beginning. He includes interviews with former followers of the group, people who've been attacked by them, and incorporates stories from his own life. This book contains a trove of documents obtained by the author, published for the first time ever.
“WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!” the crowd of left-wing protesters chanted as they marched in the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon, in June 2019. Some of them wore red shirts and bandanas to broadcast their allegiance to Marxism. They paraded red flags printed with a rose logo, a symbol of the Democratic Socialists of America. They were joined by dozens of people dressed head to toe in black. These were the radical anarchist communists. Most of them wore masks—long before the COVID-19 outbreak made them a norm of public life. Many also wore helmets and carried melee weapons. Together, the crowd of around four hundred brought traffic to a standstill—by now a regular occurrence in the City of Roses, as Portland is known by. As usual, the police stayed away. They knew whom the streets belonged to.
Working as a journalist with a phone and a new GoPro camera, I slowly made my way toward the front of the crowd. Some of the protesters recognized me. They glared and whispered in the ears of their comrades. Luis Enrique Marquez looked right at me. The 48-year-old Rose City Antifa member has been arrested so many times at violent protests in Portland over the past few years that he no longer bothers to wear a mask. Still, I ignored the stares and continued forward. By this point, the crowd’s chants had changed.
“No hate! No fear!” they began shouting.
Before I made it much farther, someone—or something—hit me hard in the back of the head. I was nearly knocked to the ground from the impact. Never having been in a fight, I naively asked myself in the moment: “Did someone just trip and fall into me?” Before I could turn around to look, a sea of bodies dressed in black surrounded me. In the background, I could still hear the crowd chant, “No hate!”
Ironically, all I saw next—and felt—was the pure embodiment of hatred.
Staring at an amorphous mob of faceless shadows, I froze. Suddenly, clenched fists repeatedly struck my face and head from all directions. My right knee buckled from the impact. The masked attackers wore tactical gloves—gloves hardened with fiberglass on the knuckles. It’s likely some of them used brass knuckles as well. I put my arms up to surrender, but this only signaled to them to beat me more ferociously. Someone then snatched my camera—my evidence. I desperately tried but failed to hold on to it. The masked thief melted into the crowd, a function of the “black bloc.” Another person ran up and kicked me twice in the groin. Someone bashed me on the head from behind with a stiff placard or sign.
The attack left me dazed and bloodied. I was bleeding from my ear and had open gashes all over my face. My eyes were beginning to swell with blood. I thought the beating was over, but next came the hailstorm of “milkshakes,” eggs, and other hard objects at my face and head.
The mob roared in laughter as I stumbled away. A crowd of cameramen surrounded and followed me. I thought they were going to offer to help, but they just took photos and video.
“F—king owned, bitch!” shouted a local transsexual antifa militant and a member of the Satanic Portland Antifascists.1 I walked away, half blinded, to the county courthouse across Lownsdale Square before losing my balance. Later, in the emergency room of the Oregon Health and Science University hospital, I found out my brain was hemorrhaging.
Outside of the Multnomah County Justice Center, the building that houses the Central Police Precinct, the Sheriff’s Office, and courtrooms, I was nearly killed by a violent mob. At no point did police intervene to help. Mobile phone footage recorded by Jim Ryan, a news reporter with the Oregonian—Portland’s newspaper of record—captured part of the beating.
While I was in the emergency room, the video was being watched hundreds of thousands of times on social media. My name began to trend on Twitter across the United States, even though most people had no idea who I was. Even liberal mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN could not ignore what happened. In contrast to the narrative Americans had been sold that antifa are merely “anti-fascists,” the video showed a mob of mask-clad extremists beating a journalist in the middle of a major American city with impunity. It confirmed what some had been warning for years: antifa is a violent extremist movement that attacks all kinds of targets under the guise of “anti-fascism.”
Though my assault that day received national and international attention, I was hardly the only one to be brutally attacked. Adam Kelly, 37, was hit from behind with an overhead swing by several masked militants as he attempted to help an older man being beaten on the ground next to the Pioneer Courthouse. One of Kelly’s attackers used a baton to strike him on the head. The impact could actually be heard on video. Kelly’s head injury required twenty-five staples to close. He and I were treated in the same emergency department, but we didn’t know it at the time. He was lucky to survive.
Gage Halupowski, a 24-year-old Portland resident, was convicted and sentenced for the attack against Kelly. To date, he remains one of the very few antifa extremists in the United States sentenced to prison time. Tellingly, antifa groups refer to him as a “political prisoner.”2
In total, eight were injured that day. Three, including myself, required hospitalization. Rose City Antifa, the Portland antifa group, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“The events of this weekend are what we mean by community defense,” the organization said in a statement on its website.3 “This is exactly what should happen when the far-right attempts to invade our town.” This was a rare moment of honesty for an antifa organization that otherwise spreads disinformation and propaganda. If it isn’t clear yet, violence is a feature, not a bug, of antifa’s ideology. In fact, they venerate violence. Since 2015, untold numbers of victims, including other journalists, have been doxed, beaten, robbed, or killed by antifa militants. Few of them receive media attention—or justice.
For whatever reason, the violence on June 29, 2019, in Portland became one of the watershed moments that brought national attention to antifa violence and the left-wing politicians who enabled it despite many people having been victimized before me. For example, two Marine reservists visiting Philadelphia in November 2018 were jumped after being mistaken for Proud Boys by antifa. Alejandro Godinez and Luis Torres, who are Latino, told investigators they were called racial slurs during the unprovoked attack and robbery. Tom Keenan, Thomas Massey, and Joseph Alcoff were later arrested after they were identified in a video recorded earlier in the day at a nearby antifa protest.4 Alcoff is the son of a feminist professor and worked as a progressive Democratic lobbyist in Washington, DC.5
Those attacks flew under the radar at the federal level, but President Donald Trump finally weighed in soon after my attack. “Portland is being watched very closely,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!”6
Part of the city resembled a failing state that day, with masked thugs patrolling the streets openly and freely with weapons. The authorities were unable to secure order and protect citizens per commands that limit police engagement with left-wing protesters and rioters. This has been the norm in the City of Roses.
In fact, the normalization of antifa violence in Portland could be summed up in how a local left-wing journalist described the events of June 29. Even with all the violence, now—Washington Post writer Katie Shepherd called it “mostly unremarkable.”7 She was actually right, just not in the way she meant. Political violence involving antifa extremists had become so routine in the city that by 2019 the near-killing of three citizens was considered a banality. But what happened in Portland didn’t stay there. Nor did the violence end at severe head injuries. As antifa continue to be whitewashed and ignored and their existence denied, their appeal and membership grow. So does their adherents’ willingness for violence. After months of coronavirus lockdowns in early 2020, race riots erupted in May in response to the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police. In the name of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and with the help of antifa, rioters and looters torched buildings, raided stores, and attacked law enforcement in dozens of cities. This resulted in over two dozen deaths.
Despite what was happening before our eyes, left-wing politicians and media denied antifa played a role. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called the movement “imaginary” during a congressional debate.8 And even though the public could plainly see masked militants openly planning and carrying out riot operations, we were still told there is “no evidence” of organized antifa.
“Who caused the violence at protests? It wasn’t antifa,” declared one gaslighting Washington Post “fact-checker” analysis, for example.9
In 2018, I was one of the few journalists writing about antifa and warning the public about what was happening in Portland. I had only been a journalist for a few years, and my older mentors in the field told me to pick a new beat. “Antifa is an old story. They’re irrelevant. Move on,” I was told by one trusted editor. Against their advice, I continued writing and speaking about the subject. Thanks to brave editors and producers at the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, respectively, my reporting was given a large national audience.
What my mentors failed to see at the time was antifa’s sophisticated strategy to destabilize society using propaganda, radicalization, violence, and even electoral politics. It was always wrong to reduce antifa to a ragtag group of street hooligans. Behind their violence is a plan to destroy the nation-state, America in particular, to bring about a revolution that leads to their vision of utopia. In 2020, the country experienced a taste of this when a relatively small group of committed radicals incited and carried out massive damage to life and property in the name of “anti-racism”.
ON AUGUST 4, 2020, I gave testimony to the U.S. Congress about the threat antifa poses to American life and liberty. I was invited to speak by Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. I came with a nonpartisan message. Being a Portlander who has reported extensively on antifa for years and witnessing their daily violence firsthand, I knew that local and federal authorities weren’t taking the threat seriously. Not only had it led to preventable deaths, anitfa militants were now openly organizing uprisings from coast to coast.
I knew that the high-profile nature of giving testimony to the Senate meant that I would be subject to another round of death threats. But I couldn’t ignore the opportunity to speak with Democrats for once. The threat of antifa cannot be solved through just one party.
Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono, one of the highest-level Asian American politicians, cochairs the subcommittee with Senator Cruz. I wrote my remarks hoping she and her Democratic colleagues would understand, even just a little, that antifa are not simply “anti-fascist” as they claim. I cited evidence from court documents, government press releases, law enforcement, and my own research to show that antifa are violent and seeks to destabilize the United States through domestic terrorism. My comments were ignored by the Democrats. Not one asked me any questions or even acknowledged my presence there. Senator Hirono for her part repeated headlines from the Guardian and other leftist sources that erroneously say that antifa have “killed no one.”10 Before the three-hour hearing was over, she stormed out of the room. “I hope this is the end of this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and that we don’t have to listen to any more of your rhetorical speeches,” Hirono told Senator Cruz when he asked her if she would denounce antifa.11 At that point, no other Democrats were in the hearing. They had either physically left or logged out if they were attending virtually. A few weeks later, antifa militant Michael Reinoehl went on to kill in Portland.
UNMASKED IS THE end result of years of reporting on antifa, even before I understood what they were. It has taken me on the streets of Portland, Seattle, New York, London, and more. As any good journalist should know, you don’t want to become part of the story. However, whether I wanted to or not, antifa decided to make me part of their story. After my 2019 beating, I became antifa’s public enemy number one. They’ve sent me death threats, stalked me, and even showed up at my family’s home on several occasions. They have threatened to shoot me and to set me on fire. They’ve released my exact whereabouts in real time on social media. They’ve threatened my friends. The criminal threats are reported to local police, but no one is ever held accountable.
By 2020, antifa grew to become a near-household name in the United States following months of street violence and property destruction. President Trump moved to have his administration treat them as a domestic terrorist organization after promising to do so for a year. Predictably, this prompted a new wave of countless reports, op-eds, and essays defending or whitewashing antifa.
Few of the people who write about them actually know what this movement is and what its goals are. In fact, misconceptions, misinformation, and disinformation abound about antifa in both left-wing and right-wing media. On the right, antifa are portrayed as street hooligans—violent but also weak, gender-confused “soy” boys and girls. On the left, they are characterized as brave heroes who defend their communities against white supremacists and fascists. Neither side captures what antifa fully are nor the true threat they pose to liberal democracy and the American republic.
So, what exactly are the “antifa,” and what do they want? Antifa—pronounced “an-tee-fa” and short for “anti-fascist”—is a relatively new American phenomenon, but their ideology and violent strategies have been honed and refined for decades in Europe. Simply put, antifa are an ideology and movement of radical pan-leftist politics whose adherents are mainly militant anarchist communists or collectivist anarchists. A smaller fraction of them are socialists who organize through political groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and others. Labels aside, their defining characteristics are a militant opposition to free markets and the desire to destroy the United States and its institutions, culture, and history. Contrary to what many on the right believe, they are not liberal, though that does not mean they haven’t made inroads in transforming and radicalizing the Democratic Party.
What unites this group of leftists is its opposition to so-called fascism, though importantly, what is defined as fascism is left wide open. This is intentional as it allows antifa to justify all manner of violence and extremism in the name of opposing “fascism.” However, not all of its followers participate in violence. In fact, most don’t and instead work on delegitimizing liberal democracy and the nation-state through “charity” and relentless propaganda. Since Trump’s election win, the manifestation of antifa in the United States and Canada (and to a lesser extent in other Western countries) has mutated into a unique contemporary breed of violent left-wing extremism. Influenced by BLM, intersectionality, and other vogue left-wing theories from academe, American antifa have become a more virulent strain that appeals to the mainstream left.
Antifa are no longer a fringe group of radicals wreaking havoc in a handful of cities in America. They’ve seen tremendous success through finding fellow travelers in education, journalism, the legal profession, and politics. The United States is being attacked in all directions by a movement few understand or recognize.
The political street violence involving antifa in the United States serves as a harbinger of American society—the canary in the coal mine of our coming disorder—even possible civil war—if we allow their actions and ideology to be further normalized. American media constantly warn us about the rise of right-wing violence and the lethal threat posed by white supremacy. No honest person denies there are indeed violent far-right militants in the United States, as documented by federal law enforcement, but their numbers and influence are grossly exaggerated by biased media. Antifa receive a tiny fraction of the news coverage of the far right, and yet I would argue their increasingly violent tactics and ideology pose just as much, if not more, of a threat to the future of American liberal democracy. In these pages, I will show why.
Through analysis of never-before-seen antifa documents, Unmasked reveals some of the key players behind this movement and the strategy they’ve developed to recruit, train, and radicalize followers and the public. Street violence is only one part of their planned revolution. We ignore or whitewash antifa at liberty’s peril.
IN MAY 2020, when much of the American population was still under compulsory stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter (BLM), with the aid of antifa, moved into action.
George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, in the custody of Minneapolis police officers ignited an already volatile anti-police political climate set in place by the recent deaths of two other black men. Antifa groups and accounts on social media played a key role in amplifying false narratives and outright lies about these men in support of BLM.
On May 6, 2020, Indianapolis police shot and killed 21-year-old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed. That day, Reed recorded a livestream of himself fleeing police in a high-speed car chase. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said they tried to pull him over for reckless driving before he sped off.12 Reed’s Facebook livestream showed him armed with a distinctive gold-and-black pistol during the chase. At some point, Reed pulled over and continued to run on foot; his gun can be seen tucked under his waistband. After an exchange of fire, Reed was shot dead by a police officer, who is also black. Reed’s death and edited video clips were used as propaganda to incite anger and hatred online. On the petition website Change.org, a campaign was started to “demand justice” for Reed.
“Yesterday, excessive use of violence ended the life of [an] unarmed man by the name of Sean Reed,” the page read.13 “I, and all who sign this agree that those officers should be charged with murder, because it fits the definition of the word.”
The campaign garnered over 100,000 signatures. On Twitter, tweets claiming Reed was unarmed and “murdered in cold blood” went viral. The falsehood was amplified by a network of left-wing influencers with millions of followers, such as teen gun control advocate David Hogg.14 And per usual, media stories poured fuel on the fire by leaving out key details in news story ledes and printing old photos of Reed rather than recent ones showing him proudly engaging in illegal activities. Even worse, news reports failed to mention that one of his last uploaded videos showed him committing a drive-by shooting with a handgun matching the one he used against police.15
Facts be damned, the public narrative was the familiar refrain that an innocent black person had been brutally murdered by racist, bloodthirsty police. For days, demonstrators gathered in Indianapolis to protest law enforcement.16 Anti-lockdown protesters had been threatened with fines and even jail time by mayors and governors for violating public gathering rules. Yet no one took issue with the massive crowds of people demonstrating in the name of BLM.
The narrative around Reed’s death, with the aid of biased media, was used as the groundwork for exploiting American sensitivities on race. On the fringe left, antifa-aligned accounts on social media saw an opportunity to use his death as fodder for police hatred. It worked. Around the same time, activist networks began blasting a short segment of a video that showed Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black male, being shot by a white father and son vigilante duo in Glynn County, Georgia.
Gregory and Travis McMichael said they suspected Arbery of being a returning burglar in their neighborhood. They accosted Arbery on the street while waiting for police to arrive. Video recorded of the street confrontation showed Arbery rushing in and fighting Travis, who was armed with a shotgun. Arbery is then shot and killed. The incident occurred on February 23, 2020—months earlier—but the release of the video in May and the narrative that Arbery was a jogger who was murdered for being black reignited a national crisis on race and policing.
Though Arbery’s death did not directly involve police, Gregory, the father, was a retired law enforcement officer. Local prosecutors did not bring charges against the men, though following the release of the video and street protests, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested the pair on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. Again, antifa accounts saw an opening to spread disinformation about the case to radicalize the public toward their cause. Photos of a man at a small 2016 Ku Klux Klan march in Georgia were misidentified as Gregory McMichael. The posts circulated in viral posts on Twitter and Facebook, leading Georgia Followers, a popular news and culture site, to tweet the photo and a false news report to its 1.5m followers.17 (The story was later removed from the site instead of properly noted as being factually incorrect in an editor’s note.)
The American public was now primed for mass resistance and violence against law enforcement. Glued to social media due to lockdown orders, all they needed was a reason to get out. That reason came in the death of George Floyd Jr. on May 25, 2020.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man with an extensive criminal history, died while being arrested by police in Minneapolis after allegedly using counterfeit money. Shocking video recorded at the scene showed Officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck while he repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe. Three other officers stood nearby.
Floyd became unresponsive and died. The Hennepin County medical examiner found that he died as a result of the “combined effects of… being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system.”18 There was no evidence found of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation in the county’s autopsy. It was later revealed that Floyd’s blood contained a fatal level of fentanyl.19
The reaction to the video was swift and unprecedented. Condemnation over the officers’ conduct poured in from the political left and right. Within twenty-four hours, all four police officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder (later upgraded to second-degree murder) and second-degree manslaughter. His ex-colleagues, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice announced investigations into Floyd’s death.
Though the legal process was moving at lightning speed, others saw Floyd’s death as an opportunity to push through an ambitious political agenda to spark uprisings against the state and its institutions. The wall-to-wall coverage of Floyd’s death along with online agitations by race-baiters sparked mass protests that devolved into some of the worst rioting seen in Minneapolis’s history. From May 26 to 29, the city was convulsed by massive riots that reduced neighborhoods to rubble. But the process, from window breaking to the wholesale looting and destruction of buildings, is not always as organic as it appears. In fact, the riots in Minneapolis and other cities give insight into the workings of antifa’s riot plans and how they manipulate large mobs into doing their bidding.
THE FIRST BUILDING to be torched in Minneapolis was the AutoZone store on East Lake Street, adjacent to the Third Police Precinct, the site of early violence the previous day. One viral video recorded at the store showed a male dressed head to toe in black breaking windows one by one using a sledgehammer. He was wearing a gas mask and carrying a black umbrella, a tactic appropriated by antifa from Hong Kong protesters to block cameras. He spray-painted “Free shit for everyone zone” on the doors of the AutoZone. According to an affidavit written by an investigator in the Minneapolis Police Department weeks later, the looting and fire that followed “set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city.”20
Sgt. Erika Christensen wrote: “Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella Man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension.”21
Videos captured at the scene in the evening showed the auto parts store entirely engulfed in flames. Soon after, a Target store in the area was broken into and looted. Rioters were seen sprinting in and leaving with trolleys filled with electronics, shoes, and clothing. Others used hammers to break into cash registers and safes. A woman in a wheelchair who tried to block an exit of the store to slow looters was beaten by a mob and sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
Police did not respond to the scene.
The violence in that part of the city quickly spread to the rest of Minneapolis. Overnight, dozens of businesses were vandalized, looted, and destroyed. An affordable housing unit that was under construction was set on fire, becoming fully engulfed in flames that reached high into the sky. The heat from the fires “melted” nearby cars. By morning, some thirty businesses had been vandalized or destroyed.
But the violence was far from over. Like clockwork, it repeated again even as Mayor Jacob Frey, a demure Democrat, declared a state of emergency in the city on the third day of unrest. O’Reilly’s, another auto parts store, was targeted by a small group of masked vandals dressed in black who broke windows. After that, other rioters ransacked and ultimately destroyed the store.
- “I can honestly say that no book has changed my life quite like this one.”—Winston Marshall, former guitarist of Mumford & Sons
- On Sale
- Feb 1, 2022
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Center Street