Members of anti-fascist activist groups, or "Antifa," say that the use of violence is part of the group's political philosophy.
"The justification is that Nazi ideology at its very core is founded on violence and on wielding power by any means," according to Mike Isaacson, founder of Smash Racism D.C., an Antifa group in Washington, in The Hill.
Experts on Antifa and members of Antifa groups note that everyone who participates in anti-fascist activism does not use violence.
However, Isaacson said that actions of Nazis might call for violent response.
"There is the question of whether these people should feel safe organizing as Nazis in public, and I don't think they should . . . I don't think anyone should think that someone who is intent on politically organizing for the sake of creating a state-sponsored genocide—I don't think that is something that we should protect," Isaacson said in The Hill.
Mark Bray, a historian and author of a book about Antifa, said that Antifa members justify their use of violence as self-defense against fascists who organize.
"The argument is that it needs to be stopped immediately, because if you let it grow, that poses a danger to society," Bray said in The Hill.
Former FBI agent Mike German said that far-right movements have historically been more violent than Antifa.
"There is a long and deep history of murderous violence coming out of the far-right movements that continues up to today that far exceeds anything associated with Antifa," German said in The Hill.
Antifa has no central organization, so judging whether the movement has grown is not possible, but activists and law enforcement sources told The Hill that it appears the numbers are growing.
Jim Pasco, Fraternal Order of Police executive director, said that interest in the movement has grown since President Donald Trump's election. Six months ago, Pasco said he had never heard of Antifa.
"We don't really have a perspective on (Antifa) because it's not really a movement—it's kind of an amorphous group of people," Pasco added.
The left is divided over the movement, according to The Hill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., condemned Antifa violence.
However, liberal activist Cornel West said that Antifa activists prevented him and other counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia from "being crushed like cockroaches" by alt-right demonstrators, West said in Democracy Now.
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