On Sunday, after days of rioting, looting, and arson in cities across America following protests over the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would formally declare the loosely-organized radical leftist agitator group known as “antifa” a terrorist organization.
“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” Trump tweeted.
The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2020
As PJ Media contributor Victoria Taft noted two years back, the Department of Homeland Security already considers antifa a form of domestic terrorism. In 2017, Politico reported that “the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as ‘domestic terrorist violence,’ according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO.”
Even so, a formal declaration is arguably warranted following the devastation in recent days. Lamenting the riots, looting, and arson should not be a partisan or racial issue, as black citizens and business owners have broken into tears after witnessing the devastation in their communities and the destruction of their livelihoods.
As of Sunday morning, police had arrested nearly 1,400 people in 17 U.S. cities since Thursday. Governors in at least nine states have activated their states’ National Guards to respond to riots: Minnesota, Ohio, Georgia, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Texas, Utah, and Washington State. In another five more, governors have said they planned to activate the National Guard.
As the United States was leaving lockdowns imposed to fight the coronavirus, cities across the country have enforced a new limited kind of lockdown to prevent the destruction. Cities across the country set curfews to stem the violence, including: Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cleveland, Columbus, Portland, Miami, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, and Rochester.
Previous push to designate antifa a terrorist group
Last year, following a horrendous attack in Portland that left Quillette editor Andy Ngo hospitalized, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a resolution condemning the violent acts carried out by antifa and calling for the U.S. to designate the group a domestic terrorist organization.
“Antifa is a group of hateful, intolerant radicals who pursue their unhinged agenda through aggressive violence,” Cruz said in a statement. “Time and time again their actions have demonstrated that their only purpose is to inflict harm on those who oppose their views. The hate and violence they spread must be stopped, and I am proud to introduce this resolution with Senator Cassidy to properly identify what Antifa are: domestic terrorists.”
“Antifa are terrorists, violent masked bullies who ‘fight fascism’ with actual fascism, protected by Liberal privilege,” Cassidy added. “With bullies, they get their way until someone says no. There must be courage, not cowardice, from the elected officials who allow violence against the innocent.”
The Cruz-Cassidy resolution also notes that the ICE office in southwest Portland, Ore., was shut down for days due to threats and occupation. Cruz and Cassidy omitted the most recent case of such violence, in which self-described antifa member Willem Van Spronsen threw incendiary devices at an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Wash. He was killed in a shootout with police. The local antifa group hailed him as a “comrade” and a “martyr,” and said his death should inspire more “protest and direct action.”
Van Spronsen also condemned ICE centers as “concentration camps,” echoing the inciting language of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Ocasio-Cortez has yet to denounce this act of violence arguably inspired by her rhetoric.
Responding to Trump’s tweet, Ngo called on federal investigative authorities to “dismantle the networks & hundreds of antifa cells across the US who radicalize, train & carry out organized extremist violence. They also have international links to affinity cells in Western Europe. It is domestic & international terrorism.”
Federal investigative authorities must dismantle the networks & hundreds of antifa cells across the US who radicalize, train & carry out organized extremist violence. They also have international links to affinity cells in Western Europe. It is domestic & international terrorism.
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 31, 2020
Trump’s move to declare antifa a terrorist organization is a welcome response to increasing violence.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.