Gainesville mayor’s antifa tweet sparks criticism

Mayor Lauren Poe said the Proud Boys, not antifa, are the terrorists.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe is facing criticism on social media after defending antifa from being called a terrorist group by conservatives.

As of Tuesday, more than 1,400 comments poured onto Poe’s Twitter after he shared an NBC article in response to a recent tweet from President Donald Trump suggesting antifa is a terrorist group. The tweets follow the violent protests that broke out in Portland, Oregon over the weekend.

Antifa is a contraction for “anti-fascists” and the loosely organized group emulates historic anti-fascist activists in Europe dating back to the 1930s. The group believes in actively fighting against fascism, even if it means resorting to violence.

The vast majority of the comments that flowed in after Poe’s tweet come from far-right Trump supporters around the country reaffirming Trump’s opinion about antifa, with little blame put on the Proud Boys, a known hate group that organizes controversial hate speech rallies around the country.

One of those gatherings was the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of protesters and killed a woman.

“Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” Portland is being watched very closely,” Trump’s tweet read.

Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!

— Donald J. Trump (



August 17, 2019

The announcement came after a white nationalist rally in Portland put on by the Proud Boys, a neo-facist organization that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-Muslim, racist and misogynistic rhetoric. Throughout his presidency, Trump has gone back and forth condemning and defending white nationalists, once calling them “very fine people.”

Poe rejected Trump’s suggestion of antifa being a terrorist group — an idea that spread like wildfire among Trump supporters — and said the Proud Boys are the actual terrorists.

“As protesters clash at far-right rally in Portland, Trump suggests naming antifa a terrorist group. Only one of these is a terrorist group, ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩. Antifa stands up to hate, misogyny, racism and bigotry,” Poe wrote.

One of the 1,400-plus comments that rolled in came from Gainesville police Officer Bobby White — who gained some fame as the “Basketball Cop” in a viral video taken from his patrol car when he played basketball with some kids who were subject of a neighbor’s noise complaint — who asked the mayor if he was “pro-antifa.”

White wrote that antifa was who law enforcement was preparing for when white nationalist Richard Spencer came to town in October 2017 for a speaking event at the University of Florida.

Poe responded by saying it was not just antifa, but also an influx of white supremacists and fascists who officials believed might attempt to harm city residents.

Three white supremacists were arrested after the event in connection with a shooting that caused no injuries. One of them was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted murder.

Some commenters who responded to Poe’s tweet came to the defense of the white nationalists and compared antifa to the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis. A few told the mayor to resign.

Poe said Tuesday in a phone interview that he doesn’t agree with antifa’s violence or vigilantism. He said calling them a terrorist organization suggests they carry out attacks in the name of a grander ideology, when they actually only show up to events to push back against fascist organizations, like the Proud Boys.

“They’re a lot different than Richard Spencer and groups like that that talk about overthrowing the state,” Poe said.

Poe said he shared the tweet to show a pattern of misdirection from Trump, his administration and fan base that often attempt to distract people from the actions and words shared by alt-right and white supremacist groups.

“He’s misdirecting people from the alt-right extremist groups so that we’re not talking about them,” he said.

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