Professional Protest Organization or Terrorist Group?
Terrorism is usually associated with bombs, stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks done by those acting under the influence of radical Islam. While this is a somewhat accurate generalization, there are many more forms of terrorism. By just a simple examination of the horrific attacks of the past twenty-five years, it is clear that acts of violence such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Charleston church shooting in 2015, or the recent vehicular attack in Charlottesville by a white supremacist, are all examples of domestic terrorism unrelated to radical Islam.
Now, these instances are all based around one or two individuals acting alone. How does the spectrum shift when there are entire groups involved? It is clearly understood that ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, the KKK, Boko Haram, and many others are designated terrorist groups. The State Department recognizes the grave threat that they often pose to the homeland and our allies. With multiple terror cells and a wide swath of influence, these organizations can quickly wreak havoc through individual or group attacks. All of these acts of violence by these groups are clearly considered domestic terrorism.
However, another question remains. How does this effect domestic protest organizations that show up to rallies, incite violence, vandalize, and battle police? What happens if these organizations engage in this manner of “protesting” by doing it in the name of fighting “fascism”? It creates a difficult situation. The State Department surely does not want to denounce such an organization that is comparable to the Allies in World War II that bravely defeated Nazi Germany. Antifa is one of these such groups that was created to fight fascism, building off the goals of similar organizations that existed in European nations after World War II. Antifa is not a typical organization because it lacks a head leader, governing body, and any sort of concrete ideals. It is comparable to a parasite that feeds on social media activity. Antifa relies on Facebook and Twitter to reach out to its members and others interested in joining a protest. Once a group is organized, it shows up to a rally or similar event in usually black attire, complete with gas masks, bandanas, and often weapons.
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to “peaceably assemble”. There is meant to be a clear differentiation between “peaceably assembling” and a violent protest. Has Antifa been protected under the law with their recent actions? They came to the spotlight on Inauguration Day 2017 with rioting, violent protests, and acts of vandalism. In February, they were responsible for UC Berkeley being forced to cancel the speech by Milo Yiannopoulos after protests turned violent with vandalism, fire, and other dangerous activities. When Ann Coulter was scheduled to come to speak at UC Berkeley in April, safety concerns over the expected protests from groups such as Antifa gave a reason for the university to cancel her speech. Was the right to free speech supposed to bend to the will of a protest organization?
Ironically, the group claims that there goal is to have peace and inclusiveness. Violence is justified in the name of ending fascism, racism, and any other objectives they might have. The millennials and other sorry individuals must picture themselves as valiant warriors, charging through the gruesome battlefields of Europe, as they put on their black clothing and gas masks, grasp their baseball bats, emerge from their parent’s basement and charge to the streets. It is not just unfortunate millennials that have engaged in protesting, but even the son of Sen. Tim Kaine that was arrested in Minnesota after being caught protesting a pro-Trump rally in March.
While it may not seem that the intellect of these protesters is that high, they definitely have stepped into dangerous territory with their actions at the Phoenix presidential rally on Tuesday. With gas canisters, rocks, batons, rocks, knives, and other small weapons, some of the Antifa protesters attacked Phoenix police officers, wreaking havoc and confusion. Quite a weapons collection for a group that claims they preach peace and inclusiveness. However, it makes sense that those who are disillusioned enough to believe they really are fighting fascism would quickly resort to violence.
At what point should these actions be considered domestic terrorism? Or is Antifa going to be continually protected by the law as they “peaceably assemble”? A petition online that was created to label Antifa as a terrorist organization received a good amount of traffic generating over a 100000 signatures since August 17th. Maybe those people have a point. Even protesting can take on the form of terrorism.