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:

"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."