Protest Watch

Denver Riots: Antifa Group on Claims It's Behind the Violence

Throughout five days of protests in downtown Denver, social media users have made a variety of claims about who was responsible for after-dark violence and vandalism in the wake of overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations during the daytime hours. The favorite scapegoats among those in thrall to President Donald Trump have been anti-fascist groups collectively known as Antifa.

In response, supporters of such outfits have argued that white supremacist and neo-Nazi collectives stoking unrest and chaos have been responsible for many, if not most, of the excesses and are actively involved in a false propaganda campaign to blame opponents for their actions.

Against this backdrop, Westword reached out to Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists, arguably the largest and most active organization of its type in the state. The group's passionate responses, delivered via email, include similar assertions — but most of its complaints are focused squarely on law enforcement.

"The overwhelming amount of violence is being done by police who are using less-lethal weapons against the people of Colorado for protesting against white supremacist police terror," CSAF states. "The police response in cities like Colorado Springs and Denver highlights what anti-capitalists have been saying for decades: The role of police is to enact violence on marginalized communities, to protect the ruling class, and to protect businesses. A wall with 'RIP George Floyd' spray painted on it can be buffed, but an eye lost to a tear-gas canister to the face (which we have heard reports of from ER doctors in Denver) cannot."

Meanwhile, CSAF continues, "we have several confirmed reports of far-right agitators causing trouble in Denver and Colorado Springs." This tweet from the group includes a photo from a Denver protest allegedly depicting members of the Colorado Proud Boys and Anonymous Denver, described as "an anti-Semitic & anti-LBGT Anonymous formation." Another tweet shares images of " a right-winger boogaloo dude trying to start fights at anti-police protests. This man has been lurking around, trying to instigate violence with protesters, and defacing BLM [Black Lives Matter] signs."

CSAF also points to a Colorado Times Recorder report noting that during a vehicle search in Denver on May 29, "police officers seized several military-style assault rifles from anti-government gun enthusiasts who call themselves 'Boogaloo Bois.'"

In addition, the Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists cite "blatant misinformation spread, like Craigslist posts [the link is from Nebraska] pretending to pay people to cause destruction. Misinformation like this is created to perpetuate a media cycle to de-legitimize organic uprisings against white supremacist police violence. We also received a report from a trusted source of a swastika tagged on a building Friday night in Denver."

That said, "there is a lot misinformation going around," CSAF continues, "and we caution everyone to remember that these uprisings are complex and to be careful not to fall into oversimplifying and generalizing the intentions, tactics and motivations of tens of thousands of individuals."

According to the group, "Donald Trump's threat to declare anti-fascists as terrorists is standard procedure for governments feeling threatened by their people. The United States government did this with 'communists' throughout the 20th century, and has done so with environmental activists, indigenous activists, animal rights activists and more. The goal is to divide the movement and get us to turn on each other, while creating a legal and rhetorical precedent for increasing the violent repression of protesters. In Chile, rhetoric very similar to this ended in the mass rounding up and disappearing of labor activists and leftists under Pinochet. Anti-fascists were rounded up first by the Nazis in Germany."

Nonetheless, CSAF concludes, "We stand in solidarity with the youth-led multi-racial uprisings across the country and against the police who are trying to suppress them. Black Lives Matter. RIP George Floyd."