Black Bloc / Antifa - Antifascist Action
Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an umbrella term for a far-left-leaning movement with no designated leadership that is opposed to far-right ideologies. Some of its members confront neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups at demonstrations.
On 31 May 2020 Donald Trump railed against Antifa and other left-wing groups, congratulating the National Guard for a "total shutdown" of protesters. He also said that the US will be "designating Antifa as a terrorist organization," a threat he also made in 2019 which sparked an international backlash.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office reported “no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement,” according to an internal FBI memo obtained 02 JUne 2020 exclusively by The Nation, a progressive U.S. weekly magazine. The FBI report, however, states that “based on CHS [Confidential Human Source] canvassing, open source/social media partner engagement, and liaison, FBI WFO has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence.” The report did warn that individuals from a far-right social media group had “called for far-right provocateurs to attack federal agents, use automatic weapons against protesters.”
US state and federal officials said that organized rioters attended protests against police brutality in several major cities with the specific aim of sparking violence and destruction. Public anger has poured onto the streets following the death of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis on 15 May 2020, who died when a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while being arrested. Officials offered up little evidence to support their claims that these groups are the primary drivers of violent unrest, with the chaos at the demonstrations making it difficult to verify their identities and motives.
"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," US Attorney General William Barr said.
Mary McCord, a former senior Justice Department official, said, "No current legal authority exists for designating domestic organisations as terrorist organisations."McCord, who previously served in the Trump administration, added "Any attempt at such a designation would raise significant First Amendment concerns".
On 30 May 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told reporters he'd heard unconfirmed reports that white supremacists and even drug cartels "are trying to take advantage of the chaos." The city of Minneapolis has seen five consecutive nights of protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. Vice News, however, reported that several members of far-right militia groups were spotted at the protests in Minneapolis, including from the "Boogaloo Bois" and the "III% militia" network — two groups that advocate for violent confrontation with law enforcement and hope to stoke civil war in the United States.
Over 30 US cities have been hit by protests following the death of a black man who was pinned to the ground under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis. Some of the protests have turned violent, with demonstrators in Minneapolis looting shops and setting a police station on fire. According to CNN, at least 25 cities in 16 states have imposed curfews, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Miami.
There is strong evidence that some of the more violent protesters traveled to dozens of US cities to take part in the protests. In New York City, police charged a white woman from upstate New York who threw a Molotov cocktail at a police vehicle while four officers were inside. In Detroit, 37 of the 60 protesters arrested did not live in the city. Although Detroit is almost 80% black, many of those arrested were white, police said. Videos have circulated on social media of white people leading the charge in vandalizing buildings or in looting stores.
According to the White House website, "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."
In July 2019 Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) asked the FBI to add a new subsection to its list of extremist ideologies that would include Antifa, according to a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. "While the FBI declines to keep a public or official list of domestic terrorist organizations, it does outline extremist ideologies that often lead to domestic terrorism," the letter states. The list presenty doesn't include a category "under which Antifa could reasonably be counted," Banks wrote. He then write it was his suggestion "that the FBI add a subsection that properly encompasses Antifa’s political goals as openly broadcasted by its leaders on their social media platforms."
A National Counterterrorism Center "Domestic Terrorism Conference Report" of January 2020 noted that "... current federal criminal statutes do not include a distinct law criminalizing acts of DT, leaving prosecutors to rely on existing criminal statutes to address DT-related offenses, indicating a need for legislative review. Most conference participants agreed that a domestic terrorist organization designation, similar to the current process for designating foreign terrorist organizations, could be useful in combating DT; however, DT actors in the Homeland and abroad are aware of the activities that merit designation and adjust accordingly to avoid prosecution... "
Anti-fascist groups, or “Antifa,” are a subset of the anarchist movement and focus on issues involving racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, as well as other perceived injustices. Today’s antifa takes the name from the German Communist Party (KPD)’s street fighting group established in 1932, Antifaschitische Aktion. The Reds got some media attention, in the escalating street violence which helped the Nazi street fighters - the SA - Sturmabteilung (German: “Assault Division” or "Storm Detachment").
For East Germany, [the German Democractic Republic - GDR], antifascism was a central element of its national self-image and became an integral part of everyday political life. Immediately before or after the invasion of the Allied troops in Germany and the defeat of the Third Reich in May 1945, anti-fascist forces in Germany developed an abruptly increased activity. In almost all the cities of the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ), especially in the industrial areas of the south of the zone and the Berlin area, anti-fascist committees were formed, with a considerable number of members. Most of the Antifa committees (or similar organizations) began to clean up the administrations and businesses of Nazis independently, without instructions from the Soviet Militia Administration (SMAD).
They drew on the slogans and orientation of the prewar united front, adopting the word “Antifa” from the last-ditch attempt to establish a cross-party alliance between Communist and Social Democratic workers in 1932. The alliance’s iconic logo, devised by Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists members Max Keilson and Max Gebhard, has been since become one of the Left’s most well-known symbols - the two flags representing the Communists and Socialists. The post-War circles were not spontaneous instances of solidarization, but the result of Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Communist Party (KPD) veterans reactivating prewar networks.
The leadership of the KPD pressed for the implementation of its concepts in 1945, and thus for the rapid dissolution of the Antifa committees. Rarely, in the modern era, has a state so strongly and so exclusively derived its political legitimation from its foundational myth as the GDR. In the Eastern bloc and especially in the GDR, antifascism was a kind of state religion and propaganda weapon in the Cold War. Today Antifascism sounds old-fashioned. Nevertheless, a part of the Antifa scene remained faithful to the term.
The Antifa movement, which in the 1980s developed in West Germany in response to the drifts of neo-Nazis and right-extremist skinheads. From the term "antifascism", the catchy-short slogan "Antifa" was distilled. It sounds aggressive and is also meant. One of the most frequently scanned and sprayed slogans is "Antifa is called attack!" And so it goes with fists and stones against right-wing extremists and policemen, now and then also with fire bottles against vehicles of neo-Nazis.
Self-described Antifa groups have been established across the United States and in several major cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. A majority of New Jersey-based anarchist groups are affiliated with the Antifa movement and are opposed to “fascism,” racism, and law enforcement. Antifa groups coordinate regionally and have participated in protests in New York City and Philadelphia. There are three loosely organized chapters in New Jersey, known as the North Jersey Antifa, the South Jersey Antifa, and the HubCity Antifa New Brunswick (Middlesex County).
Anarchism is a belief that society should have no government, laws, police, or any other authority. Having that belief is perfectly legal, and the majority of anarchists in the U.S. advocate change through non-violent, non-criminal means. A small minority, however, believes change can only be accomplished through violence and criminal acts…and that, of course, is against the law.
Anarchist extremism in the U.S. encompasses a variety of ideologies, including anti-capitalism, anti-globalism, and anti-urbanization. There’s also “green anarchy,” an element of anarchist extremism mixed with environmental extremism. The extremists are loosely organized, with no central leadership—although they occasionally demonstrate limited ability to mobilize themselves.
Typically, anarchist extremists in the U.S. are event-driven—they show up at political conventions, economic and financial summits, environmental meetings, and the like. They usually target symbols of Western civilization that they perceive to be the root causes of all societal ills — i.e., financial corporations, government institutions, multinational companies, and law enforcement agencies. They damage and vandalize property, riot, set fires, and perpetrate small-scale bombings. Law enforcement is also concerned about anarchist extremists who may be willing to use improvised explosives devices or improvised incendiary devices.
In January 1999, the City of Seattle was selected to host the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in November-December 1999. The WTO is a global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. In March, multi-agency planning began through the City of Seattle Public Safety Committee with goals of ensuring safety for participants and freedom of expression for protestors. The conference began in November 1999 and inspired one of the largest political protests ever seen in Seattle. Protesters focused on issues including workers' rights, sustainable economies, and environmental and social issues. On the first morning of the conference, when downtown streets and intersections could not be cleared and after downtown businesses were vandalized, the Mayor of Seattle declared a civil emergency. The Governor declared a state of emergency on November 30. Publicized worldwide, the City was criticized for mishandling the protests and for being unprepared.
It is disingenuous to assert that demonstrations were always peaceful, or simply “boisterous,” just as it would be naïve to assert that police did not exceed their mandate in some cases. Many demonstrators believed that they could expect arrest for actions they viewed as symbolic protest like blocking streets, etc. That plan could not be achieved, however, because police numbers were completely inadequate to the challenge. Faced with what they perceived as the necessity to clear intersections, and unable to execute mass arrests, police turned to tear gas and other less-lethal methods. Mass arrests would have eliminated the need for gas or other technologies, which were themselves provocative.
Disturbances surrounding the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) conference in Seattle shook public confidence in the city’s ability to maintain order and protect the rights to speak and assemble, injured the city and its reputation. The city government failed its citizens through careless and naïve planning, poor communication of its plans and procedures, confused and indecisive police leadership, and imposition of civil emergency measures in questionable ways. As authorities lost control of the streets they resorted to methods that sometimes compromised the civil rights of citizens and often provoked further disturbance.
The number of demonstrators who engaged in property crimes or acts of violence was a very small fraction of the entire group. Police estimates put that figure at no more than a few hundred; the ACLU and National Lawyers’ Guild estimate is several dozen. The number of incidents, their geographical dispersion and contemporaneous press accounts suggest the police estimate is more accurate.
For today’s generation of American anarchist extremists, the rioting that disrupted the 1999 World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle is the standard by which they measure “success”—it resulted in millions of dollars in property damage and economic loss and injuries to hundreds of law enforcement officers and bystanders. But they haven’t been able to duplicate what happened in Seattle… which may be a combination of the improved preparations of law enforcement as well as the disorganization of the movement. This disorganization, though, can also be a challenge for law enforcement: it gives the extremists anonymity and low visibility, and it makes it tough to recruit sources and gather intelligence.
In June 2016, 300 counter-protesters, including anarchist extremists, attacked 25 members of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party with knives, bottles, bricks, and concrete from a construction site while rallying at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, injuring 10.
In December 2016, a group known as the Antifascist Action-Nebraska engaged in a doxing campaign against a prominent member of American Vanguard, a white supremacist organization. The group published his personal information on several social media platforms and posted fliers on the University of Nebraska Omaha campus, calling for his expulsion. On March 28, a small fight occurred between Antifa members and supporters of the US President during a rally in Seaside Heights (Ocean County). Because of advance publicity about the event on social media, local and state law enforcement officers were able to keep altercations to a minimum.
On 01 February 2017, the University of California Berkeley canceled a controversial speaker’s appearance following a protest by approximately 100 Antifa members. In response, far-right extremists assembled at a free-speech rally, which Antifa members disrupted, resulting in 10 arrests and seven injuries. Additionally, on April 15, Antifa and far-right extremists clashed at a demonstration, leading to 23 arrests and 11 injuries.
On January 20, 2017 more than 200 people in and around Logan Circle in Washington, D.C. The group formed a “black bloc” in which individual defendants wore black or dark colored clothing, gloves, scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, gas masks, goggles, helmets, hoodies, and other face-concealing and face-protecting items to conceal their identities in an effort to prevent law enforcement from being able to identify the individual perpetrators of violence or property damage. Some of the members of the black bloc were armed with hammers, crowbars, wooden sticks, and other weapons.
More than 200 participants in the "black bloc" observed law enforcement forming a police line consisting of less than two dozen officers at the intersection of 12th and L Streets NW. At approximately 10:52 a.m., they formed their own line, counted down, and charged the officers who formed the police line. Powell was one of approximately 50 or more individuals in the black bloc who broke the police line and was able to escape. Law enforcement was ultimately able to detain and to arrest more than 200 participants in the black bloc. Beginning in March 2017, the Philadelphia Antifa Chapter used Facebook to encourage followers to disrupt a “Make America Great Again” event in Philadelphia, resulting in over 300 participants. Antifa’s presence resulted in law enforcement shutting down the event early for safety concerns. As of May 2017, a manual on how to form an Antifa group—posted on a well-known Anarchist website in February—had approximately 13,500 views.
On 18 April 2017, following the Patriots Day Free Speech Rally in Berkeley, California — which turned violent — an Antifa member wrote, “Every Nazi that gets punched is a victory. . . . We must realize that these days are going to become more and more common, unless we put a nail in this coffin once and for all.” On March 29, as a response to an Antifa post on social media, a national militia group wrote in an online article, “Whenever their kind [Antifa] assumes power, individual freedom, including of speech and worship, is brutally suppressed.”
A Domestic Terrorist Organization ??
Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims”. This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations. Over 350,000 people signed the 017 White House petition : "AntiFa has earned this title due to its violent actions in multiple cities and their influence in the killings of multiple police officers throughout the United States. It is time for the pentagon to be consistent in its actions – and just as they rightfully declared ISIS a terror group, they must declare AntiFa a terror group – on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety." The FBI does not designate domestic terrorist organizations.
Violent confrontations between Antifa members and white supremacists — as well as militia groups — will likely continue because of ideological differences and Antifa’s ability to organize on social media. In the past year, Antifa groups have become active across the United States, employing a variety of methods to disrupt demonstrations.
Assault is defined differently from one state to another. Assault is generally defined as a threat that causes fear of imminent bodily harm in another person, while battery is defined as an actual harmful contact. Assault need not involve actual physical contact, and is defined as an attempt to commit a physical attack or as intentional acts that cause a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Under this second definition, verbal threats are usually not enough to constitute an assault. Despite assault and battery having two different traditional legal definitions, many jurisdictions group both crimes together.
Misdemeanor assaults are the least serious among assault and battery crimes, and ususally do not involve serious injury. Aggravated assault involves circumstances that make the crime more serious, as when the assault is committed with a deadly weapon or results in serious injury that requires hospitalization or surgery or disfigures the victim. In many states, simple assault against certain individuals who work in service to the community (police officers or emergency medical care providers) is treated differently and considered a more serious crime than simple assault.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor punishable by six months to one year in jail, and fines of up to several thousand dollars, depending on the specific provisions of each state’s sentencing statute or sentencing guidelines. Typically, the judge in a misdemeanor case has discretion as to the length of the sentence and whether to allow the defendant to serve a portion of the sentence on probation. For misdemeanors, defendants often have option such as performing community service, participating in criminal education programs, or being under house arrest, rather than serving time in jail.
Simple assault is not "terrorism" despite the elements of coercion or intimidation. Street fighting with shields and rods and rocks is not "terrorism". Section 2331(5) of the U.S. penal code defines domestic terrorism as activities that occur primarily within the United States; that “involve acts dangerous to human life..." Federal law does not prescribe a formal designation process for domestic terrorist organizations, unlike foreign terrorist organizations. The courts have ruled that if someone makes a direct threat against another person or incites a group to commit imminent violence, the speech is not protected and the government can intervene.
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