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Trump Supporters in D.C. Attacked by an Idea

Antifa turned a protest violent over the weekend, throwing punches and fireworks. Over to you, Joe Biden.

Antifa and Black Block demonstrators protest on election night near the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 3, 2020.(Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

It finally feels like fall here in Washington, just in time for winter. And as the flannels come out along with the culturally ambivalent Starbucks holiday cups, a less familiar sight has also been spotted: Trump voters. They came to the nation’s capital last weekend for a big rally, where they showed support for the president’s claim that he was the rightful winner of the election.

And then they were attacked. Fox News reports:

In scenes captured on video, small groups of Trump supporters who attempted to enter the area around Black Lives Matter Plaza, about a block from the White House, were confronted by several hundred anti-Trump demonstrators who had gathered there.

Trump supporters who approached the area were harassed, doused with water, and saw their MAGA hats and pro-Trump flags snatched and burned, while counter-protesters cheered.

Videos show anti-Trump demonstrators shouting at families, sucker-punching people in the street, and harassing an elderly woman carrying a Trump flag.

Even the Washington Post, amid endless sneering at the Trump fans, essentially admitted that most of the aggressors were on the left-wing side:

When darkness fell, the counterprotesters triggered more mayhem as they harassed Trump’s advocates, stealing red hats and flags and lighting them on fire. Scuffles continued into the night as the provocateurs overturned the tables of vendors who had been selling pro-Trump gear and set off dozens of fireworks, prompting police to pepper-spray them.

On Twitter, the journalist Andy Ngo, who’s made a beat out of covering Antifa, posted video of the assaults: left-wing rioters intimidating an elderly couple, knocking an older man off of a bicycle, punching a woman in the back of the head, throwing a firework at outdoor-seated diners, shining lasers through windows at the Capital Hilton after unsuccessfully trying to storm the hotel lobby.

All this comes as a shock to those of us who thought Antifa was just an idea. That was how Joe Biden characterized the group during the first presidential debate, and while he technically had a point—Antifa does lack a central leadership structure and FBI Director Christopher Wray referred to it as an “ideology”—Biden’s purpose was clearly to minimize the threat. Remember, Donald Trump was filleted after that debate for telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” Condemn white supremacists, the media commanded, as though Trump hadn’t done that four million times already. Given Antifa’s pattern of ideological bigotry and political violence, shouldn’t we now demand that Joe Biden denounce them?  I think presidents rhetorically parachuting in every time extremists act up is a bit cultish, but if that’s the standard, then it must be applied evenly.

I’m not about to deny that Trump is part of the problem here. By refusing to admit he’s lost the election, by pretending he can somehow make up that many votes in that many states, he’s once again playing the part of civic pyromaniac. Trump is like Mickey in the sorcerer’s hat, conjuring up forces that can’t be controlled (not that he would if he could). And he has not an atom of credibility when it comes to condemning the use of force against protesters. But it’s also true that protests break out practically every day in D.C. Immigration supporters, Tea Partiers, antiwar activists, Black Lives Matter—all have had their say on the National Mall, Lafayette Square, and beyond. I’ve gone to investigate sidewalk demonstrations near The American Conservative‘s offices only to return with no earthly idea as to what was being protested. I could probably walk down Constitution Avenue right now chanting in Pig Latin with a bucket on my head and get at least a few people to follow me.

The Trump supporters had the same right to peacefully demonstrate as did those other causes. Instead they were set upon by a front that many in the political class would prefer to eclipse out of the national conversation. And what happened next? The Proud Boys, as it happens, were standing by, and started fighting back, causing blood to literally spill into the streets. It’s worth repeating: if one side or the other doesn’t feel like they can safely raise their voices, they’ll turn to those with muscle, and our politics will continue its 1930s momentum to the margins. Antifa might be an idea, but there’s material to that form, and we ought to stop pretending otherwise.

about the author

Matt Purple is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

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