Updated May 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DOJ to treat antifa involvement in protests as domestic terrorism

Bill Barr and Trump

Barr and Trump. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement Sunday that the Justice Department will use its network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces to identify the "criminal organizers and instigators" of violence during the George Floyd protests, including antifa and similar groups.

Why it matters: Barr, President Trump and other members of the administration have pinned the blame for riots and looting over the past few days of protests against police brutality on antifa, a loosely defined far-left movement that uses violence and direct-action protest tactics.

  • President Trump tweeted on Sunday that the United States will be designating antifa, which is short for "anti-fascist," as a terrorist organization. However, the law that allows the government to designate entities as terrorists only applies to foreign organizations.
  • In addition, antifa is a decentralized organization with no designated leadership, so it may be difficult for federal authorities to determine which agitators belong to the movement.
  • "Terrorism is an inherently political label, easily abused and misused," the ACLU tweeted. "Let’s be clear: There is no legal authority for designating a domestic group. Any such designation would raise significant due process and First Amendment concerns."

What he's saying:

"Federal law enforcement actions will be directed at apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law.
To identify criminal organizers and instigators, and to coordinate federal resources with our state and local partners, federal law enforcement is using our existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF). 
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.”
— Bill Barr
Go deeper