POLITICS

As Far-Right Violence Surges, Ted Cruz Seeks To Brand Antifa A Terrorist Organization

Last year was the fourth-deadliest in the nation for right-wing extremist violence, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.
Counter protesters march ahead of Proud Boys demonstration in Portland, Oregon, last month.
Counter protesters march ahead of Proud Boys demonstration in Portland, Oregon, last month.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has introduced a resolution that would brand anti-fascist group Antifa a domestic terrorist organization even as right-wing violence is burgeoning in the U.S.

“Antifa are terrorists, violent masked bullies who ‘fight fascism’ with actual fascism, protected by liberal privilege,” resolution co-sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a statement Thursday. 

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.”

But it’s violence by white supremacists and other right-wing extremist disciples that has been rising since Barack Obama’s presidency and has surged since Donald Trump took office.

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 Islamic extremists. 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.

Antifa is a loose collection of groups of protesters who take on right-wing demonstrators on an ad hoc basis, rather than one organized group, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL decries violence by Antifa, but 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.”

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, Virginia, 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 pipe bombs 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.

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