- By Alan Lam
“Ask an Antifa,” featuring antifascist activist Michael Shallal
Photo courtesy of CCU.
As misinformation about the elusive 'antifa' movement spread during the election season. A recent event at Coastal Carolina University gave some clarity through the experiences of an antifascist activist.
With the campus still in Phase one of the Coastal Comeback Plan, the Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values hosted this event over Zoom on Oct. 14, for students to learn about antifa through Michael Shallal’s activist experience. The event format was a casual questions-and-answers between Shallal and the attendees. A mix of faculty, staff, and students, totaling around 30-40 people, listened to the questions given to and answered by Shallal.
One experience that Shallal shared was his attendance of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017. This experience taught Shallal the importance of needing emergency medical techniques if, and when, violence occurs. Given the trauma previously experienced in Charlottesville, he intends to remain politically active and attend future antifascist events.
“I keep going because I believe to end oppression and exploitation the working class needs to be united which means fighting oppression in all forms. Also, as a socialist, I believe that confronting racism is essential for building a socialist future,” said Shallal.
In one of his tweets, President Trump stated that the United States will be designating antifa as a terrorist organization. President Trump’s statement has led some people to be confused about what antifa is and is not.
Antifa is an ideology, not an organization. It is made up of small networks of individuals with no hierarchy or unifying structure. Antifa has a “long history” and has been around for decades, said Jaime McCauley, PhD, an associate professor of sociology.
Besides getting clear on what antifa is, students had other reasons to attend. Some attended because of their passion for activism as Sage Short, a junior English major, did.
“I heard about the Ask an Antifa event through a professor,” said Short. “Because activism is something I am passionate about, I was excited to attend. I am always looking for more ways to be involved with various organizations and making connections with others who are like minded. I really enjoyed the event because we got to ask whatever questions we wanted, and the speaker always had adequate and respectful responses.”
Other students attended because they were curious about how antifa impacts society, such as Luciano Castro and Alexis Widdifield.
“It was informative in the sense that he [Shallal] told students that the key to organization [as in organized action, such as having a protest or sit-in] was outnumbering and essentially 'outperforming' the alt-right [the far right],” said Castro, a Jackson Scholar and junior student double majoring in philosophy and languages and intercultural studies.
“I thought the Antifa event was great. [The event] made me think more about our roles in politics,” said Widdifield, the assistant director of the Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values, and a Master of Arts student in Liberal Studies.
Campus discussions about social and political activism outside of the classroom are the types of events that challenge, and sometimes even change, a student’s attitude about someone or something. Prior to this event and doing some side research, I held assumptions about what antifa is and is not. Attending this event and listening to someone speak about their involvement with antifa and experience in political activism has challenged me in ways that I am still discovering.
Below is information for those who want to know more:
Michael Shallal can be found at https://www.facebook.com/michael.shallal.9, for anyone interested in following or contacting him.
For students interested in sociology courses, Professor Jaime McCauley will teach SOC*201 - Sociological Analysis and SOC*301 - Gender and Society in spring 2021, and SOC*465 - Sociology of AIDS in summer I semester 2021.