DEVLIN: It’s Time to Treat Antifa Like a Terrorist Organization

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Antifa has recaptured national headlines after violent riots ravaged Berkeley yet again on Sunday. Conservative political pundits Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens were also attacked while they were simply eating breakfast in Philadelphia Monday.

Who are these thugs? What are their tactics and day to day operations, and why aren’t we treating them more like a domestic terrorist organization?

Even though Antifa claims to be an organization committed to social justice, marxism, and tolerance, they employ the tactics used by fascists themselves. In Weimar Germany, a group affiliated with the Communist Party of Germany called Antifaschistische Aktion formed in 1932. Their purpose was to militantly oppose Hitler’s Brown Shirts. Both the Brown Shirts and Antifa used bricks, clubs, molotov cocktails and fireworks to perpetrate random mob violence to intimidate and control German popular opinion. To this day, the American Antifa employ the same tactics used in the thirties.

While their occasional outbursts of barbarism are often glossed over quickly by the media, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Antifa utilizes violence to grab headlines and market their cause, but their day to day operations include opposition group infiltration and performing counterintelligence on social media. They also utilize encrypted chat rooms to recruit and coordinate their efforts locally, and keep in touch with other leftist-militia groups across the country.

These traits are all marks of propagandist, extremist organizations looking to commit terror. So why isn’t Antifa, an international organization with an ever growing presence in the United States, designated a foreign terrorist organization, let alone a domestic one.

“Domestic terrorism,” as defined by the Patriot Act, seeks to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”

While the Patriot Act grants the Justice Department with the authority to investigate organizations or individuals on a wide range of basis, domestic terrorism is not a criminal charge on its own. A federal terrorism charge is reserved for individuals suspected of acting on behalf of a foreign terrorist organization determined by the State Department. That list includes over fifty, predominantly islamic extremist, organizations.

That being said, prosecutors charge the suspects of domestic terror with illegal actions undertaken for the purpose of spreading terror. For instance, the White Supremacist charged with the murder of a woman in Charlottesville, VA after he drove his car into a crowd of people is charged with Virginia state murder charges. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, admitted his hatred of the government propelled him to bomb a federal building and kill 168, but not even McVeigh was charged or convicted of terrorism. He was convicted and put to death for killing federal officers amongst a laundry list of charges.

But even before the Berkeley riots and Charlottesville, an April 2016 report from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security classified Antifa’s tactics as “domestic terrorist violence.” After fears that US-based anarcho-communist groups might begin expanding their outreach and escalating their attacks, the FBI and the launched an investigation into Antifa’s capabilities. Not only did they conclude Antifa perpetrated “domestic terrorist violence,” US intelligence also feared “fascist, nationalist, racist or anti-immigrant parties obtain greater prominence or local political power in the United States, leading to anti-racist violent backlash from anarchist extremists” and that the group would “retaliate violently to a violent act by a white supremacist extremist or group.”

The FBI and DHS missed two crucial details in their 2016 assessment. First, anyone to the right of Bernie Sanders is considered a “fascist, nationalist, racist[s]” xenophobe, and will set Antifa off. Second, part of leftist militant dogma is the belief that speech is equivalent to violence. This becomes quite the problem for law enforcement when members of Antifa are fully convinced that someone like Ben Shapiro, a conservative pundit and Orthodox Jew, is literally Hitler and will stop at nothing to prevent him from speaking on college campuses. Thus, cue the black masks and fireworks.

The violence we’ve seen sprouting up in places like Berkeley has already cost American taxpayers thousands in personal damages and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage. For the past two years, I’ve argued more can, and should, be done to stigmatize and fight back against Antifa’s terror.

One option is the State Department or DHS should compile a list of organizations considered domestic terrorist organizations to dissuade the public from being wooed by Antifa’s “peaceful” end goal. I refrain from arguing domestic terrorism should be a federal offense because many law enforcement experts say they already have the necessary tools to investigate and charge these domestic terrorists. It is antithetical to our core values to allow the federal government is given the authority to surveil American citizens like terrorist organizations. What’s more, there is a real danger for this statute to be politicized. The ACLU says “There’s a real danger of the government criminalizing ideology, theology and beliefs rather than focusing on specific criminal acts,” and I have to agree with them.

If anything, criminal definitions of domestic terrorism should be left up to the states because battling domestic extremism can look very different depending on if you’re in Berkeley, CA or Birmingham, AL. Each state can determine which groups serve as the biggest danger to their communities, and devote proper resources to fighting these groups’ tactics.

One thing is for certain: the best way to send Antifa scum slithering back to their parent’s basement is to empower and support your municipal law enforcement. For the first nine months of 2017, the city of Berkeley issued stand down orders on multiple occasions and refused to let the police stop Antifa from rioting. When UC Berkeley spent $600,000 on security for a lecture from Ben Shapiro and allowed officers to do their job, Antifa got relatively quiet for nearly a year.

Now they’re out in force again trying to tear our societal fabric to pieces, and it is on conservatives, liberals, and anyone who appreciates civil society to call out Antifa for what they really are — terrorists.


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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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