(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) A backlash is growing against the radical-Leftist “Antifa” movement, but the question remains whether authorities will actually use effective force against Antifa’s violence.
The backlash grows even as Antifa finds allies in the official U.S. labor movement and as Antifa’s ideological cousins abroad run rampant in places like Greece. Increasingly, observers across the non-radical political spectrum – even liberal former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – are beginning to see Antifa not as truly “anti-fascist,” but rather anti-civilization itself.
National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote this week that it’s too early to call Antifa “an actual terrorist organization,” and his NR colleague Andy McCarthy, a celebrated former federal prosecutor, explains the legal reasoning behind the hesitance. Still both say there is good reason to consider Antifa’s goons to be in many ways akin to terrorists – and Politico reported Sept. 1 that even the Obama Department of Homeland Security and FBI had formally classified Antifa’s tactics as “domestic terrorist violence.”
Politico quoted a “senior law enforcement official” who works against domestic terrorists saying “These antifa guys were showing up with weapons, shields and bike helmets and just beating the s*** out of people. … They’re using Molotov cocktails, they’re starting fires, they’re throwing bombs and smashing windows.”
The “terrorist” label is fraught with legal complications, but there could be a serious and very practical effort to label the group as a “street gang” – a designation which, according to the Los Angeles Times, “could give law enforcement new tools to combat the groups. Numerous laws on the books give authorities the power to restrict the movements of gang members and enhance criminal charges against them.” For example, “gang enhancements can add two to 15 years to a criminal sentence for people convicted of committing a crime in concert with gang activity.”
Various jurisdictions in California are considering just such a designation, and even the mayor of the infamously liberal town of Berkeley said he thinks Antifa should be handled like a gang. The biggest drawback, reported the Times, is that Antifa at least pretends to have no official organizational structure, but rather to be merely a “loose network of individuals.” (They do, however, have national “conventions.”) Its adherents make it further difficult to identify them as a gang because they make it hard to identify them even as individuals: So many of them cover their faces, and dress in black, that they in some ways emulate the early “Islamic State” in their promotion of fear and mystery about their identities.
Liberty Headlines already has noted the rise of liberal intellectual recognition that Antifa is dangerous, with Peter Beinart at The Atlantic leading the charge with a long analysis in the magazine’s September issue. But more radical magazines, such as Mother Jones and The Nation, are egging on the thugs. That’s why it’s so important that even Pelosi and the Berkeley mayor reject the radicals and understand, and want to crack down on, Antifa’s thuggishness. And with the Washington Post and others accurately reporting the group’s brutality, there is more “mainstream” acceptance of “crackdown” moves against Antifa of the sorts earlier this year adopted by the FBI and the New York Police Department.
The crackdown may be especially needed if labor unions and other nominally “respectable” organizations start backing Antifa. That’s what is happening in the famous City by the Bay: The San Francisco Bay Area branch of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) effectively joined the “anti-fascist” legions – along with “union electricians and teachers” – to “occupy” Alamo Park and keep right-wing groups from holding a rally there.
On Sept. 1, the Daily Caller likewise reported that unionized school teachers in some places are among those behind Antifa.
Meanwhile, Antifa has international counterparts (sometimes calling themselves “anarchists”) who deface or destroy property, and even historical artifacts, in Europe and elsewhere. On Tuesday, conservative public-relations executive and columnist Ellen Carmichael posted on Facebook this note (among many compliments) about Greece: “Antifa is an evil organization. Look around Greece, and you’ll see ancient monuments and gorgeous old buildings they’ve destroyed. People, especially the elderly, live in fear of them. It’s a sign of things to come in the U.S., and we better get ready.”