What is Antifa? Controversial far-left group defends use of violence

During a May Day march this week in Portland, Oregon, violence erupted resulting in 25 arrests after Antifa protesters allegedly attacked police officers, emergency workers and destroyed property resulting in the city pulling the parade permit.

Similar chaos broke out during May Day protests in New York City on Monday when supporters of President Donald Trump and Antifas clashed at Union Square. Once things turned violent police reportedly organized a wall surrounding the pro-Trump group in an effort to separate them from other protesters.

SEE ALSO: Paris police officers set on fire by Molotov cocktail during May Day protest

In Paris on May Day Antifa members attacked police with improvised bombs, engulfing multiple officers in flames, according to reports. And as tensions mount between pro-Trump and Antifa groups in the states, some are wondering how long until the level of violence seen on the streets of Paris on Monday makes its way to the U.S.

But the use of violence isn't new for the group known as Antifa, or anti-fascists. The far-left organization made headlines back in January during President Trump's inauguration when an alleged Antifa devotée punched white nationalist Richard Spencer while he was being interviewed on camera. Video of the assault was quickly memed into oblivion.

Just this week leading alt-right figure -- and Pizzagate conspiracy theory advocate -- Mike Cernovich was granted White House press credentials and quickly used his access to berate reporters for not covering "violence against Trump supporters."

Click through images from May Day protests 2017:

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May Day protests 2017
TOPSHOT - French CRS anti-riot police officers are engulfed in flames as they face protesters during a march for the annual May Day workers' rally in Paris on May 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Zakaria ABDELKAFI (Photo credit should read ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a costume stands during a May Day protest in New York, U.S. May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A member of riot police walks in front of a flaming barricade during a May Day rally in Gijon, Spain May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ian Kelly from Bedfordshire shelters from the rain during a Jack in the Green May Day parade in Greenwich, South London, Britain May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A protester dressed as a clown holds an umbrella over a Swiss police officer on a motorbike during a May Day demonstration in Zurich, Switzerland May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French CRS riot police protect themselves from flames during clashes at the traditional May Day labour union march in Paris, France, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Demonstrators wearing masks depicting Emmanuel Macron (R), head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election and his wife Brigitte walk as part of traditional May Day labour day march in Marseille, France, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and his wife Jany attend a demonstration near the statue of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) as part of the National Front's annual May Day ceremonies in Paris, France, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Turkish riot police scuffle with a group of protesters as they attempted to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul, Turkey May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Protesters gather at McArthur Park for the May Day protest march in Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
German riot police patrols during a demonstration of leftists at May Day demonstrations in Berlin, Kreuzberg dirstict, Germany, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Protesters gather at McArthur Park for the May Day protest march in Los Angeles, California, U.S. May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
A man waits for the start of a May Day demonstration in Lisbon, Portugal May 1, 2017. The sign reads "Worker". REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
German riot police detains a demonstrator during a demonstration of leftists at May Day demonstrations in Berlin, Kreuzberg dirstict, Germany, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Mang
A demonstrator shouts slogans during a May Day demonstration in Lisbon, Portugal May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
People attend the May day rally in Union Square on May 1, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - MAY 01: A woman and a girl smile during a protest as part of the International Workers Day at on May 01, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo Cris Fraga/LatinContetn/Getty Images)
An opposition activist catches fire as he fails to throw a Molotov cocktail during a march against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 1, 2017. Security forces in riot vans blocked off central Caracas Monday as Venezuela braced for pro- and anti-government May Day protests one month after a wave of deadly political unrest erupted. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: Protesters gather at Dupont Circle before marching to denounce U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies May 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Protests around the nation were held to coincide with May Day. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 1: May Day demonstrators scuffle with counter-protestors, who defined themselves as 'anti-communist and anti-socialists' and supporters of President Donald Trump, during a May Day rally in Union Square, May 1, 2017 in New York City. Across the country and world people are protesting, marching and staying home from work on the traditional day of workers rights. This year's event has taken on extra significance due to the global surge in populist and right-wing movements. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Demonstrators shout slogans during May Day celebrations in Bogota on May 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Luis Acosta (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend the May day rally in Union Square on May 1, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 01: Leftist protesters carrying signs condemning the upcoming G20 summit march in annual May Day demonstrations on May 1, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg will host the G20 summit in July. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images)
Workers, organized by labor unions and other labor organization take part in a rally to mark May Day, International Workers' Day in Madrid, Spain on May 01, 2016. Every year May Day is observed and commemorated as an official holiday all around Spain. (Photo by Alvaro Hurtado/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - French CRS anti-riot police officers are engulfed in flames as they face protesters during a march for the annual May Day workers' rally in Paris on May 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Zakaria ABDELKAFI (Photo credit should read ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: A protester is arrested as they try to march from New York's Union Square on May Day on May 1, 2017 in New York, New York. Across the country and world people are protesting, marching and staying home from work on the traditional day of workers rights.This year's event has taken on extra significance due to the global surge in populist and right-wing movements. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Venezuelan opposition activists clash with police during a march against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 1, 2017. Security forces in riot vans blocked off central Caracas Monday as Venezuela braced for pro- and anti-government May Day protests one month after a wave of deadly political unrest erupted. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
Venezuelan opposition activists protect themselves behind a makeshift shield, during clashes with police within a march against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 1, 2017. Security forces in riot vans blocked off central Caracas Monday as Venezuela braced for pro- and anti-government May Day protests one month after a wave of deadly political unrest erupted. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
An opposition activist clashes with the police during a march against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held on May Day, in Caracas on May 1, 2017. Security forces in riot vans blocked off central Caracas Monday as Venezuela braced for pro- and anti-government May Day protests one month after a wave of deadly political unrest erupted. / AFP PHOTO / Juan BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - MAY 1: A man with his face covered during a May Day and Immigration protest in Washington, United States on May 1, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Traditional Aztec dancers from the CeAtl Tonalli group perform at a march during May Day events in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 1, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
Riot police in an armoured vehicle try to disperse protestors during a march against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 1, 2017. Security forces in riot vans blocked off central Caracas Monday as Venezuela braced for pro- and anti-government May Day protests one month after a wave of deadly political unrest erupted. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Why won't you demand that leaders of the Democrats disavow the violence of Antifa?" Cernovich asked.

Speaking to AOL.com, a member of the NYC chapter of Antifa, who did not disclose their name, described the organization as, "a media hub sharing research and calls to action in the NY area." NYC Antifa was established in 2010.

"We believe the first amendment is intended to protect the right of free speech from the government, including the right to organize, protest, and boycott."

"Resistance is not always safe and pretty, but it is immaculate compared to our monstrous government."

The group defended its sometimes violent tactics as an appropriate retaliation to President Trump's "unprecedented levels of surveillance, incarceration, deportations, and police brutality and murders against the US Public."

"Yet a couple punches, some pepper-spray, a broken window, and a flaming barricade is what concerns the liberals and Democrats," said an Antifa member. "Resistance is not always safe and pretty, but it is immaculate compared to our monstrous government."

A national debate was erupted on the ethics of punching someone labeled a Nazi after an Antifa protester hit Spencer back in January.

Left-leaning magazine "The Nation" called the attack "pure kinetic beauty." Many, many, many articles were published discussing the ethics and politics of anti-Nazi attacks. But what criteria are used by Antifa to determine who might be deserving of such physical violence?

"In our research, we determine someone to be a fascist, Alt Right, White Nationalist, etc. based on which groups they are a part of and endorse," said a group member.

"Nazis, fascists, white nationalists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes are specific categories, even if they overlap or are subsets or each other. Our main focus is on groups and individuals which endorse, or work directly in alliance with, white supremacists and white separatists. We try to be very clear and precise with how we use these terms."

When pressed if they would consider introducing firearms or other potentially deadly methods of protest the group would not rule it out, instead only saying, "No comment."

"We believe in a diversity of tactics," said a member. "The level of violence is already incredibly high, but not from the left."

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