In a Twitter message posted on Saturday, President Donald Trump floated declaring Antifa a “terrorist organization,” Newsweek reports.
“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!” he said.
However, the militant, decentralized, anti-fascist movement is not nearly as violent as right-wing extremist groups, according to Anti-Defamation League statistics.
Between 2009 and 2018, right-wing extremists were to blame for 73.3 percent of deaths attributable to violent extremism. Left-wing extremists were to blame for 3.2 percent.
“White supremacists use even more extreme violence to spread their ideologies of hate, to intimidate ethnic minorities, and undermine democratic norms,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement, noting that Antifa also uses “unacceptable tactics.”
As Newsweek notes, the left-wing movement has recently attracted widespread media attention. In Portland, Oregon last month, members of Antifa attacked conservative journalist Andy Ngo, hitting him with a milkshake.
The event prompted Texas Senator Ted Cruz to pen a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General William Barr, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.
Cruz said that Antifa is a “left-wing anarchist terrorist organization that routinely relies on violence to intimidate and punish its political opponents,” calling for an investigation into the movement and for a separate probe into Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler who, Cruz claims, refuses to put an end to left-wing violence in his city.
According to advocacy groups, there are multiple issues with Cruz’s request.
The Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union both argued that Antifa cannot be prosecuted under the Patriot Act — which is what the Department of Justice would have to do if it accepts Cruz’s request — since it is not a monolithic group, but a network of anti-fascist activists.
The Patriot Act defines terrorism as engaging in acts to “influence the policy of a government,” so if Antifa were to fall under that definition, according to the two advocacy groups, the government would have the legal authority to label all counter-protesters similarly and crack down on non-violent forms of dissent and protest.
According to the FBI, most domestic terror cases are driven by right-wing extremists.
As The Hill reported, Trump’s FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week that agency has made about 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests in fiscal 2019, the vast majority of which were tied to white supremacy.