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Who is Brian Jordan Bartels?


I’ve been saying for years that the looters, arsonists and rioters who hide themselves inside legitimate protests are not leftist “antifa” people, but white supremacist, neo-fascist revolutionaries who just want to create chaos and, if they can, provoke a civil war.

Anybody who reads my blog knows that’s been my position ever since Occupy days. To label these people “left wing agitators,” as Republicans are doing, is wrong. Of course, individual looters have individual motives. Some are just looking for free shit. Some may well have convinced themselves they’re superheroes battling the forces of fascism and repression. But—and this is the kernel of my argument and has been since 2011, when I first encountered these losers—many, maybe even a majority, are exactly what I described: white supremacist, neo-fascist punks.

That’s who Brian Jordan Bartels is. He’s the 20-year old white Pittsburgh guy who was arrested the other day for “institutional vandalism, criminal mischief, rioting and five counts of reckless endangerment” when video of him surfaced destroying a police car, in the middle of a peaceful Black Lives Matter/George Floyd demonstration. It’s awful watching him—you want to jump on him and scream STOP! Which is exactly what one of the marchers, a young Black guy, did. Watch and listen to the video: It’s inspiring. “No!” The Black guy screams at Bartels. Then, at the crowd-at-large: “What did I tell you? What did I tell you? It is not Black people [committing the violence]. What are you doing?” Here, Bartels—clad from head to foot in black, including a hoodie—gives the fuck finger to the Black guy, even as another voice, clearly that of a Black woman, yells at Bartels, “You’re not helping us!”

Well, fortunately, Bartels’ parents turned him in to police. According to a Pittsburgh news station, a search of Bartels’ home turned up “2 firearms, books, gloves, cans of spray paint, indica (marijuana), and a sweatshirt with white writing on the front.” As I write these words, it’s not clear where the case is right now in the Pennsylvania courts, but we can only hope they throw the book at him.

I’m so glad Bartels was busted because it’s important to know who these violent idiots are. As the director of the FBI—yes, Trump’s FBI–has said, “homegrown violent extremists [are] the greatest threat to the United States.” And these violent extremists are, as was reported yesterday by NBC, often “white nationalist groups” like “Identity Evropa,” which ran fake Twitter posts such as this incendiary one: “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” it says, with a brown raised fist, “tonight we say ‘Fuck The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …”. This is not Black people talking. It is not “Communists” despite the stupid “comrades” use; it is white nationalists trying to sound Black, trying to rouse a peaceful protest into mass violence so that Americans will denounce the demonstrators, fear Black people, and thus help Trump.

It’s really important to lend the lie to the Trump allegation that “Antifa” is responsible for the violence. Antifa doesn’t exist: there’s no such thing. It’s a made-up term, a neologism that’s the short form of “anti-fascist” whose usage goes back to the 1930s, when German Communists used it to describe themselves and their struggle against Hitler and Nazism. Nowadays, it means absolutely nothing. I have never once seen the word “antifa” spray painted on a wall, and I live in Oakland, where tagging your affiliation and your cause is a way of life. Ever since the Occupy days of 2011, every time there’s a protest you see all kinds of tags: Black Lives Matter, ACAB, and so on, but “Antifa”? Never. I doubt if there’s a single protester anywhere who calls himself “Antifa.” The only reason this word is bandied about is because it’s useful for Trump to rile up his white supremacist base and to lump all protest under a single umbrella term his followers can hate.

So who is Brian Jordan Bartels? Nobody. A human nothingness, a piece of flotsam on the eddies on history, a felon who deserves to rot in jail. The more important question is, who is he not? And the answer is: he is not a leftist, not a liberal, not some crusading freedom fighter battling fascists. He has no political ideals, no moral compass; he is simply a spoiled suburban white brat who, unhappy with his own life, tried to make himself important. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a Republican blame the violence on leftists.

I wrote the other day that the violence was diluting the impact of the peaceful protests, and that the peaceful marchers needed to confront the thugs in their midst. I came under fire here in Oakland for saying that. People said it was unrealistic and/or counter-productive. But I was right. The peaceful marchers are now doing just that, which is why the protests are growing in importance; as the violence declines, there’s a corresponding rise in middle-of-the-road white support. This is a significant and welcome development.

I wish I could shake the hand of the Black guy in that video, the one who confronted Bartels. I hope you remember, for the rest of your life, the anguish in his voice, a voice that should define history. “No! What did I tell you? What did I tell you? It is not Black people! What are you doing?”

  1. Antifa does exist. We have had pamphlets in mailboxes FROM ANTIFA to warn of “white supremacists” who move in our neighborhoods dating well over a decade ago. Three white supremacists (new group established in 2018) were arrested in Georgia for plotting to kill high leaders in ANTIFA (married couple) just this past January in Georgia. Other of their buddies were also arrested in Maryland (6 total). Why were they attempting murder? Because they felt the most recent pamphlets the couple sent in the name of ANTIFA were wrongly targeting suspects of white supremacy. The FBI was involved. Honestly, where have you been?

  2. Dear Rose, nobody carries an “antifa” membership card. There is no website, no formal organization. A lot of Americans hate fascism, including me. A lot of Americans fight against fascism, including me. But I would never describe myself as “antifa.” It’s a stupid, made-up word that’s being exploited by trump in order to foment a civil war he thinks he’ll win. So why get so hung up on a designation? Choose your side, and fight accordingly. Thank you.

  3. With all due respect, check out Atlanta Antifacist (they also go by Atlanta Antifa and claim to be an organization). When receiving info years and years ago by them, we looked in to it bc it seemed like cause to get behind. After researching, we felt it not the group to join. Not because of the standing up against white supremacists, a cause we completely support, but the manner of action and other beliefs in the antifa “organization.” I have not had any interaction with ATL Antifa since the mailing of pamphlets. The idea was enticing initially but no thank you now. I have been a republican (more accurately conservative libertarian) and did not agree on targeting/bullying some innocents because they were conservative as Antifa is notoriously doing. Atl Antifa may or may not be now. But many others definitively are. I am also not for violence. So it ended there.

  4. I also wanted to add that the “white supremacy” members arrested were from “The Base.” I doubt they have cards either. Unfortunately, there are people that are fascists but most Americans, IMO, would identify as antifacists. So I think we are on the same page. The term preceded Trump and I respectfully disagree he is formulating any such civil war. Check out Berkeley protests alone. And there are more. What started as a righteous movement from Antifa many years ago, there are very extreme, violent, anarchist behavior that now has resulted. It was attack on a right-wing speaker. Not cool to shut down freedom of speech. In college many many years ago, I heard speakers on campus on both extremes. Fortunately for that opportunity, I was able to determine I did not agree with the conservative social ideas of some and did not agree with some socialist ideas of the other. While more liberal younger, I maintain my same socially liberal or more so libertarian views (let people be, equality of marriage, religious views, pro-choice, etc). I believe we are all capable of learning and deciding on our own. To shut that possibility off by violently shutting down speakers because you oppose their view is ironically fascism in itself. And it was done in the name of “antifascism.”

  5. Dear Rose, thank you. I agree with many of your points, but I think you’re profoundly wrong when you say, “I respectfully disagree [trump] is formulating any such civil war.” I am hardly alone in thinking that a civil war, or at least mass civil unrest, is exactly what he wants. Some time ago, he spoke of it, and he said (I paraphrase) “I have the gun owners and the cops on my side.” Why would he say something like that if he wasn’t contemplating armed conflict here in America?

  6. I absolutely agree that a push to a civil/race war appears to be formulating. Fortunately, at least I hope, many people are seeing that more clearly now as well. what we disagree is over it being Trump’s agenda. I have been saying this for many years prior to Trump ever even running for office. Trump is a straight up businessman, not a politician by trade or career. He does not want to see the US in discord if solely on that alone. His businesses would suffer. And I do not think that is his only motivation. Despite the weaknesses that he has, and all of us do, he has helped many groups. Truly research, unbiased, if you have not already. You may completely disagree with some or all of his policies and that is ok too. I disagreed with most but not all of Obama’s. And I defended what I agreed with. But I did not, and still do not, accuse him of wanting to destroy America as so many others rant. I believe civil unrest in the US is desired by many who hate the US and who want to watch us struggle. But I watch ALL angles of the players both foreign and domestic, at least what I can find (which is far from all). Trump has been under attack beginning from his inauguration and before he did anything as President of the US. That won’t change until people actually really research and get all the facts for themselves, stop believing emotional hype, and then decide if you agree or disagree. What I am encouraged by though, and maybe I am naive, is that Americans are waking up in this tragic time to see something not organic has been taking place.

  7. You are incorrect. Bartels has been quoted to police and FBI as being far left so get it correct. I think we will find antagonists on both far left and alt right

  8. john magee says:

    So the Antifa/BLM mobs who’ve been rioting, looting, burning cities, attacking federal buildings and court houses, trying to burn police stations, pulling down statues, and killing people are in fact all white supremacists? I guess we are supposed to believe Jerry Nadler when he said the anarchy in Portland, Oregon caused by Antifa/BLM mobs for the past 8 months was all a myth. Are liberals capable of telling the truth? I forgot to mention Antifa/BLM thugs laid siege to the White House for almost a week last summer and set fire to a church across the street…

  9. I have never defended the thugs who burn and loot our cities, including my own. I have rigorously condemned them. I still do. The hypocrisy is on the Republican side: they were horrified by Portland, Minneapolis, etc., yet when the trump mob stormed the Capitol, murdered a cop and tried to kill members of Congress, the Republicans are silent. They won’t even condemn the person who incited the mob. So, john magee, you can’t have it both ways. If you condemn leftwing violence, you must condemn rightwing violence, and you must call for punishing trump for his provocation.

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