A woman vying to become the next mayor of Portland touted during a debate on Thursday her support of Antifa, the far-left, anarcho-communist network that has fueled unrest in Oregon’s largest city since May.
Antifa stands for anti-fascism but members of the network have committed violence in cities across the United States, according to Attorney General William Barr, court documents, and local police officials.
Asked about her support for Antifa, Sarah Iannarone told the audience at the virtual debate, “I love that Joe Biden answered this question before me, because being opposed to fascism in 2020 is not something to be embarrassed about.”
“I have a bumper sticker from the beginning of my campaign that says hashtag, everyday anti-fascist. And what I have tried to do is normalize peaceful responses to the rise of white nationalism by organizing in my community … because the answer to toxic masculinity is an inclusive pluralist society,” she said.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claimed that “Antifa is an idea, not an organization,” during the recent presidential debate.
But FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of Congress last month that Antifa is more than an idea and described a high level of organization.
“Antifa is a real thing. It is not a fiction. Now, we have seen organized tactical activity at both the local and regional level. We have seen Antifa adherents coalescing and working together in what I would describe as small groups and nodes,” he said.
The debate moderator pressed Iannarone on her position, asking whether she considers herself part of Antifa.
“Antifa is not anything more than idea. That’s what Vice President Biden explained to us. It’s people who oppose anti fascism, and I strongly oppose anti fascism,” Iannarone said.
Iannarone, a businesswoman and educator, said last year: “I am Antifa.”
“To those who say Antifa are violent thugs: I am not a violent thug and I am Antifa. I am Antifa because the Red Hats are coming after brown & black people, after Jews, after queer & trans people, and more. They are coming after our democracy. #HolocaustMemorialDay #NeverForget,” she wrote on Twitter.
Iannarone has openly expressed support for communism and has been pictured in public wearing a skirt with the face of Mao Zedong, the former communist leader of China. Mao’s policies were responsible for tens of millions of deaths.
According to one recent poll, Iannarone is ahead of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat.
The pair are locked in a runoff after Wheeler narrowly failed to get the majority vote required to avoid one.
Iannarone’s policy proposals include defunding the Portland Police Bureau by $50 million, creating supervised injection sites for drug users, and cutting off all cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Wheeler criticized her during the debate for her public safety plans, saying she didn’t answer a question about how safety would be preserved with the police cuts “because she can’t.”
“The fact of the matter is we’re already doing a lot of the things that she proposes she would do to save that money,” Wheeler, who voted with other City Commissioners to reduce police funding by $15 million, said, adding, “The $50 million seems arbitrary to me. I want to deal with facts. I want to talk to people who know what they’re talking about, and let’s bring the community together and have these conversations. But let’s make sure they’re rational conversations.”