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Trump Wants to Label Antifa a Terrorist Group, Gaetz Tweet 'Glorifying Violence'

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Trump Wants to Label Antifa a Terrorist Group, Gaetz Tweet 'Glorifying Violence'

2020-06-02 22:34:51

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Matt Gaetz (Image source: Public domain)

In yet another divisive move, Donald Trump tweeted he will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization, though it doesn't appear the United States government can legally label a domestic group with the same label it would apply to a foreign terrorist organization. Sen. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), though, glommed onto the idea and had a "glorified violence" tag thrown on his post from Twitter. 

Current and former government officials contend it would be unconstitutional for the government to forbid activity that is protected by First Amendment rights inside the U.S., based on simple ideology. The law does allow foreign groups to be tagged as terrorist organizations.

The Antifa label is thrown on anti-fascists, which is largely a group whose political beliefs lean toward the left, while not matching typical Democratic beliefs. They often support oppressed populations while being against wealthy corporations and people. Radical and militant tactics are sometimes used to spread their message. 

However, Antifa isn't a wholly organized group, so there is no central leader, and this makes it difficult for law enforcement to deal with violence by the hands of a group identifying themselves as Antifa. It would also make it difficult for Trump to label the group as terrorists.

Nonetheless, on Sunday Trump tweeted, "The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization." 

This was followed by a tweet that tagged "Fox and Friends" and its host, Brian Kilmeade, and included the quote, "I don't see any indication that there were any white supremest [sic] groups mixing in. This is an ANTIFA Organization. It seems that the first time we saw it in a major way was Occupy Wall Street. It's the same mindset."

Both the president and Attorney General Bill Barr have labeled far-left groups as being responsible for the violent protests.  

Federal law enforcement officials say they're aware of outside groups being behind some of the destruction and violence and that they're using the legitimate George Floyd protests as a cover. These groups do include far-left extremists, but they also include anarchists and white supremacists.

However, the Justice Department announced on Sunday that it will use Joint Terrorism Task Forces throughout the country to investigate some of the violence, and they are singling out Antifa. Law enforcement officials contend there are groups from both the extremist left and right involved in the violence. 

The focus on the left-leaning groups by Trump and Barr stands in contrast with law enforcement warnings within recent years that the biggest domestic terrorism challenge is the rise of white supremacist groups. FBI Director Christopher Wray has raised this concern as well.

The American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi responded to Trump's initial tweet and noted there is "no legal authority for designating a domestic group" as a terrorist organization. 

"As this tweet demonstrates, terrorism is an inherently political label, easily abused and misused. There is no legal authority for designating a domestic group. Any such designation would raise significant due process and First Amendment concerns."

Gaetz responded to the tweet as well: "Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?"  

Twitter placed a notice on this tweet that it violated Twitter's rules for glorifying violence, days after Trump received the same warning for his posts discussing how to deal with looters. While the post remains up, it's hidden behind a notice saying it violated the Twitter rules.

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