Gabriel is a former member of Antifa. He spoke at the Back the Blue rally in Iowa City a couple of weeks ago.
“As a former Antifa activist, I wasn’t best friends with police officers,” Gabriel told The Iowa Standard.
That unique perspective made Gabriel an obvious choice to speak at the event in Iowa City.
Gabriel described himself as “definitely very liberal” late in the 2000s. He spent a lot of time at pro-immigration rallies, anti-war rallies.
“What you’d think a late 2010 liberal would do,” Gabriel said. “And then it was in 2011 when I saw that the national socialist movement was coming to a city 10 minutes from where I live. That fired me up. I wanted to go ahead and do more than just protest. I had learned about Antifa and I learned a lot through the music I listened to.
“Most people don’t really understand this, but Antifa, at least American Antifa, was reborn through the punk movement in the 1980s. Because of that, that’s how I knew about it.”
Gabriel said the black bloc is when activists dress up 100 percent in black. He engaged in that and from there was invited to many other “radical events” throughout southern California.
“What really brought me into the movement was the idea that you went out and did something,” Gabriel said. “You weren’t just waiting for a politician to act or waiting for new legislation to be proposed. It’s something called direct action where you are supposed to enact changes yourself. That’s something I was very attracted to when I first joined Antifa.”
He spent about a year and a half around the movement. But he was eventually introduced to what he called great economic minds on the free market by an economics professor.
“I found them really interesting, but I didn’t agree with them,” he said.
They did spur him to ask questions, however, of his friends.
“I remember that they were not interested in having any conversations and they started calling me names,” Gabriel said. “They were getting heated over conversations when I started asking questions about why socialists or why communists believe what they believe. After a while, I realized that a lot of the so-called anarchists were not really anarchists at all, they are just looking for state control and trying to take over government with activism to push socialist and communist beliefs.”
Gabriel was a year into college when he started a Young Americans For Liberty chapter – a libertarian club. While still a leftist, Gabriel said he started a libertarian club to attract conservatives and libertarians. But in doing so, he was introduced to more free-market people.
“I like to say what turned me into conservatism is not necessarily the ideas themselves, but conversations I had with friends, which opened my mind to being able to accept these ideas,” Gabriel said.
After he spoke at the Iowa City rally, he said he went to sit by himself off in a corner and looked behind the group at the counter-protestors.
“There were not many, but I remember being in that exact position,” he said. “People who were not interested in listening to the message, they were trying to disrupt it. They were trying to say some nasty things and being petty. They just have this hatred for their opposition and then they use any means to justify that hatred to feel morally superior to the other person.”
Ironically, Gabriel said the changes that need to be made cannot be done through legislation. Instead, he said, it’s cultural.
“We have to begin to reintroduce the idea that free speech is a human right, not just a political right, and that everyone is entitled to an opinion no matter how hateful or stupid you think it might be,” he said. “As far as Back the Blue, they’re doing a great job as far as I can tell.”
Police, Gabriel said, have had the backs of Americans for decades. And now they know a significant portion of the population has their back as well.