President Donald Trump declared Saturday that he may soon try to classify Antifa — a loosely defined movement composed of left-wing, autonomous, militant anti-fascist groups and individuals — as a major terrorist organization to make it "easier for police to do their job."
"Consideration is being given to declaring ANTIFA, the gutless Radical Left Wack Jobs who go around hitting (only non-fighters) people over the heads with baseball bats, a major Organization of Terror (along with MS-13 & others)," the president tweeted on Saturday afternoon. "Would make it easier for police to do their job!"
The Antifa movement, shortened from "anti-fascist," is comprised of autonomous groups that oppose neo-Nazis, fascism, white supremacists, racism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology.
Andy Ngo, editor at the Quillette, was assaulted in Portland, Oregon last month while covering left-wing counter-protesters at a right-wing demonstration. In a clip of the incident, Ngo can be seen getting hit with a milkshake as protesters shouted, "get the f*** out of here."
Earlier this week, Senator Ted Cruz penned a letter to Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and FBI Director Christopher Wray calling for a probe into Antifa "under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)", as well as an investigation into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who he claims refused to stop the group's violence in the city.
In the letter, Cruz asked the Department of Justice to "open an organized crime investigation" into the "left-wing anarchist terrorist organization that routinely relies on violence to intimidate and punish its political opponents."
"Antifa's violence is widespread and well-known... Antifa's members rely on masks to conceal which particular member committed any given crime," Cruz said, adding that federal law provides for the prosecution of criminal groups that rely on anonymity, such as Antifa and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
Organizations such as the KKK and the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen are described as "hate groups" because the federal government does not make public an official list of active domestic terrorist groups. However, it does include terror threats on its terrorist watch list.
Antifa is not one group but a network of activists that oppose the far-right agenda. According to the Patriot Act, a group commits domestic terrorism by engaging in acts "dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S." in order to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population," "influence the policy of a government," or "affect the conduct of a government." If the movement were to fall under that definition, law enforcement's ability to investigate its members would be expanded.
By including Antifa under that definition, the government runs the risk of wrongly labeling all counter protesters as white supremacists, the Anti-Defamation League said, which could allow police to violate the rights of peaceful protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union has long cautioned that the Patriot Act's expansion of terrorism law could give the government authority to seize property and pry into the private matters of protest groups.
While some members of Antifa have indeed damaged property and engaged in physical violence, they have not yet been linked to any killings in America, unlike some known hate groups that have not been designated as terrorist organizations.
"The Antifa reject racism but use unacceptable tactics," the ADL said, according to Washington Post. "White supremacists use even more extreme violence to spread their ideologies of hate, to intimidate ethnic minorities, and undermine democratic norms."
Right-wing extremists were responsible for 73.3 percent of the more than 425 deaths in the U.S. attributable to violent extremism between 2009 and 2018, according to an ADL report released earlier this year. While left-wing extremists were to blame for 3.2 percent.
Of those deaths attributable to right-wing extremist attacks — 313 in total, during that 10-year period — the ADL found that white supremacists were responsible for the vast majority (76 percent), followed by anti-government extremists with 19 percent.