“Antifa” is short for “anti-fascist.” So what are you: anti-fascist or pro- fascist? I assume it’s the former. And yet too many Portlanders are buying into the narrative of the GOP, cops, and select media that antifa is just as bad (if not worse) than extreme right-wing, homophobic, and racist groups—such as Vancouver’s Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys—who regularly visit our city to stir up shit.

Hundreds—let me repeat that—HUNDREDS of morally righteous Portlanders regularly form protests to show their distaste for an extremely small group of sad, pro-fascist right-wingers. And it’s good they do: Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys want to cause fear and unease among queers, POC, and women so they can desperately cling to a dying system of white toxic masculinity and patriarchy. Portlanders should be protesting, to let the intended victims of these bigots know that we severely outnumber these Patriot Prayer losers and will eventually prevail.

These hundreds of protesters—and presumably you (there in spirit, if nothing else)—are antifa. And yet antifa’s message has been hijacked by the GOP, local and national media, certain members of city government, and the Portland Police. Instead of trumpeting your message of righteous resistance, they focus with laser-beam accuracy on a handful of toxic dudes (seriously, maybe 20 people tops) who wrongly choose violence and inadvertently put the people they want to protect in danger.

There’s a good reason why antifa and hundreds of others are being cast as the wrong-doers in this scenario: Antifa’s marketing is for shit. To those looking from the outside in, antifa has no leadership and takes zero responsibility for its members. Who’s going to immediately be there to slap down misinformation from the cops (as in the case of the debunked “cement milkshake” scandal)? Who’s going to let their membership know that violence against others—even bile-hurling hatemongers—is completely unacceptable? Who can the national press turn to when they want to hear antifa’s side of the story? While there are current behind-the-scenes attempts to organize this group, as of right now, knock, knock... nobody’s home.

Meanwhile, the GOP, Patriot Prayer, the Portland Police, and the mayor’s office are organized, have clear leadership, and are successfully marketing the shit out of their message, which lots of media organizations are happily lapping up: That antifa are, without exception, violent, masked thugs who are infringing on the rights of peace-loving Americans.

Is this messaging fair, antifa? Of course not. But you live in 2019 and fairness is a luxury you can no longer afford. Your name—antifa—has been taken from you. The question now is, “What are you going to do about it?” A good place to start is cleaning up antifa from within. Police your fellow protesters, especially those who are doing more harm than good, and publicly call them out when they do. (News flash: Toxic masculinity is never defeated by more toxic masculinity.) Every large organization has some bad apples (hi, Portland Police!), and there’s no shame in admitting that—just get rid of ’em and move on with your lives. Let the world know—loudly—that this is not what you stand for.

And it would be really nice if some arm of Portland’s political community would step up and be the official mouthpiece for the organization.

WARNING: This is not fun. It’s a lot of work herding the various cats in Portland’s many political factions—but having clear leadership in place is the first step in regaining control of your message. And when those leaders emerge, support them. They’ll be taking a lot of shit for your benefit.

Lastly, come out of the shadows. If you’re truly anti-fascist—whether you attend protests or not—then you are antifa. You outnumber the bad guys, and by a lot. Don’t let them tell you who you are. Take the antifa name back, and proudly let everyone know where you stand and who you support.

You won’t be alone, because I’m antifa, too.