“We don’t want to silence Antifa or anything. We want them to be able to express themselves. We want them to come protest us. That’s the joy of living in this country.” – Enrique Tarrio
On Wednesday, the White House petition to label “Antifa a domestic terrorist organization” expired, failing to meet even half the requirement of gaining 100,000 signatures. The opening text of the petition contains obvious lies such as antifascists have “burnt down universities” and “threatened to attack people with acid,” which was a conspiracy theory promoted by Big League Politics, where one of the current leaders of the Proud Boys works.
Also, here's Ted Cruz snuggling up to Enrique Tarrio, the current leader of the #ProudBoys who fought alongside neo-Nazis at Unite the Right in Charlottesville as part of the "Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights," a group which is currently being sued following the neo-Nazi rally. pic.twitter.com/LmKlICvq1u
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 20, 2019
The petition was launched on June 30th of this year by Proud Boys leader and current Florida State Director of Latinos for Trump, Enrique Tarrio. Tarrio is famous for attending the neo-Nazi rally ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville as part of the Proud Boys “military wing,” the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, which is now being sued for its role in the violence in Charlottesville. The petition was co-authored, according to a post by Tarrio himself on the Proud Boys Telegram account, (which is used to harass journalists, activists, and social media critical of the group), by Jacob Engels, who worked closely with Roger Stone in Florida to organize against attempts at a vote recount during the midterm elections in 2018.
— *Starry-Eyed*JGC (@jgcOCANADA) July 31, 2019
This is currently the second petition to be pushed by the far-Right to label ‘antifa’ a terrorist group. In 2017 white nationalist, possible father of the Qanon conspiracy, bot army commander, and Alt-Right troll “Microchip” pushed a nearly identical petition. According to Politico:
He called the petition “a waste of time” but a useful distraction from recent infighting among conservative factions.
He created the petition on Aug. 17, the day after Trump made controversial remarks in which he blamed “both sides” after white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville.
Microchip told POLITICO he wrote it with the explicit intent of stoking conservative rage and forcing the GOP establishment to take a stand or risk becoming targets themselves.
Ironically, this petition received enough signatures to garner a written response from the Trump White House, who wrote:
President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly said that hatred and violence have no place in America. Our country must unite in condemning violence and recognize that the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together are stronger than the wicked forces trying to divide us.
Although Federal law provides a mechanism to designate and sanction foreign terrorist organizations and foreign state sponsors of terrorism, there is currently no analogous mechanism for formally designating domestic terrorist organizations.
As pointed out by civil liberties watch-dog group Defending Rights and Dissent, Tarrio’s petition was largely just a re-write of a similar 2016 petition to label the Black Lives Matter movement a terrorist organization as well. Both petitions make the false claim that both movements are involved in “influenc[ing] in the killings of multiple police officers throughout the United States,” when it reality, the far-Right, of which the Proud Boys are a part, has been behind the majority of killings of law enforcement by political groups.
Huh, I wonder who this "E.T." is sponsoring this petition to have "Antifa" declared a terrorist organization.
Oh, it's Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, an @splcenter-designated hate group whose members have a history of violence?
— AntiFash Gordon (@AntiFashGordon) July 1, 2019
Tarriro’s and Engel’s petition quickly blew up in far-Right circles and soon was picked up and turned into a non-binding resolution by Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and co-sponsor, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
The resolution introduced by Cassidy and Cruz “calls for the groups and organizations across the country who act under the banner of Antifa to be designated as domestic terrorist organizations.” But the text of the resolution is wildly inconsistent and inaccurate. For example, as Jessica Kwong points out in Newsweek, the resolution refers interchangeably to “antifa,” those “affiliated with Antifa,” and “left wing activists.”
Jessica Kwong in Newsweek noted:
On Friday, behavioral scientist and National Observer reporter Caroline Orr quote-tweeted a post by Cruz on the resolution and stated: “They’re trying to criminalize dissent. Read the bill. They use the terms ‘antifa’, ‘affiliated with antifa’, and ‘left-wing activists’ interchangeably. They want to call you a terrorist for opposing the Trump administration too strongly or loudly.”
As David Neiwert wrote in Daily Kos, the threat isn’t just to those involved in social movements and struggles, but also journalists:
[The anti-antifa resolution is] so loosely written that it could readily be misdirected to bring about the arrests of any kind of anti-Trump protester, as well as any journalists who objectively report on the activities of these groups.
On July 23th, Ted Cruz doubled down on his calls for sweeping political repression at a Senate Judiciary Committee while speaking to the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, demanding that ‘antifa’ be prosecuted under RICO charges. While the history of political repression carried out by the FBI shows something much different, Wray stuck to the FBI’s talking points that it investigates only criminal activity, not ideology.
As the libertarian website, Reason wrote:
This should be worrying no matter how one feels about Antifa activists.
Cruz’s blatant political posturing about Antifa and RICO is especially concerning considering how Cruz talking points are prone to spreading across the GOP. None of us, no matter our ideologies, will be better off with more demands for corrupt and partisan investigations, nor from increasing pressure to make guilty-by-association the rule of law.
In fact, to Cruz’s dismay, the FBI director went on to point out as David Neiwert wrote in Daily Kos:
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that his agency was seeing a dramatic upsurge in white supremacist criminal activity—having recorded nearly 100 cases related to the [far-Right’s]…violent acolytes.
After Ted Cruz was largely shot down by the FBI director, he responded by stating he was going to send out a letter on the subject, demanding a RICO investigation.
As Sunshine wrote:
The letter itself, which Cruz posted on Twitter, is filled with wild inaccuracies. It calls antifa “a left-wing anarchist terrorist organization.” And it paints the far right as the real victims, claiming that Ted Wheeler — the embattled mayor of Portland, Oregon, who is despised by the city’s left — is intentionally permitting “left-wing paramilitary organizations to terrorize ordinary Americans with impunity.”
That weekend, Trump amplified Cruz’s push to label antifa along with MS-13 as domestic terrorists by tweeting he was “looking into” it along with such nonsense as the claim antifascists, not those on the far-Right, Alt-Right, white nationalists, or neo-Nazis, beat defenseless people over the head with baseball bats.
Consideration is being given to declaring ANTIFA, the gutless Radical Left Wack Jobs who go around hitting (only non-fighters) people over the heads with baseball bats, a major Organization of Terror (along with MS-13 & others). Would make it easier for police to do their job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019
Here we can see a pipeline-directly from the far-Right which attended the Unite the Right rally to the White House; all united in a common cause of stifling civil liberties, silencing those who would speak out against Trump and the far-Right, and ratcheting up political repression.
There Is No List of “Domestic Terrorists”
Under US law, the State Department does have the power to designate a foreign group a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO) if their actions meet certain criteria (which are not the “legal” “definition” cited by both petitions). Thus, the petition is asking for something that simply does not exist.
An attorney who worked on both the J20 case and against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act who spoke to It’s Going Down on the proposed resolution stated:
Acts of “domestic terrorism” are charged under individual criminal laws. A criminal law prohibits everyone from taking certain actions, like trespassing, vandalism, burglary, harassment, kidnapping, and arson, and penalizes an individual if they actually commit that conduct.
It is dangerous and too broad to use labels that are disconnected from actual individual conduct. Doing so, the government risks targeting and criminalizing otherwise legal activity. For example, this resolution, though nonbinding, may open ordinary people to criminal investigation by doing lawful things like protesting Nazis. Not to mention, the law is so vague that it doesn’t properly inform people that this is happening.
The USA Patriot Act, gives the government the authority to define an incident as domestic terrorism, and then investigate not only an individual suspect, but also any group the suspect may be affiliated with. Domestic terrorism is defined as committing crimes dangerous to human life that seem meant to intimidate the public, influence government policy by coercion or affect the government’s conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. The intention of designating a group as a domestic terrorist organization is to expand law enforcement’s ability to investigate it.
The U.S. is no process for officially designating domestic terrorist organizations. This is in part because the designation of any group as domestic terrorists raises concerns about free speech. Historically such labels have been politicized and used, against anti-war groups or environmental activists. Such a designation would discourage speech and expression related to the political opinion and ideologies at the heart of the activities of named groups.
In short, when the government bans beliefs and political views, rather than focusing on specific criminal acts, it violates our rights to free speech.
Carrying Water, Burying Bodies
The anti-antifa resolution comes at a time when the far-Right and the Trump administration is ramping up rhetoric against the Left, social movements, and the Democratic Party, while also solidifying a relationship with one another.
Groups like the Proud Boys are more and more forming ties with the Republican Party. Last December in New York, Proud Boys beat anti-racist and antifascsit protesters after then leader, Gavin McInnes spoke at a GOP event. In June at a Trump rally in Florida, Proud Boys marched in support of Trump and were blocked by police from engaging with liberal counter-protesters. In Modesto, California, local Republican organizers pushing a white nationalist ‘Straight Pride’ event openly called for members of the Proud Boys to attend and other GOP groups have attempted to invite the Proud Boys to speak at various functions. As previously stated, long term GOP insiders like Roger Stone have also long used the Proud Boys for political muscle, such as in the fight against vote recounts in the Florida midterm elections and the current Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrior, currently leads Latinos for Trump. Tarrio was also part of a group of Proud Boys in Florida who along with other rank-n-file Republicans, surrounded a DNC event in Florida featuring Nancy Pelosi, while chanting against “communists.”
From a disillusioned GOP operative: ‘The Trump campaign is well aware of the organized participation of Proud Boys rallies merging into Trump events. They dont care. Staff are to treat it like a coalition they can’t talk about.’ https://t.co/eexJTBgwxD
— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) June 19, 2019
As Trip Gabriel, a New York Times journalist wrote on Twitter:
From a disillusioned GOP operative: ‘The Trump campaign is well aware of the organized participation of Proud Boys rallies merging into Trump events. They don’t care. Staff are to treat it like a coalition they can’t talk about.’
But this growing relationship with the Proud Boys is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the last several years, we have seen Trump hosting far-Right groups such as Bikers for Trump, inviting far-Right social media figures to the White House, pardoning far-Right speakers like Dinesh D’souza, forming a relationship with Qanon conspiracy theorists, and allowing a front row seat for everyone from Oath Keepers militia members to the Proud Boys at Trump rallies. Trump has also continuously shared and promoted far-Right, Nativist, and white nationalist content on social media, defended those who marched in Charlottesville, downplayed and denied far-Right and white nationalist violence, brought into his cabinet people like the Gorkas, Steven Miller, and Steve Bannon, and also built a working relationship with other far-Right figures, dictators, and authoritarians across the world.
Ted Cruz, who wants to label people who oppose fascism "terrorists," seen here at a rally with far-Right Oath Keepers militia. Group was part of armed occupation of Malheur in 2016. Participants threatened to kill FBI agents and one militia member was killed by law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/yiOEuzWciH
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 19, 2019
Ted Cruz has also taken photos with the Proud Boy leader and Roger Stone confidant Enrique at this year’s AIPIC conference and also appeared alongside Gavin McInnes on Blaze TV’s, Louder with Crowder. But the Proud Boys aren’t the only far-Right group that Cruz has connections too, he’s also appeared at rallies alongside the Oath Keepers militia, a group who’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, has again and again called for violent civil war.
But while connections with the far-Right have become more solidified under Trump, so too has a ratcheting up of rhetoric of the threat of “the Left.” As Sunshine wrote:
The Senate resolution itself is the culmination of years of fabricated claims pushed by conservatives. These outlandish lies include: antifa planned to start a civil war in November 2017; the mass shooter who killed 58 at a Las Vegas country music festival in October 2017 was associated with antifa; and that antifa flyers even called for the murder of white children.
And all this is happening against a backdrop of continued far-Right violence, attacks, murder, mass shootings, bombings, and racist harassment. Ironically, on the weekend that Trump tweeted about ‘antifa,’ several days before there was a racist attack outside of Modesto, California, where a Sikh temple was vandalized and a priest was attacked; the assailant quoting Trump while he beat on of the priests screaming, “Go back to your country!” Over the weekend, a far-Right gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, according to the LA Times, killing a “6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20s.” On social media he promoted white supremacist and anti-Semitic works and a search of his home found more of the same. Meanwhile on Florida, a drive by shooting targeted someone outside of a synagogue and another synagogue in the area was mailed a DVD and writings of violence anti-Semitic threats. And this is just last weekend.
Proud Boy Chairman Enrique Tarrio has also made an effort to propagandize to white supremacists liked failed Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy. When Tarrio appeared on Goldy's 5/6/19 "Canada First" broadcast, Goldy in fact admitted that many PBs volunteered for her campaign. pic.twitter.com/pjLmjplVCA
— Sarlacc_Attack (@SnarlakAttack) July 12, 2019
As Neiwert wrote:
Yet national Republican leaders—notably Donald Trump—have instead insisted on obsessing about the supposedly ultraviolent radical left, particularly the faction calling itself “antifa”…The absurd wrongheadedness of this kind of leadership was underscored this week by a report on the national scope of hate crimes released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. Titled Report to the Nation: 2019, it underscored how deep the incoming tide of white supremacism has become, along with the horror of its terroristic violence.
Not only is there a link between online far-Right rhetoric and acts of violence, but there’s a direct link between Trump rallies and hate crimes. As Business Insider pointed out:
US counties where President Donald Trump held a campaign rally saw a 226% increase in reported hate crimes over similar counties that did not hold a rally, political scientists at the University of North Texas said in an analysis published in The Washington Post.
Meanwhile in Washington State, which has seen an explosion of far-Right, white nationalist, militia, and Proud Boy activity:
The number of hate crimes in Washington state is skyrocketing, according to The Seattle Times, which reported a 78% rise over the past four years [“Hate crime on the rise in Seattle and Washington state, study finds,” July 9, Local]. The story cites data from a recent analysis by SafeHome.org, a commercial enterprise that studies regional crime data and tests home-security products and services.
The response from all of this has been largely denial on the part of the far-Right and the Trump administration. While Alt-Right figures like Richard Spencer or those at the Daily Stormer simply will shrug off such attacks as the result of a multicultural society that will continue until whites have control over a white ethno-state, far-Right and pro-Trump grifters like Tim Pool, Andy Ngo, and Candace Owens take on the task of downplaying this violence, claiming that it doesn’t exist, and more importantly, pointing the finger back at ‘antifa,’ as if those that were engaged in fighting against those carrying out the violence were in fact, “the real fascists.”
As far-Right violence continues to explode and mainstream Right media continues to in turn use antifascists as a popular distraction, the threat of continued violence and attacks remains constant. Social movements face the difficult task of not only defending against this violent threat, but also justifying this defense to the wider society, exposing the connections between the Republican party and the far-Right and also highlighting the continued wave of far-Right white nationalist murder, violence, and attacks which increasingly are becoming normalized.
Out of this fiasco, people need to be resolute and firm that what now makes up most of the Right – does in fact not care about the silencing of free speech, government repression, or censorship; they just want to make sure that they are the ones who get to carry it out.