A seemingly innocuous resolution authored by Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke condemning recent violence by the anarchist group “Antifa” has put some on the Wisconsin Left on edge. Last month Steineke was lead author on a resolution condemning white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia(White supremacists had violent clashes with Antifa there). It read, in part:
Whereas, the State Assembly strongly condemns white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and all who rely on violence and hatred to advance their cause; and
Whereas, it is our responsibility, as citizens and public servants, dedicated to building a better Wisconsin and a better country; now, therefore, be it resolved, that members of the Wisconsin Assembly condemn the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the racist, intolerable views that caused that deeply tragic day.
And Steineke made an impassioned statement on the floor of the Assembly in support of the resolution.
Later in August Antifa members infiltrated what had been a peaceful protest in Berkeley and committed acts of violence, prompting another resolution from Steineke. This one called on the Assembly to condemn the Antifa violence at a “rally against hate,” as it did the actions of white supremacists. Antifa breached police barricades and began attacking people, unprovoked. One Wisconsin Institute board member Mandela Barnes sees Steineke’s second resolution as putting a caveat on the Assembly’s condemnation of white supremacists.
“To put antifa on the same playing field as the whole of white supremacy is to intentionally dismiss an institution that has been interwoven in our society, brought about chaos, disrupted, and in many cases taken lives.
“I will never understand what is so hard about unequivocal condemnation of neo-Nazi and other hate groups. Why must there always be a caveat? When terrible conditions fester, I would like to remind those backing the proposal that it is more productive to examine and remediate the root issue before condemning the reaction.“
In fact, the “root issue” to which Barnes, a former state lawmaker, refers is free speech. Antifa members breached a police barricade and began attack right-wing protesters entirely unprovoked. As the Washington Post headline over the story read:
Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley
The only provocation for the antifa violence was ideology. Barnes seems to feel belief systems with which she disagrees are “root issues” that need remediation. Further, the right-wing group described itself as “anti-marxist.” There is no indication it was a white supremacy group. Mandela appears to be validating a basic tenet of antifa philosophy, according to Joe Carter at Intellectual Takeout:
If there is a unifying theme in their efforts, it is that the mere existence of “fascists” poses a threat of violence, especially toward minority groups. They believe this gives them a right to preemptive self-defense that justifies using violence to prevent “fascist” groups or persons from exercising such rights as free speech or public assembly.
Steineke’s original resolution did unequivocally condemn neo-Nazi and other hate groups. Condemning antifa for launching an unprovoked violent attack on a peaceful protest should not be controversial. Steineke may suspect that some Democrats will be reluctant to condemn antifa’s Berkeley actions. Barnes may have the same suspicions. In fact, his statement not only fails to condemn it but offers tacit approval to antifa violence absent a real threat. And it puts him at odds with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
Pelosi Statement Condemning Antifa Violence in Berkeley
San Francisco — Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement denouncing the violent protests carried out this weekend in Berkeley, California:
“Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts. The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.
“In California, as across all of our great nation, we have deep reverence for the Constitutional right to peaceful dissent and free speech. Non-violence is fundamental to that right. Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate, and to remember the values of peace, openness and justice that represent the best of America.”
Steinke’s resolution will give Assembly Democrats the opportunity to show whether they hold Pelosi’s position, or Barnes’.
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