On Sunday, May 31st, 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted that Antifa would be officially designated as a terrorist organization by the US government.
A message from the President: pic.twitter.com/BtDdfGL2nO
— Real Press Sec Bot (@RealPressSecBot) May 31, 2020
Despite his position in the highest seat of national power, Trump's tweets are (fortunately) not legally-binding. And even if they were, it wouldn't matter — the United States has no official statute for designating domestic terrorists, a fact which has ironically served to benefit homegrown mass murderers acting on white supremacist agendas. There's also the fact that Antifa is … not a formal organization. There is no hierarchy, no centralized leadership — it's just individuals, occasionally clustering together, engaging in direct action. Even if you could legally designate Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization, it would be impossible to develop any sort of criteria to decide who or what qualifies as "Antifa."
This is, unfortunately, the likely aim of Trump's provoke tweet: to invoke the chillingly Orwellian logic that "anti-fascist action equals terrorism."
Most of the criticism of "Antifa" is actually aimed at people employing Black Bloc tactics. Many of them are probably anarchists; many are probably not, and may just have legitimate reasons for protecting their identities. There are valid complaints about the effectiveness of these methods; there are also valid arguments that they ultimately work. But one thing is certain: no one in America has been killed by "Antifa" or Black Bloc tactics. I suppose one could argue that there is an intimidation factor to Black Bloc tactics, but it's hardly organized in the deliberate sense of most terrorism.
It's not illegal to wear black; at this point, most people are actually legally required to wear masks in public places. So unless the plan is to outlaw all acts of public protest or gathering — which it very well could be — then it would still be impossible to figure out why, exactly, is a "member" of "Antifa." It's all about creating a boogeyman to shift the Overton window and fuel a PR campaign that lets radical right-wingers do what they want.
Trump's crazy designation of Antifa as terrorist organization [Peter Bergen / CNN]
Trump tweets Antifa will be labeled a terrorist organization but experts believe that's unconstitutional [Evan Perez and Jason Hoffman / CNN]
Trump says he's naming antifa a 'Terrorist Organization.' Can he do that? [Betsy Woodruff Swan / Politico]
Black Bloc tactics weaken our struggle [Sarah Levy / Socialist Worker]
Is Antifa counterproductive? White Nationalist Richard Spencer would beg to differ [Natasha Lennard / The Intercept]
Why we should listen to anarchists in the age of Trump [Nathan Schneider / America: The Jesuit Review]
Letter to the American Left: Antifa is not your friend [Nicholas Goroff / Occupy]
Image: Old White Truck / Flickr (CC 2.0)