US President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Sunday that the US government will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.
“It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left,” Trump tweeted. “Don’t lay the blame on others.”
According to Merriam-Webster, “ANTIFA” or “Antifa” is short for the German “antifaschistisch” (“anti-facist” in English), and is often used to designate “a person or group actively opposing fascism” or in general, “an anti-fascist movement.”
Though the government can generally declare foreign groups as terrorist organizations, there is no statute granting such power for domestic groups with no foreign ties. In the past, the FBI often used existing criminal law to prosecute domestic terrorists, as acts of terror are crimes.
After the death of George Floyd – an unarmed black man killed in Minnesota on May 25 by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes – people marched nationwide to shed light on the incident and others like it. Shortly after, riots broke out, causing property damage and looting. Many people were left wondering who was to blame for these riots. Some accused far-right groups, others accused far-left groups. The president blamed Antifa.
Before the president’s tweet, some news organizations assumed the riots were related to protesters. Some local governments have distinguished between the protests and riots. In a press release, Pittsburgh Police Chief Schubert said, “[the protest] was hijacked by a group of individuals who put their own self-interests above the interests of a movement.”
In his statement on Sunday, US Attorney General William Barr distinguished between the “peaceful and legitimate” protests and the riots that “highjacked [them with] violent radical elements.”
“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 stated. “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.”