Is it right to label Antifa and the current rioters domestic terrorists?


Fact Box

  • Antifa members campaign against actions they view as authoritarian, homophobic, racist or xenophobic. Supporters generally seek to stop what they see as fascist, racist and far-right groups from having a platform to promote their views, arguing that public demonstration of those ideas leads to the targeting of marginalized people, including racial minorities, women and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community [1].
  • Antifa supporters will often dress all in black, sometimes covering their faces with masks or helmets so they can’t be identified by opposing groups or the police. It's an intimidating tactic – known as a 'black bloc' – which also allows them to move together as one anonymous group [2].
  • Rioters and Antifa supporters are known to start fires, smash windows, use violence when provoked, ram cars into crowds, throw smoke bombs, etc [3].
  • Although the Antifa movement can be traced back to the 1920’s, the group gained more traction after Donald Trump rose to office [2].
  • Protests erupted for a sixth day across the US over the death of George Floyd. At least 40 cities imposed curfews but most were broken, and National Guard members have been activated in at least 23 states and Washington, DC [4].
  • Both peaceful and violent protests have broken out across the United States: Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Raleigh, Louiseville, Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington D.C [5].

Stephanie (Yes) 

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as 'violent criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, racial, or environmental nature [1].'

The recent Antifa-led rioting advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the death of George Floyd certainly falls under this definition.

What happened to Floyd is despicable, but the rioters' response has been nothing short of terrorism--and on Sunday, President Trump declared as much, stating that Antifa is a terrorist group [2]. While left-wing media platforms have criticized this classification, consider that 'some of the group's tactics include throwing bricks, crowbars, metal chains, water bottles, and balloons filled with urine and feces [3].'

As for the most recent rioting, what is going on can, in no way, be considered peaceful protesting. Across the country, the riots have resulted in fire, looting, and damage to local businesses, among other violence and disturbance [4]. Memorials have been vandalized, municipal centers have been torched, and people have been struck by cars, to name just a few instances [4].

Yet these are just glimpses into the destruction that rioters have caused, threatening and harming innocent civilians and their property, and conducting riots rooted in violence that appear to be driving forward with no intention of ceasing [5].

While some have argued that President Trump lacks the authority to officially determine Antifa a terrorist organization [6], the suddenness of members' organization for violence has deemed it necessary to at least call those acting through terror just that.

Karina (No)

On Sunday, May 31st, President Trump tweeted that “ANTIFA [will be designated] as a Terrorist Organization” and has credited the group with the riotous acts taking place in cities throughout the United States [1, 2].

For several days, massive protests have flooded many American cities and even inspired rallies around the globe following the death of George Floyd, a black man, while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Over the weekend, some of these peaceful protests turned riotous as police cars were set on fire and shopping plazas filled with looters. 

The problem, however, is that no evidence has been made public that directly identifies ANTIFA as responsible for the acts of destruction; nor is this likely to happen. This is because ANTIFA is not a cohesive organization with leaders and identifiable characteristics, but a loose network of individuals who self-identify with the singular core belief that Fascism is an unacceptable form of politic and must be fought wherever it takes root. There is no single identifying characteristic by which to identify members [3]. 

Those rioters responsible for looting and destruction of private property, if identified, can already be held liable for their criminal activity under current law. While those perpetrating violence ought to be held responsible, it is important to remember the wider context of the protest - it is a rally against police brutality and racial injustice. Labeling ANTIFA as the sole rioters and as terrorists would ignore the valid outrage at racial inequality as a motive, and risk associating thousands of innocent Americans using their constitutional right to protest with criminal activity [4].

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