BY BOB BARR
On May 31st, in response to the violent riots rocking American cities from coast to coast and border to border, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr issued statements that, among other things, condemned Antifa. Trump declared his intent to label Antifa a “terrorist organization.” The response from the mainstream media and leftist politicians was predictable — criticize Trump, not Antifa or the other groups and individuals involved in the violence.
The facts, as opposed to sentiment, support Trump and Barr. Antifa fits squarely within both legal and common-sense definitions of what is considered to constitute a “terrorist organization.” Moreover, if, as many Trump critics note, the federal government is permitted to designate organizations as “terrorist” only if they are “international,” a strong case can be made that Antifa satisfies that criteria as well.
While Antifa did not come into wide public consciousness in the U.S. until sometime around 2007 when “Rose City Antifa” was formed in Portland, Oregon, it has a far longer history in Europe, where it began as a movement to oppose the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany in the 1930s.
Exactly when the modern Antifa movement made its way across the Atlantic to our shores is not clear, but by the 1980s it was here. Its members openly have participated in and organized numerous demonstrations and violent confrontations in recent years, especially since the infamous 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Notwithstanding Antifa’s recent history of activity in the United States, its roots are in Europe where it remains active, most notably perhaps in Germany. In fact, when President Trump publicly said he would move to classify Antifa as a “terrorist organization,” it was Antifa members in Germany that quickly leapt to its defense, joined by media outlets such as the leftwing daily newspaper Neues Deutchland.
Whether in the U.S. or Europe, Antifa seeks always to cloak itself in “anti-fascist” rhetoric, and its defenders are quick to play the victim card whenever its true agenda as a purveyor of violence is called out. In 2019 Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a non-binding Senate Resolution labeling Antifa a “domestic terrorist organization.” Antifa defenders complained that the move was totally unwarranted, then claimed absurdly that the Senator’s true goal was to protect white supremacy groups.
Despite its self-serving façade of anti-fascism, Antifa’s tactics are about as fascist as you can get, and its actual targets without exception are conservatives — conservative speakers, conservative journalists, conservative politicians, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and law enforcement.
So, what is a “terrorist organization” and why is the Left so angry that the Administration would consider attaching the label to Antifa?
At its core, a terrorist organization is an entity that engages in acts of violence that endanger human lives, and which appear intended to intimidate or coerce the populace or to influence or affect the conduct or policy of a government. An organization that satisfies these criteria would, per the USA PATRIOT Act, be considered by the U.S. government to engage in “domestic terrorism”; therefore, reasonably considered a terrorist organization.
Check off all three of those criteria for Antifa — it engages in violent acts that intimidate and endanger lives, and it openly proclaims its goals of influencing government policies and conduct.
Delving a bit deeper into federal law, we discover that an organization engaging in acts of terrorism may be officially labeled a “foreign terrorist organization” if it also is — no surprise — “foreign,” and if its activity threatens the national defense or security of the United States. Here also, Antifa fits the bill — it acts internationally, was birthed overseas, and aims clearly to undermine our nation’s security by attacking law enforcement personnel and institutions.
Antifa cleverly tries not to expose to the public a visible formal organization structure, thereby claiming it is not an “organization” at all; ipso facto cannot be a terrorist organization. Such sophistry does not pass the common sense test. There are autonomous, self-labeled “Antifa” groups spread across Europe and the U.S. They employ a common flag and other symbols (often defacing public monuments), they call themselves “Antifa,” they dress in black as a uniform, wear black masks to minimize identification, have social media accounts, and have been videoed numerous times directing activities in protests and riots.
Whether it is labeled “domestic” or “foreign,” Antifa is a terrorist organization; and it defies common sense (and the clear meaning of federal laws) to pretend otherwise. Minneapolis City Councilman Jeremiah Ellison last week “officially” declared himself a “supporter of Antifa.” If Antifa does not exist, is he delusional? Perhaps, but not for that reason.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990. Mr. Barr currently serves a president of The Law Enforcement Education Foundation.