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There’s not really an “alt-left,” but these guys are trying to be it Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Battle lines form between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" and anti-fascist counter-protesters at the entrance to Emancipation Park during the "Unite the Right" rally Aug. 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Emancipation Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.

They may not be as big, loud or as politically open and active as the white supremacist groups of the far right, but the far left does exist in America and it does have its militants.

Even farther to the left than self-styled social justice warriors who seek to systemic change through persuasion and peaceful protests, a fringe group called Antifa takes a more “by any means necessary” approach to fighting fascism and other elements of the extreme right.

RELATED: Wait, “Alt-left”? Is there any such thing?

Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and other related groups on the nebulous far left have been staging counter protests and chasing down neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white supremacists since the late 1980s. The work of ARA and other revolutionary anarchist and anti-fascist groups has evolved into the modern Antifa: far-left autonomous extremist groups around the country and even around the world using social media, email listservs and websites to organize and take action against fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia and more.

The self-proclaimed anti-fascists (where the name Antifa originates) operate without a leader and are typically seen at protests and counter-protests wearing all black or red and black, often with masks. Now more centered on the West Coast than the Midwest, Antifa is increasingly becoming known for a willingness to use militant protest tactics, including property damage and physical violence.

Protests during the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration drew media attention and grew national awareness of Antifa, when radicals, many wearing masks, smashed windows, overturned trashcans, set fires and attempted to evade police around Washington.

Gayle is the Heartland Editor at Rare. She grew up in the Midwest and graduated from Kent State University. Having traveled the world covering defense, Congress, American manufacturing and more, her passion remains explaining what’s going on in D.C. to the rest of the country (and trying to explain the ...Read more
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