Confidential law enforcement documents obtained by Politico show that federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 about the growing potential for violence by Antifa to the point that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as “domestic terrorist violence.”
Numerous Trump campaign rallies, Berkeley (twice), Charlottesville — what the hell were the politicians and law enforcement officials in those cities doing about those warnings?
Previously unreported documents disclose that by April 2016, authorities believed that “anarchist extremists” were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets. They were blamed by authorities for attacks on the police, government and political institutions, along with symbols of “the capitalist system,” racism, social injustice and fascism, according to a confidential 2016 joint intelligence assessment by DHS and the FBI.
After President Donald Trump’s election in November, the antifa activists locked onto another target — his supporters, especially those from white supremacist and nationalist groups suddenly turning out in droves to hail his victory, support crackdowns on immigrants and Muslims and to protest efforts to remove symbols of the Confederacy.
Those reports appear to bolster Trump’s insistence that extremists on the left bore some blame for the clashes in Charlottesville and represent a “problem” nationally. But they also reflect the extent that his own political movement has spurred the violent backlash.
In interviews, law enforcement authorities made clear that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and policies — first as a candidate and then as president — helped to create a situation that has escalated so quickly and extensively that they do not have a handle on it.
“It was in that period [as the Trump campaign emerged] that we really became aware of them,” said one senior law enforcement official tracking domestic extremists in a state that has become a front line in clashes between the groups. “These antifa guys were showing up with weapons, shields and bike helmets and just beating the shit out of people. … They’re using Molotov cocktails, they’re starting fires, they’re throwing bombs and smashing windows.”
It goes without saying that Antifa was believed to be carrying out domestic terrorist activities long before Trump was elected. It makes one wonder what President Obama was doing about them while he was in office.
To be sure, Trump shares the blame for the violence by playing political patty cake with right-wing extremists. But Antifa was around long before Trump began to campaign for the presidency. And if local authorities were aware of the potential for violence by Antifa, why weren’t they better prepared?
Antifa appears to have connections to extremist groups overseas.
The purpose of the investigation, according to the April 2016 assessment: To determine whether the U.S.-based anarchists might start committing terrorist bombings like their counterparts in “foreign anarchist extremist movements” in Greece, Italy and Mexico, possibly at the Republican and Democratic conventions that summer.
ome of the antifa activists have gone overseas to train and fight with fellow anarchist organizations, including two Turkey-based groups fighting the Islamic State, according to interviews and internet postings.
In their April 2016 assessment, the DHS and FBI said the anarchist groups would likely become more lethal if “fascist, nationalist, racist or anti-immigrant parties obtain greater prominence or local political power in the United States, leading to anti-racist violent backlash from anarchist extremists.”
The assessment also said the anarchist groups could become more aggressive if they seek to “retaliate violently to a violent act by a white supremacist extremist or group,” they acquire more powerful weapons or they obtain the financial means to travel abroad and learn more violent tactics.
Some American nationalist groups have shown up at European events, but most of those overseas nationalist organizations don’t train to be terrorists or learn street-fighting tactics.
Perhaps most worrying is that both white extremist groups and Antifa are growing rapidly with new members and infusions of cash, spurred by clashes at rallies like Charlottesville. With both sides arming themselves, the possibility of gun battles in the streets of America can no longer be dismissed.
Unless local authorities stop coddling Antifa by recognizing them as a legitimate protest group rather than a domestic terrorist outfit, blood will continue to be spilled and the potential for bloody tragedy will increase.