CNN reports on yet another controversy caused by the simple act of thinking through a Tweet from President Donald Trump to its logical conclusion:
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the United States will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization, even though the US government has no existing legal authority to label a wholly domestic group in the manner it currently designates foreign terrorist organizations.
Current and former government officials say it would be unconstitutional for the US government to proscribe First Amendment-protected activity inside the US based on simple ideology. [Pols emphasis] US law allows terrorist designations for foreign groups since belonging to those groups doesn’t enjoy the same protections.
Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform.
Antifa positions can be hard to define, but many members support oppressed populations and protest the amassing of wealth by corporations and elites. Some employ radical or militant tactics to get out their messages.
We weren’t initially decided on whether or not this latest probable empty threat via Twitter from the President of the United States against far-left activists was worth its own blog post. For one thing, our understanding of the “Antifa” movement is that is rejects organization, and self-organized autonomous bands of people engage in all kinds of activity under the brand from online to direct action. With that said, we want to be absolutely clear that do not condone any kind of violence, property destruction, or any other criminal activity by any person or group.
But to label “Antifa” as terrorists, with all that entails in the post-9/11 world, is a frightening prospect.
Here in Colorado, the Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists group in particular has proven to be an accurate source of information about far-right and unapologetic neo-Nazi movements–unmasking a local white supremacist activist serving in the Air Force in Colorado Springs and more recently the not-so-secret Nazi double online life of Kirk Widlund, now fired producer at local conservative AM radio station 710 KNUS where top-shelf Colorado Republicans like Sen. Cory Gardner regularly appear.
Because Antifa by design has no hierarchy, there’s no “group” for law enforcement to target–just individuals, and under terrorism laws those who have provided “material support.” Because these are Americans acting autonomously, there’s no qualifying connection to foreign terrorism to permit those laws to apply. All Trump will most likely succeed in doing with this threat is to motivate his supporters to all every kid wearing black with a bandanna as a face mask a “terrorist.” No doubt to Nazis outed by Colorado Springs Antifa, it would feel like sweet justice.
For the rest of us, plenty of whom will never identify as any kind of radical, this is playing with authoritarian fire.