The FBI has found no evidence that the American militant anti-fascist movement Antifa was involved in violence that erupted during national protests over the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on Memorial Day after a white police officer in Minneapolis reportedly knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Violence exploded across the country in the days since his death, but the FBI’s Washington Field Office reported “no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement,” according to an internal FBI memo obtained exclusively by The Nation, a progressive U.S. weekly magazine.
The FBI has begun issuing the reports daily since the weekend, The Nation reported, but no evidence or developments have surfaced yet that implicates the group for any violence or mayhem.
Since Saturday, though, President Donald Trump has continued to blame the loosely organized leftist radical movement for mayhem across the nation without citing evidence, threatening to name it a terrorist organization, although the Constitution provides no clear authority for him to do so.
Federal law allows foreign terror groups such as al-Qaida to be designated a terrorist organization, but legal experts say the Constitution does not extend the same jurisdiction to ideological movements in America, which are protected under the First Amendment.
Further, Antifa has no real organizational structure, nor does it have any members serving in central leadership roles.
The FBI said agents witnessed bricks being thrown at police and that a backpack was found with explosive materials, “but the fact that the FBI’s situation reports cannot find any evidence of such involvement now suggests that fears about such groups may be exaggerated,” The Nation reported.
The FBI memo also warned that a far-right social media group had “called for far-right-leaning provocateurs to attack federal agents, and use automatic weapons against protesters.”
There have also been widespread reports of people posing as protesters while stoking anarchy and leaving the blame on leftist activists.
Adding to the confusion, false rumors have been spreading that Antifa transported people to wreak havoc on small cities across America, unsubstantiated claims that have become red meat for conservative news media and on pro-Trump social media accounts.
Twitter and Facebook busted some of the instigators behind the unsubstantiated social media chatter. Twitter determined Monday that a tweet promising Antifa would “move into residential areas” and “white” neighborhoods was sent by the white supremacy group Identity Evropa. The tweet was shared hundreds of times and cited in online news articles before Twitter removed it Monday, a company spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, other leaked documents obtained by The Nation in 2019 revealed the FBI under Trump has focused counterterrorism efforts on “Racially Motivated Violent Extremists,” including white supremacists, and “Black Identity Extremists,” The Nation reported.
Previously, a bureau program codenamed “Iron Fist” linked “retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” to the Black Lives Matter movement that grew out of the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Attorney General William Barr said Sunday the FBI would use its regional joint terrorism task forces to “identify criminal organizers” but stopped short of giving Antifa a designation, saying only that he was assigning the Department of Justice’s existing counterterrorism task forces to look into it.
“The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” Barr said.
Barr said federal prosecutors could seek to use terrorism statutes against anyone who might be arrested under their redirected enforcement.
While domestic terrorism is defined in the 2001 Patriot Act — and law enforcement could use the designation to seek enhanced powers to investigate members of the group — there are no current designated domestic terrorist organizations.
There’s also no explicit law against providing support to domestic terrorist organizations.