An exhaustive investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that of the hundreds of people arrested during the ongoing protests against police brutality, almost none have had any links to the organizing tactic known as antifa, which the president has repeatedly insisted is a concerted left-wing group. In the thousands of pages reviewed by the AP, antifa is reportedly mentioned just once: in a Boston case that says a member of the FBI Gang Task Force was investigating “suspected ANTIFA activity associated with the protests.” The majority of those arrested—on charges ranging from arson to civil disorder—have been working alone, with no links to any radical far-left organization, as both Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have repeatedly asserted.
As recently as during last week’s NBC town hall, Trump brought up alleged antifa violence when pressed on the proliferation of the right-wing conspiracy group QAnon. Though he claimed to “denounce white supremacy,” he quickly pivoted to asking why moderator Savannah Guthrie hadn’t mentioned “people on the left that are burning down our cities.” Since the beginning of the protests early this year, Trump has consistently targeted blue states as hubs of so-called anarchist activity, writing in a memo sent out last month that “anarchy has recently beset some of our states and cities.” He continued with a threat: “My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”
According to the AP, several of those who have been arrested “are not from the Democratic-led cities that Trump has likened to ‘war zones’ but from the suburbs the Republican president has claimed to have ‘saved.’” In late August, when protests began in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, was shot in the back by police, Trump blamed the violence on “domestic terror” while lending support to Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with the deaths of two protestors. Rittenhouse was from Illinois and had driven to Kenosha following a mass Facebook call to action by the right-wing militia group known as the Kenosha Guard.
The AP reported that, along with little mention of antifa in court documents, “more than 40% of those facing federal charges are white” and a majority are under 30; they were arrested in cities ranging from “Portland, Oregon, to Minneapolis, Boston, and New York.” FBI director Christopher Wray has labeled far-right extremists “a domestic terror threat.” Testifying in front of the House Homeland Security Committee last month, Wray said, “Within the domestic terrorism bucket, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group.” He continued, “within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.”
Even in the face of irrefutable evidence, Trump’s allies, and Barr in particular, have continued in their hunt for radical left-wing violence. In a June interview with Fox News, Barr said of antifa, “There appear to be sources of funding, and we are looking into the sources of funding.” And in an interview with Wolf Blitzer in September he doubled down on his allegations, saying, “I’ve talked to every police chief in every city where there has been major violence and they all have identified antifa as the ramrod for the violence.” A July investigation by The Intercept found that law enforcement disproportionately focused on antifa even when they knew that far-right extremists were a legitimate threat.
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