Dartmouth history professor Mark Bray is not backing down from his defense of self-proclaimed “anti-fascist” groups that bring baseball bats and other weapons to peaceful protests.
The author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” made waves during an Aug. 20 interview on “Meet the Press” in which he framed the physically confrontational tactics of black-clad collectivists as “confronting other forms of violence.” His employer distanced itself from his statements, but Mr. Bray stands by his words.
NBC News interviewed the history professor over the weekend for a better understanding of his position.
“It’s basically a politics or an activity of social revolutionary self defense. It’s a pan-left radical politics uniting communists, socialists, anarchists and various different radical leftists together for the shared purpose of combating the far right,” Mr. Bray said Saturday when asked to specifically define Antifa.
Mr. Bray’s remarks came just over two weeks since 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Police arrested 20-year-old suspect Alex Fields Jr., after he accelerated his vehicle into a group of counter-protesters.
The professor was then pressed on what he means in his book when he says that violence perpetrated by Antifa represents a “small though vital sliver” of its activity.
“Even if a group does not intend for that to be the way to go about it, if you’re organizing against violent fascists, being able to defend yourselves can unfortunately come in handy,” he replied. “I agree most of the time, in most circumstances, non-violent means are effective and it’s really very fundamental to building a popular movement to influence public opinion.”
The professor asserted that critics take his words out of context before he was asked if he considers charging down peaceful neo-Nazis a form of self-defense.
“I try not to wade too far into ‘What about this and what about this,’” the professor told NBC. “I like to leave it as general as ‘I support collective self-defense against fascism and Nazism.’”
“So basically, you don’t want to take a clear position on that specific distinction (between self defense and preemptive attack),” countered reporter Benjy Sarlin.
“In the abstract. I’m going to leave it at that if you don’t mind,” said Mr. Bray.
The professor’s comment came just one day before roughly 100 Antifa members chased off attendees at a Patriot Prayer rally held Sunday in Berkeley.
The San Francisco Chronicle documented some of the violence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center, which included an innocent man who was “pummeled” with “fists and sticks” until a stranger came to his defense.
Police also had to protect organizer Joey Gibson, who was hit with sticks and chased down by a mob.
Thirteen people were arrested by the time the free speech rally ended, the newspaper reported.