Republican Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), want the government to label antifascists — or antifa — as a domestic terrorist group and have introduced a non-binding resolution to that effect, according to The Washington Post.
Republican politicians and conservative media have long railed against what they call the ‘alt-left’.
Cassidy said in a statement: “Antifa are terrorists, violent masked bullies who ‘fight fascism’ with actual fascism, protected by Liberal privilege. Bullies get their way until someone says no. Elected officials must have courage, not cowardice, to prevent terror.”
But experts have cautioned that labeling antifa as domestic terrorists would cast an incredibly vague net allowing law enforcement to crack down on nearly any left-of-center political groups; rather than a single organization, antifa is a "loosely linked collection of groups, networks and individual people who support aggressive opposition to activists on the far right."
Hina Shamsi, director of the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the move would raise First Amendment concerns among other issues.
“It is dangerous and overly broad to use labels that are disconnected [from] actual individual conduct,” she told the Post. “And as we’ve seen how ‘terrorism’ has been used already in this country, any such scheme raises significant due process, equal protection and First Amendment constitutional concerns.”
While antifa protests have at times resulted in violence — the Republican senators noted “conservative journalist Andy Ngo, who in June was left bloodied by antifa activists in Portland, Ore.” — those loosely associated with the movement have been responsible for zero deaths.
As for white supremacists — those antifa protests against — the same cannot be said. According to the Anti-Defamation League, far-right extremists have killed hundreds of people over the past ten years.
“The antifa reject racism but use unacceptable tactics,” the ADL said, per the Post. “White supremacists use even more extreme violence to spread their ideologies of hate, to intimidate ethnic minorities, and undermine democratic norms.”
Designating antifa a domestic terrorist group has far-reaching implications.
The Post noted: “Designating a group as a domestic terrorist organization expands law enforcement’s ability to investigate it. The label also means that police can not only investigate a specific suspect, but also look into groups that person affiliates with…”