President Donald Trump announced on May 31 that the United States “will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” The president’s declaration came on Twitter after nights of protests and riots broke out in major U.S. cities in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Here’s Trump’s tweet. It had more than 120,000 likes on Twitter in just 22 minutes.
However, serious question were immediately raised about whether the president even has authority to do this. “The US government has no existing legal authority to label a wholly domestic group in the manner it currently designates foreign terrorist organizations,” CNN reported. Because ANTIFA is united by ideology, some experts told CNN that it would be unconstitutional to apply such a designation to them.
Politico cited other problems with Trump’s comment: There are questions whether ANTIFA is even an organization, and “he doesn’t appear to have the legal authority to do so.”
The Trump administration’s push to crack down on antifa — short for “anti-fascist” — comes as large and small businesses in a host of American cities were looted and vandalized as people protested the death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Trump also tweeted: “Other Democrat run Cities and States should look at the total shutdown of Radical Left Anarchists in Minneapolis last night. The National Guard did a great job, and should be used in other States before it is too late!” According to NBC News, Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump have blamed “anti-fascist organizers and anarchists as culprits behind the mayhem” throughout America.
“This is being driven by Antifa,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien told CNN on Sunday, according to NBC. “And they did it in Seattle. They have done it in Portland. They have done it in Berkeley. This is a destructive force of radical — I don’t even know if we want to call them leftists. Whatever they are, they’re — they’re militants who are coming in and burning our cities, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
ANTIFA is a favorite target of the right. On May 30, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted, “News networks missing a big story. In city after city we have a rogues gallery of terrorists from Antifa to ‘Boogaloo’ groups encouraging & committing violence. They may not be ideologically compatible but share a hatred of govt & police & are taking advantage of the protests.”
Boogaloo often refers to right-wing groups; “From militia groups to white supremacists, extremists on a range of online platforms talk about—and sometimes even anticipate—the ‘boogaloo,'” ADL reports. Trump did not mention that group in his declaration, but officials’ blaming of outsiders for the violence has run the gamut of a variety of groups.) The degree to which ANTIFA is involved in riots throughout various cities is disputed.
Floyd was a Minneapolis man who died after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, restrained him with a knee to the neck. A video went viral and sparked unrest in major cities, including looting and the burning down of businesses and other buildings. Unrest has been seen from coast-to-coast. Chauvin and three other officers were fired, and Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Minnesota, but it didn’t quell the unrest.
The president’s action comes as some officials claim outside “anarchists” or agitators have caused some of the violence in their cities. The Pittsburgh police chief specifically singled out ANTIFA in a press conference the day before the president’s action. According to The Washington Post, Minneapolis officials also blamed a variety of different outsiders for some of the violence in their city, without offering evidence and contradicting each other.
Here’s what you need to know:
ANTIFA Is an ‘Anti-Fascist Protest Movement’
According to ADL, ANTIFA stands for the “anti-fascist protest movement.”
“…antifa activists have aggressively confronted what they believe to be authoritarian movements and groups,” ADL reports. “…These violent counter-protesters are often part of ‘antifa’ (short for ‘antifascist’), a loose collection of groups, networks and individuals who believe in active, aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements.” According to ADL, “While most counter-protestors tend to be peaceful, there have been several instances where encounters between antifa and the far-right have turned violent.”
Their ideology is rooted in the assumption that the Nazi party would never have been able to come to power in Germany if people had more aggressively fought them in the streets in the 1920s and 30s. Most antifa come from the anarchist movement or from the far left, though since the 2016 presidential election, some people with more mainstream political backgrounds have also joined their ranks…Today, antifa activists focus on harassing right wing extremists both online and in real life. Antifa is not a unified group; it is loose collection of local/regional groups and individuals. Their presence at a protest is intended to intimidate and dissuade racists, but the use of violent measures by some antifa against their adversaries can create a vicious, self-defeating cycle of attacks, counter-attacks and blame. This is why most established civil rights organizations criticize antifa tactics as dangerous and counterproductive.
According to NBC, ANTIFA is “a coalition of protesters, left-wing activists and self-described anarchists who seek to physically confront and bring down what they deem as the far right.”
Some Officials Have Blamed Outsiders for Causing Violence in Their Cities With Pittsburgh’s Chief Specifically Referencing ANTIFA
The Minnesota governor claimed that “up to 80 percent of those protesting or rioting came from outside Minnesota,” the Post reported. Local officials disputed that, though. They provided data to the Post showing that 82 percent of people arrested through May 30 in connection with the Minneapolis unrest used a Minnesota address.
A KARE 11 reporter found similar numbers (see his tweet above.)
Who are the outsiders though? Officials disagree on that; the mayor of Minneapolis blamed white supremacists, not ANTIFA. “We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region,” Mayor Jacob Frey wrote on Twitter.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert brought up ANTIFA in a news conference about violence in that Pennsylvania city.
“I’m willing to bet my check that there’s a lot of people who are anarchists, who, they’re not here to protest what happened, they’re not here to protest what happened, they’re here to take advantage of situations and throw it their way and bring other people into the mix and cause damage and cause injury,” Chief Schubert said on May 30 in the news conference, according to CBS Local. “There’s no doubt that that’s who’s doing it and a lot of things we’re seeing are white males, dressed in the anarchist, ANTIFA, they’re ones who are fueling a lot of this. It’s just a damn shame that they took advantage of the situation, for something, something happened in another state where somebody died who shouldn’t have died, and they hijacked that message for their own.”
He added: “I can tell you as the police chief, I am very disappointed because this was a peaceful protest for something that was very serious, and this does nothing to honor the memory of somebody who died. When you take it from a peaceful protest and you take it to a riot where you’re injuring people, you’re throwing rocks at people, you’re throwing cans at people, you’re hurting reporters, you’re taking over something that shouldn’t be.”
In Minneapolis, The Post said a variety of officials in Minneapolis had blamed a variety of groups including “far-right nationalists, left-wing radicals, drug cartels and possibly foreign agents in statements, news conferences and presidential tweets.”