George Floyd protests
Trump's dubious claims about antifa and rioting may be aimed at sending in the troops
Attorney General William Barr has declared a loose collective of anti-fascist activists to be domestic terrorists. Events haven't substantiated his claim.
Barr announced Sunday that FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) were working with state and local partners to nab "violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law," singling out "antifa another other similar groups" as agents of "domestic terrorism." On Wednesday, prosecutors in Las Vegas said the JTTF had arrested "three alleged members of the 'Boogaloo' movement" — generally far-right anti-government extremists — on terrorism charges, alleging they planned to use Molotov cocktails and other explosives to trigger violence at George Floyd rallies.
Twitter said Monday it had suspended a fake antifa account, @ANTIFA_US, that on Sunday urged fellow "Comrades" to "move into the residential areas ... the white hoods ... and we take what's ours." The account was linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, Twitter said. Donald Trump Jr. and conservative sites like Red State and Hot Air amplified the fake antifa tweet, and Fox News claimed Wednesday that armed antifa rioters were "coming to the suburbs," citing one anonymous "government intelligence source."
False rumors spread on Facebook and Nextdoor that buses filled with thousands of antifa agitators were coming to loot "white neighborhoods." Facebook said Tuesday it suspended fake accounts tied to the white nationalist Proud Boys and American Guard groups that had masqueraded as antifa organizers asking members to bring weapons to the protests.
Barr and President Trump have fanned the flames, blaming antifa "terrorists," without evidence, for the looting and vandalism at the fringes of peaceful protests. There may be more than just politics at play, Bryan Bender writes at Politico.
Trump has threatened to send active-duty soldiers to cities under the 1807 Insurrection Act. If governors oppose him sending in the Army to enforce state laws, Trump could deploy troops only to enforce federal laws, Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Politico. "That might set up: 'We couldn't get these federally declared terrorists under control so we have to call out the military to quell the civil unrest on grounds of federal terrorism law,'" she said. "The more the attorney general can identify a federal interest in what is basically a state law matter — destruction of property, failure to abide by curfews — they potentially orchestrate a basis."