Cruz called Antifa a “terrorist organization composed of hateful, intolerant radicals who pursue their extreme agenda through aggressive violence.”
The resolution calls for the “designation of Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization,” and states that “Antifa is a movement that intentionally combines violence with the group’s alt-left positions.”
A preliminary tally by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found that domestic extremists took the lives of at least 50 people in 2018, up from the 37 the previous year. Last year was the fourth deadliest for extremist attacks since 1970, according to the report. And “every single extremist killing in 2018 … had a link to right-wing extremism,” the report found. The FBI reported a 17% jump in hate crimes in 2017, its latest report, over the previous year.
The far right accounted for 73% of extremist murders in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018, according to the ADL data, compared to 23% by jihadists. Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan described white supremacist violence as a “huge issue” and an “increasingly concerning threat” in a Capitol Hill hearing just last month.
Cruz and Cassidy’s nonbinding resolution wouldn’t change U.S. law, and no law currently exists specifically against domestic terrorism. But the senators’ resolution could serve to twist perceptions in the face of facts.
As proof of Antifa violence, the senators’ resolution points to activists occupying the area outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, posting ICE officials’ personal information online, and an assault on conservative journalist Andy Ngo at a demonstration in Portland, Oregon, that was captured on video.
While the Anti-Defamation League decries violence by Antifa, it pointed out in a statement on its website that far-right extremists are the far greater threat.
“Right-wing extremists have been one of the largest and most consistent sources of domestic terror incidents in the United States for many years; they have murdered hundreds of people in this country over the last ten years alone,” the ADL stated. “To date, there have not been any known Antifa-related murders.”
The Antifa “reject racism but use unacceptable tactics,” the statement added. “White supremacists use even more extreme violence to spread their ideologies of hate, to intimidate ethnic minorities, and undermine democratic norms.”
Earlier this week self-avowed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. was sentenced to life plus 419 years for deliberately driving his car into a crowd of counter protesters at the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others.
Last year 11 people were killed when accused gunman Robert Bowers, who spewed his anti-Semitic rants on a favorite social media site of neo-Nazis, opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest attack on Jews in the nation’s history. In 2015 white supremacist Dylann Roof fatally shot nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, including the church pastor. Cesar Sayoc of Florida earlier this year pleaded guilty to charges of mailing devices that looked like pipebombs to Trump critics.
The first of a gang of Proud Boys, the group in the Portland protest known for a strategy of provoking violence, were sentenced this month for a violent melee on Manhattan’s Upper East Side last year after organization leader Gavin McGinnis spoke at the Metropolitan Republican Club.
The ADL website points out that Antifa is a loose collection of groups of protesters who take on right-wing demonstrators on an ad hoc basis, and are not part of one organized group. Cruz and Cassidy’s resolution, therefore, could risk labeling any counter protester as a terrorist.
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