On Monday, Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is “targeting and investigating” the leaders of organizations behind the violent riots in American cities and those who allegedly fund rioters’ interstate travel.
“Do you think the Department of Homeland Security is getting the help it needs from the Justice Department?” Carlson asked. “Why haven’t we seen the leaders of antifa and BLM arrested and charged with conspiracy under RICO like the heads of the mafia families were?”
“Well, this is something that I have talked to [Attorney General Bill Barr] personally about,” Wolf responded. “I know that they are working on it. Look, we have seen about 300 arrests across this country regarding civil unrest and protesting, violent protesting — and I would say criminal protesting.”
Wolf noted that the DOJ has charged 74 individuals with committing federal crimes in Portland alone. “We will continue to see how those investigations are going. Department of Justice is also targeting and investigating the head of these organizations, the individuals that are paying for these individuals to move across the country.”
The DHS head noted, “we have seen groups and individuals move from Portland to other parts of the country. We had about 175 arrests in Kenosha, almost 100 of them were from out of state. So, we know they are moving around. We have seen them in D.C., in Sacramento, and elsewhere. They are organized. We have seen similar tactics being used from Portland and other cities across the country as well. So, we know that there is organization, I know the Department of Justice is also looking at that as well.”
While many rioters have traveled across state lines to engage in looting, arson, and other acts of violence in the name of social justice, it remains unclear just how organized they are. Some, like Reason‘s Robby Soave, have claimed it is a “myth” that a shadowy organization is funneling cash to the rioters.
However, it does seem some loose networks might exist. The company Riot Ribs, for example, funnelled money to an antifa rioter intent on buying lacrosse sticks to sharpen and turn into umbrellas for clashes with police in Portland.
The rioters do indeed seem organized, although the exact nature of the organization remains unclear. Antifa activists do not often band together in organizations branded “antifa.” Instead, they find support in a loose network of organizations that may be hard to trace.
As for Black Lives Matter, an official organization does exist and its leaders have identified themselves as “trained Marxists.” It remains unclear if they have any role in instigating looting and riots beyond spreading the viral narrative about police carrying out a “war” against black men.
In many cities, organizations raise money to pay the bail for violent rioters and other criminals. In the wake of the George Floyd riots, Joe Biden’s campaign staff donated money to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which bailed out rioters along with people accused of sexual assault, rape, murder, and other crimes. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Biden’s running mate, raised money for the fund. Yet organizations like the Minnesota Freedom Fund aim to fight the practice of bail, rather than assisting any specific crime.
Soave rightly warned against politically-motivated investigations into law-abiding citizens, so the DOJ should tread lightly in any investigation. However, abetting violent riots may be a crime under RICO statutes and the DOJ is right to investigate the lawlessness.
DHS Sec. Chad Wolf: "If you want to riot, if you want to loot, if you want to do some of these other criminal acts that we see around the country, there are going to be consequences for that." pic.twitter.com/eQVFm2HV5H
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) September 1, 2020
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.