Most people arrested during anti-racism protests in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. last weekend were local residents, not antifa.
Analysis of court documents and social media posts of more than 200 people detained by police during anti-racism demonstrations indicates that “only a handful” appeared to show links to organized activist groups, according to the Associated Press.
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25 has sparked anti-racism protests across the world. While the majority remain peaceful, some demonstrations ended in violent clashes with heavily-armed police and incidences of looting.
Antifa, which stands for anti-facist, is a loose collection of individuals and groups who oppose far right-wing movements, but lack any clear leadership structure.
The Associated Press review indicated that more than 85 percent of the people arrested by police officers in Minneapolis and D.C. last weekend had been local residents.
Some of the people charged with serious crimes, including theft or arson, already had criminal records and appeared to be taking advantage of protest chaos. While “a few” people identified as left-leaning activists, others were Trump supporters.
As tensions mounted and vast protests continued nationwide, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz claimed on May 30 that 80 percent of protesters had been from out-of-state, while New York City mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that well-organized factions of the “anarchist movement,” some from outside the city, were to blame for some civil unrest.
In multiple official statements ,U.S. Attorney General William Barr has linked outbursts of violence to extremist activists, echoing claims made by President Donald Trump, who in a tweet linked the rising protest violence to “antifa and the radical left.”
Barr said on June 4: “We have evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.” A few days earlier, Barr describedviolence being “instigated and carried out by antifa” as “domestic terrorism.”
Similar to the AP analysis, Reuters reported last Wednesday that an internal intelligence assessment of the protests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security stated that the majority of the protest violence could be linked to “opportunists.”
Regardless, Trump previously announced on Twitter that he would designate antifa as a terrorist organization due to its alleged involvement.
Trump said during a June 1 press conference: “Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted. I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail. This includes Antifa and others who are leading instigators of this violence.”
The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2020
Two issues emerged. First, legal experts said there is little authority to label a domestic entity as a terrorist organization. Second, antifa is a movement, not a group.
“Today, antifa activists focus on harassing right wing extremists both online and in real life,” the Anti-Defamation League explains in a fact sheet about the network. “Antifa is not a unified group; it is loose collection of local/regional groups and individuals.”
Large-scale protests continued across the country Saturday. In Washington, D.C., tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets in what is believed to have been the city’s largest protest so far. Trump claimed there were “far fewer” protesters than anticipated.