by Julien-Pierre Campbell
I was on the proverbial front lines. Black bandanna pulled over my nose and mouth, sunglasses and beanie hiding my identity, I ran. The knife fixed to my belt (clear plastic with a heart-shaped buckle) bounced against my leg as I dashed across the parking lot.
“J, you with us?” my friend Danni (an alias, of course) huffed. They looked back at me, eyes flashing behind their dark glasses.
“Yeah,” I panted. “I’m here. I’m with ya.”
The rest of our party was spread out — Danni’s boyfriend Ty, with his backpack full of medical supplies; our friend Asher, lithe and smiling, even with black paint around his eyes; and our other friend Joey, so tall he could hold his own. I was the youngest by far, and definitely not built for this. Nineteen, small, and physically disabled, I wasn’t exactly imposing. I was, after all, wearing a shirt with a cartoon cat on it.
But I was an antifa protester. I was fighting for what I believed in, so it didn’t matter.
We made it through the parking lot, skirting around the wall of riot police keeping us away from the Proud Boys. We had been separated from the larger half of our protest. We were fenced in by heavily armed men on one side, traffic to our backs.
I was exhilarated. Running from cops will do that to you.
In the back of my mind, however, was some kind of heartbreak. People on the sidewalk were looking at us like we were the monsters, not those that I believe to be literal fascists. The police were menacing us with guns so large I didn’t know the names. They were arresting people and throwing them to the ground. I saw a woman zip-tied and held down for dancing.
I suppose I wrote this to achieve relief. Hi, Portland: I’m the antifa protester you’re afraid of. I’m the villain “just as bad” as those who I call neo-Nazi Proud Boys. But I’m also a full-time college student, a lively barkeep, and a cabaret performer. I fight for the rights of the oppressed because it’s all I can do. Times are dark for those persecuted by both the Trump administration and our society at large.
I educate where I can. Antifa is short for anti-fascist; nothing more, nothing less. I take to the streets as a form of catharsis, I suppose, and as a statement: this city will not tolerate fascism in its streets. Oppressed minorities shouldn’t live in fear. I use what privileges I do have to stand up for the voiceless. And if the bandanna over my mouth makes me a villain to polite society, then call me a villain.
I’ll be antifa for life, and I’m proud to say so.