Is Antifa Behind the Philadelphia Arson Incident?

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The far-left is increasingly turning towards violence and the destruction of property to make its points.

This past Monday, in commemoration of the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Affair and as part of the international Marxist holiday, May Day, a series of attacks against so-called fascists took place across the nation. In Philadelphia, arsonists  destroyed two half-million-dollar new-construction town houses in the Point Breeze neighborhood. In a North Philadelphia neighborhood, activists destroyed $100,000 of property. Other incidents occurred in Portland, New York, among other cities.

Both Philadelphia attacks appear to have been triggered by a growing trend of gentrification in the city. In Point Breeze, several flyers were posted before the attack which urged readers to “smash gentri scum,” clearly inciting violent action against the developers and construction workers in the neighborhood.

These incidents, according to one independent source, were orchestrated by an international internet-organized movement known as Antifa.

Antifa, a shortened form of the group Antifaschistische Aktion, formed in 1932 as part of an unsuccessful coup by the German Communist Party to overthrow the Nazi majority in parliament. Antifa was subsequently dissolved by Hitler’s regime, although several groups have organized under the banner of Antifa since the 1980s.Since the election of President Trump, Antifa has seen a resurgence in the United States—not as a resistance force against a type of fascism even loosely akin to the regimes of Mussolini or Hitler, but against “fascism” in a, let’s say, more interpretive sense.

One Antifa group, Philly Antifa, who allegedly organized the vandalism and arson on Monday, states in their mission statement that they are in “direct conflict”—indeed, violent conflictwith “Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and all the other flavors of Fascism.” Whether these forms of “facism” must be explicit in order to warrant retaliation, or could be inert or suspected is unclear.

Philly Antifa did not list gentrification or classism as a flavor of fascism, or a trend/behavior they condone.

Antifa-affiliated groups have been labeled “anarchists” by Fox News anchors Wednesday morning, as well as by the Philadelphia Inquirer in their analysis of the May Day vandalism.

Anarchism is a political philosophy that the State does not hold moral legitimacy. The State, under this philosophy, instead, derives its power from force which makes the State illegitimate under most moral frameworks.

As history shows, no alternative to capitalism has ever been implemented on a large scale without an oppressive central government. Antifa, on the other hand, if they stand against anything in particular, stands against capitalism.

Antifa—and affiliated groups such as By Any Means Necessary which played a role in the Berkeley Attacksresorts to violence as a means of social change. Philosophical anarchists, such as Mahatma Gandhi or Henry David Thoreau, did not advocate for violence, but instead believed in strict non-violence.

Philly Antifa maintains a section “Local Fascists and Nazis” on their website which includes pictures, current addresses, and descriptions of suspected Nazis in the area. They encourage visitors to report suspected fascists to by emailing

The practice of posting personal information such as addresses as a means of harassment or threat is a growing trend amongst radical far-left groups. Doxing is a concerning and (in many cases) illegal practice that could lead to vigilante attacks such as the ones in Philadelphia. Vigilante attacks against persons misidentified as alleged fascists in the addresses or photographs may be an even greater concern.

If indeed Philly Antifa organized these attacks, they would be categorized as a terrorist organization under the U.S. Code of Federal Regulation.

Meanwhile, news outlets continue to struggle with what exactly to call these groups. 

Hans Riess, a recent graduate of Duke University, writes for Merion West. 

Hans Riess graduated from Duke University with a degree in mathematics and is working towards a PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is interested in applying concepts from mathematics to theories of optimal political decision-making.

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