Invoking “Terrorism” Against Police Protestors

On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” Attorney General William Barr followed the tweet with a statement committing to use the dozens of regional FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) against “violent radical elements,” which he reiterated on the president’s call with governors on Monday. Much of the legal commentary that has followed focuses on the lack of presidential authority to designate Antifa, a loose network of anti-racist and anti-authoritarian protestors, as a terrorist organization under existing law. (See examples here and here).

Such analyses, though correct, do not fully capture two important points: first, terrorism frameworks for responding to a problem can have important legal, political, and cultural implications regardless of the lack of formal designation authority; and second, many on the left have irresponsibly advocated expanding such frameworks in recent years, despite concerns expressed by civil rights groups and communities of color about such an expansion.


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