Antifa, which stands for “anti-fascist action,” is not an organized group, nor has it ever killed anyone. Despite this, President Trump referred to Antifa as a “terrorist organization” in comments to reporters on Wednesday.
During an impromptu press gaggle as Trump prepared to depart for Louisville, Kentucky, the president made it clear that his administration may end up taking action to officially designate anti-fascist protesters as a “terrorist organization.”
“Antifa, in my opinion, is a terrorist organization,” Trump said outside of the White House on Wednesday. “We’re looking at various different things.”
TRUMP: "Antifa, in my opinion, is a terrorist organization." pic.twitter.com/2zmwzqgRu4
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 21, 2019
The ramifications of Trump declaring Antifa to be a “terrorist organization” could be far-reaching. As Twitter user @tiptransformed pointed out, such an action could mean protesters unaffiliated with any group who are protesting fascist activities would be branded as terrorists, potentially subjecting anyone protesting fascism to the full brunt of U.S. counterterrorism forces.
Please, please, please, understand this. (I’ll shout it for the fucking idiots in the back)
ANTIFA IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION. IF TRUMP HAS ANTIFA BRANDED A “TERRORIST ORGANIZATION,” THAT MEANS THE GOVERNMENT CAN DECLARE ANY PROTEST TO BE A TERRORIST ACTION.
— Cassandra Lily Miller-FreeChelseaNOW! (@tiptransformed) August 18, 2019
The legal impacts of declaring Antifa to be a terrorist organization are also far-reaching in terms of how such a declaration would affect Americans’ 1st Amendment rights. In July, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a resolution that would designate Antifa as “a domestic terrorist organization.” Most notably, the Cassidy-Cruz resolution uses the words “Antifa,” “those affiliated with Antifa,” and “left wing activists” interchangeably.
Dr. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California-Berkeley law school, told Grit Post the language of the resolution could be seen as unconstitutional if challenged, as it leaves wiggle room for “Antifa” to potentially mean anyone participating in leftist protest action.
“I think this would be clearly unconstitutionally vague. ‘Left wing activist’ obviously is very ambiguous,” Chemerinsky said.
Aside from Constitutional issues, designating Antifa as a terrorist organization when no Antifa protesters have ever actually killed anyone is questionable, given that those affiliated with far-right political groups and causes have been carrying out repeated acts of domestic terrorism over the last few years, killing dozens of people.
As the Anti-Defamation League found in a 2018 report, 98% of all domestic terrorism in 2018 was committed by far-right extremists. In the weeks that have followed the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas — in which a gunman who echoed Trump’s rhetoric about immigration being an “invasion” shot and killed nearly two dozen people — police have arrested more than two dozen others for making violent threats.
Among those arrested include a self-described white nationalist who, according to CNN, threatened to shoot up a Jewish community center in Ohio; a 35-year-old man who called for the “extermination” of Hispanics, and a 37-year-old South Dakota man who threatened to blow up government buildings. Last month, a 57-year-old New Jersey man was arrested after a car crash when police discovered multiple assault weapons and ammunition in his van. A raid of the man’s home found drugs, more weapons — including a grenade launcher — and neo-Nazi paraphernalia and literature.
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), a presidential candidate who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors, vowed to “go to war with white nationalism and racism in every aspect of our lives” if elected president.
“My father’s whole family was wiped out by Hitler and his white nationalism,” Sanders said last week in Atlanta. “Too many people have fought over the years, too many people have died against racism to let it resurface and flourish in America.”
(Featured image: Thivierr/Wikimedia Commons)
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.