U.S. President Donald Trump threatened in a Sunday tweet to designate the left wing anti-fascist movement known as ANTIFA a terrorist organization, despite acknowledgements from his own government officials that such a move would be unconstitutional given that the group is domestically based. And it's becoming clear that Trump doesn't really understand what ANTIFA even means.
ANTIFA — short for anti-fascist — comprises a broad, non-monolothic coalition of leftist activists who are most known for their visible presence at political actions across the U.S. While one official ideology can be hard to pin down, members of the group dot the left side of the political spectrum, ranging from leftists to anarcho-communists to socialists.
While not all members use violence in service of achieving their political goals, media reports often link the group to aggressive tactics like vandalization and harassment. But as white nationalism, racism, and anti-semitism becoming growing domestic threats in America, members of ANTIFA say that their escalation tactics are necessary in order to draw the depravity out of the shadows and expose the hate-fuelled actors currently helming those movements.
Even though the group’s stated doctrine is fighting fascism in all its forms, the right has long sought to use examples of violence and skirmishes at protests as examples of false equivalency between ANTIFA members and the often self-declared white supremacists they frequently square off against.
After protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd — a 46-year-old black man who was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes — ignited a series of pro-black, anti-police demonstration across the U.S., Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have claimed that the protests were “hijacked” by “out-of-state actors” across America, including members of ANTIFA. In a statement published Sunday, Barr alleged that ANTIFA demonstrators had executed “their own separate, violent, and extremist agenda.”
“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,” the statement read in part.
But despite Trump and Barr’s fixation with ANTIFA, longstanding research shows that the biggest domestic threat currently facing the U.S., ranking even higher than foreign aggressors like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, is white supremacy — the very ideology that ANTIFA seeks to eradicate.
In response to Trump’s tweet announcing the terrorist designation, ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi said in a statement that the move was agenda-driven and unconstitutional.
"As this tweet demonstrates, terrorism is an inherently political label, easily abused and misused,” Shamsi said. “There is no legal authority for designating a domestic group. Any such designation would raise significant due process and First Amendment concerns."