Conservative speaker believes alleged Antifa member wanted to hurt UW Republicans
Saleem Juma, college student and co-founder of Seattle-based conservative YouTube channel Operation Cold Front, had fallen on the liberal side of the political spectrum his entire life. But after seeing the reactions to the 2016 election — especially by radical groups such as Antifa — his opinion changed.
“I can understand not being happy about your political party and your chosen candidate being elected,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “But what was happening with the riots and Antifa and domestic terrorism, frankly, as well as what I saw with the social justice warriors and what was going on all over college campuses, all over the United States, I just couldn’t keep silent anymore.”
Since then, he has been going out and asking tough political questions on camera as a social experiment.
“Whether you’re on the Left or the Right, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “People need to start critically thinking about the issues.”
But this has not been without risk — most recently demonstrated by an event at the University of Washington caught on camera. While giving a talk for the UW College Republicans, which also included high school students in the audience, a man identified by police as Ezra Benner came up to the door and attempted to bolt it shut with a chain.
This was after a local chapter of Antifa had urged members on social media to harass the UW event.
Juma and the College Republicans said that Benner, who was wearing a mask just as Antifa members do, is known to be a member of Antifa and has shown up to UW College Republicans events before.
“In the last year or so, we’ve been assaulted by Antifa 15 or 16 times, and that’s just going out and filming,” Juma said. “They tried to chain the doors while we were making a speech. They despise us simply for having a view of the world that they can’t understand.”
He doesn’t know what Benner was planning to do, but he would not be surprised if the intentions were to harm the event-goers. He noted that Antifa has used violence in Portland, Berkeley, even at UW, when a controversial Milo Yiannopolus speech resulted in a shooting among protesters.
“With them being objectively violent, it’s really not a far stretch to say that it’s quite possible that they would’ve chained those doors, had one of their other black block members chain the other door,” he said. “And I mean, Antifa might not be able to get ahold of nerve gas or a machine gun, but how hard is it to get ahold of gasoline and a match? I mean, why wouldn’t they light the room on fire?”
College Republicans ran after Benner and held him until police arrived. While Brenner, who apparently acted alone, was arrested, Juma believes that the citation he received was too light.
“He was cited with disorderly conduct, instead of the false imprisonment charges that he should’ve been charged with,” he said.
Since then, Juma has been shocked at the lack of attention paid to the incident. He pointed out that if a radical conservative had tried to chain a door on a group of LGBTQ or minority students, for example, the narrative and amount of media attention garnered would have been quite different.
“People say that conservatives are playing victims here, but Antifa has been objectively violent for the past three years,” he said.
In fact, he said, an article in the UW Daily focused the story around the fact that the College Republicans ran by a queer student group’s picnic and allegedly scared the participants, rather than on the fact that an attempt had been made to lock students in a lecture hall.
“The way she skewed it was that queer students who were having an end-of-the-year picnic were terrified of MAGA hat-wearing large men — she emphasized large men running around with MAGA hats — and they were apparently so terrified that they had to hide their gay pride pins,” he said. “So she actually wrote the entire article with a skew toward these queer students being the victim, with almost nothing paying attention to the fact that we had been [nearly] locked in a room.”
Juma sees Antifa’s actions as scare tactics to try to dissuade young people — especially the high-schoolers in attendance at the event — from becoming active Republicans.
“Antifa does dox people and post about them being neo-Nazis or misogonysts, or any other ‘-ist word’ or ‘-phobe word’ to stop them from speaking out,” said Juma, who said Antifa has doxed him.
He added, “People are afraid of speaking out against Antifa and I aim to be a champion for those people.”