When Is Action Anti-Fascist Action?

Pictured: Portland Police Bureau’s idea of “media liaison.” (photo credit: Dave Killen/The Oregonian)

One of the difficulties of running a defence fund for anti-fascists is deciding what does or does not constitute anti-fascist action or, when an anti-fascist runs into trouble, if it was their anti-fascism that put them in that trouble. This is something The International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund has wrestled with, on a case-by-case basis, over the last few years. Earlier this month, they were called again to do so when presented with a request to send some support to Cory Elia, a freelance journalist in Oregon.

Elia had gone to a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland last June to cover it as a journalist and livestream it. While livestreaming, Elia identified one of the riot cops by name and said riot cop appeared to not take kindly to that. Elia was soon tackled by the police and arrested but not before his equipment was either smashed or seized, never to be returned. Two other journalists were treated similarly that night and a few weeks later one of them teamed up with Elia to launch a lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau.

Perhaps you see the dilemma here for the Defence Fund’s Decisions Crew – if a journalist is attending a protest that is in many ways anti-fascist in nature, are they acting as an anti-fascist, as a journalist, or as both? This question led to an extensive discussion, which did not lead to a consensus among Decisions Crew members on the answer. After a vote, a majority of Decisions Crew members decided that in Elia’s case he was not acting as an anti-fascist at the time of the incident and therefore the request to support him fell outside of the Defence Fund’s mandate, which is to support anti-fascists in times of trouble that arises from their work as anti-fascists.

The hundreds of Decisions Crew members would probably reach consensus very quickly on supporting all people harmed by fascism and bigotry if the Defence Fund had an infinite pool of money and resources to draw from. Unfortunately that just isn’t the case and so we are careful to ensure that our support matches up with our mandate; in this case that match was not as clear-cut as a majority of Decisions Crew members needed it to be.

King James

James being taken into custody after fascists told police to arrest him.

We know by now that fascists will do just about anything to further their agenda of bigotry and genocide, including (and we hope you’re sitting down for this one) lying to police in order to get anti-fascists arrested!

Such was the case for our man James in Portland. This past November, after fascist goons threatened to shoot up a Black Lives Matter event, James  attended to defend people from attack.  For his efforts, James got a short stay in the hospital after a far-right person bit him (!) + charges against him when four of the bad guys made up a story about him threatening them. 

The good news: he beat the charges and was exonerated.  The bad news: the fascists tracked him to his home and began an intense campaign of harassment and death threats.  They vandalized his truck multiple times, causing thousands of dollars in damage.  Things got so bad he was forced to break his lease and re-locate elsewhere, which cost him more moeny.  Add all this to his hospital bill + legal costs to beat his case = James needed some support.  

The International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund was well-pleased to make a contribution to James that took care of a significant chunk of these costs. James was evidently also pleased, telling us, “That’s incredible. You guys just saved my arse in the biggest way imaginable.”

The Defence Fund is honoured to be out there saving antifascists’ arses but we need your help to save future antifa arse! Make a contribution to the Defence Fund today!


Jock Palfreeman Isn’t Going Anywhere!

In 2007, Jock Palfreeman was an Australian national backpacking through Europe. In Sofia, Jock witnessed a gang of nazi hooligans attacking two Roma boys and stepped in to defend the two. Jock was quickly forced to defend himself and survived the attack, but one of the nazis did not and Jock was charged with his murder. In the sham trial that followed (where the state witheld video evidence that would have proven his claims of self-defence and exonerated him., Jock was wrongly convicted of the crime and sentenced 20 years in jail.

While unjustly imprisoned, Jock continued to maintain his innocence. He also learned Bulgarian and founded the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Assocation, the country’s first human rights advocacy for prisoners.

In 2019, Jock was suddenly released from prison after serving 12 years. The Bulgarian authorities seized his passport and refused to let him leave the country, then subjected him to a court appeal of his release. Jock beat that unconstitutional attempt to re-convict him on charges the evidence shows he was innocent of.

Not content to admit defeat, the Bulgarian authorities are now trying to expel and ban him from not just Bulgaria, but the EU altogether, based on Jock’s 2009 sham murder conviction. Once again, Jock is forced to defend himself – this time in an EU court. We stood with Jock while he served his prison sentence; we helped him get back on his feet when he was released; and now the Defence Fund is helping him hire the best legal defence team available to fight the expulsion attempt.