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Officials: Extremist Groups Are Infiltrating Protests

Trump threatens to declare antifa a terrorist organization, though it's not clear he can
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2020 1:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – As officials warned that extremist groups may have infiltrated the protests over George Floyd's death, President Trump on Sunday asserted that the US would declare antifa a terrorist group. "The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization," he tweeted, after days of tweets about "LAW & ORDER!" and "ANARCHISTS" and the need to use the "unlimited power of our Military." The New York Times notes Trump has no clear authority to actually do that, seeing as antifa, which stands for anti-fascist, is not an organization but "a diffuse movement of left-wing protesters." Even if it were an organization, there is no law granting the federal government authority to declare a domestic group a terrorist organization; it can only do so for foreign entities. (Politico has more on the ins and outs of this.) After Trump's tweet, Attorney General William Barr said the FBI would partner with state and local police to identify domestic terrorists who are instigating riots.

The AP reports that federal officials and experts who track extremist groups have both warned that far-left and far-right groups appear to be at work "stoking violence" amid otherwise peaceful protests, and that foreign agents might be behind a disinformation campaign on social media aimed at increasing political tensions. One expert explains to the Washington Post that while the role of outside groups is likely being exaggerated by the administration, it is true that some people simply use situations like this as an excuse to loot stores while others infiltrate the protests in order to turn them violent and thus discredit them. That's what some Minnesota officials think is happening, warning, per CNN, that white supremacist "agitators" appear to be attending protests in the state. But one expert says she sees evidence of groups hoping to start a second civil war: "They want to co-opt [the protests] in order to start their war. They see themselves as being on the side of protesters and that the protesters themselves are useful in causing anarchy." (Read more antifa stories.)

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