President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the United States would designate the group antifa a terrorist organization.
Trump has blamed violent protests across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer on the left-wing extremist group antifa, which is short for anti-fascist.
Protests over Floyd’s death have become violent, prompting more than a dozen U.S. governors to activate their state’s National Guard as the country watches scenes of scuffles with police, looting and business set afire.
Floyd died Monday after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin dug his knee into his neck for more than eight minutes as he laid prone on a city street.
Trump, along with other administration officials, have blamed antifa for planning and carrying out the violent protest, using Floyd’s death to incite riots in major cities across the U.S.
In a statement Saturday, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said the Justice Department intends to prosecute anyone who crossed states lines to instigate violence.
“With the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful and legitimate protests have been hijacked by violent radical elements. Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent, and extremist agenda," Barr said.
Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, also blamed antifa for inciting violence across the country.
What is antifa and can the president designate the group as a terrorist organization? Here’s what we know about it now.
What is antifa?
Antifa is a term for far-left-leaning militant groups who resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists and often support tactics such as vandalism.
Antifa is not a single organization and does not have a leader, though different state groups do hold regular meetings.
Antifa can be traced to Anti-Fascist Action, a militant group founded in the 1980s in the United Kingdom whose general strategy was to deny fascists a public platform to spread their message.
Can the president declare antifa a terrorist organization?
Since there is no domestic terrorism law, the federal government can only sanction foreign groups that commit terrorist acts against the United States or its citizens.
“There is no authority under law to do that — and if such a statute were passed, it would face serious First Amendment challenges,” Mary B. McCord, a former head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, told the New York Times. “But right now, the only terrorist authority is for foreign terrorist organizations.”
O’Brien suggested to ABC's "This Week" that the FBI needed to “come up with a plan” to prosecute antifa members if they were proven to have incited riots.
“Right now, I think the president and the attorney general, Barr, want to know what the FBI’s been doing to surveil, to disrupt, to take down antifa, to prosecute them,” Mr. O’Brien said.
“This isn’t the first time they’re out there. And they are using military-style tactics and traveling around the country to take advantage of these situations and burn down our cities.”
Barr described antifa as a terrorist group.
“The violence instigated and carried out by antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” Barr said in a statement.
Beyond his tweet, Trump did not specify how he intended to classify the group as terrorists.