“Antifa is a terrorist organization! They’re starting all the looting and organizing the riots!” - A response
First of all, Antifa is not an organization. If anything, it’s a ‘loosely organized movement.’ Antifa does not exist as a distinct entity, and therefore, there is no organization for Trump to call terrorists.
Much like Marxism or nationalism, antifa is an ideology. The term simply means ‘anti-fascist,’ so if you’re against fascism, you fall under the definition of this word. Antifa conspiracy theories are prevalent amongst right-wing activists, media, and politicians, as some people believe Antifa has secret leaders and funding. These conspiracy theories have never been supported by any tangible evidence.
Antifa has had no verifiable presence in the rioting or looting. For more information, see the section on the difference between protesters and rioters/looters.
Trump declared that “our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, looters, criminals, Antifa and others.” However, the FBI has stated that they have “no intelligence” indicating that Antifa was involved or even present in any violence, rioting, or looting that took place during protests. On the contrary, the FBI and other government agencies have warned that White supremacist groups “will use the protests to incite violence and attack federal agents.” People associated with far-right social media groups have called for “far-right provocateurs to attack federal agents… and use automatic weapons against protesters”. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security warned that law enforcement discovered White supremacist channels who encouraged their followers to incite violence and start a race war.
There are dangers of calling Antifa a terrorist organization.
When Trump repeatedly labels Antifa as a terrorist organization responsible for the violent riots, he’s doing so to undermine the validity of the protests and villainize protestors. When Trump refers to protesters as terrorists, he’s justifying the abhorrent violence that police have used on peaceful demonstrators. However, most protesters are everyday Americans of all genders, races, and ages, not despicable terrorists or radicals.
Additionally, some online theories have sprouted, claiming that Trump is blaming terrorists for riots to prevent small businesses from collecting insurance money. While the validity of such claims cannot be accounted for at the time, it is an interesting notion to consider.
Labeling Antifa, an unorganized group, as a terrorist organization is harmful, especially when it has a relatively mainstream unifying sentiment: disliking fascists. This means that anybody who feels disdain for the worst leaders in history (Hitler, Mussolini, etc.) is effectively a terrorist. Condemning Antifa, anti-fascism, sounds precisely like fascism.
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