Fact Check: Did Antifa Incite Violence & Riots In Michigan?
There's lots of talk about Antifa inciting violence and riots across the United States as well as Michigan over the weekend. But is it true?
I must admit my ignorance here, I had never heard of antifa until about a week ago when it had been claimed they were inciting violence amid growing protests following the death of George Floyd.
So who exactly is "antifa"? According to Wikipedia...
Antifais a predominantly left-wing, anti-fascist political activist movement in the United States comprising autonomous activist groups that aim to achieve their political objectives through the use of direct action rather than through policy reform. Activists engage in protest tactics such as digital activism and militancy, involving property damage, physical violence and harassment against people whom they identify as fascist, racist, or on the far-right.
Individuals involved in the movement tend to hold anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist views and subscribe to a range of left-wing ideologies such as anarchism, communism, Marxism, social democracy and socialism. Both the name antifa and the logo with two flags representing anarchism and communism are derived from the German Antifa movement.
It sounds like a group of people I would not want to come to my community. But did they send rioters intent on causing violence? According to the FBI report obtained by The Nation, there is no "evidence" or "intelligence" as reported on May 31st.
A sheriff in Illinois had to make a statement after rumors began to swirl throughout the small and rural community of Sparta, Illinois that "antifa terrorists were coming there to burn farmhouses and kill livestock."
The Sheriff’s Office has received reports concerning an article that has been circulating on social media regarding the destruction of farm property and livestock in and around the Sparta, Illinois area. This article cites Antifa support, suggesting members of the “terrorist organization” to be out in full force throughout Randolph County.
Sheriff’s Office personnel have reached out to Law Enforcement Authorities specializing in this type of threat. We have no evidence leading us to believe this threat is at all credible. It would appear that the author’s goal is to place fear in our community members, thereby creating fear and discontent.
That being said, Sheriff Wolff wishes to remind our residents to always remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior to your local authorities. ~Randolph County Sheriff 's Office
A bogus Twitter account, that has been identified and shut down, posed as the extremist group causing even more confusion. According to Business Insider, the Twitter account with the handle "@ANTIFA_US" had falsely aligned themselves with ongoing Black Lives Matter protests nationwide. One tweet called for protesters to "move into residential areas" and "take what's ours" was retweeted hundreds of times as of Sunday night. So who was behind the bogus account? According to Twitter and Business Insider, the Twitter account that claimed to represent a national antifa organization and that had urged protesters to loot "white" neighborhoods was run by the white nationalist group "Identity Evropa".
Never heard of them. So what is "Identity Evropa"? According to Wikipedia...
Identity Evropa, rebranded as American Identity Movement in March 2019, is an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist organization established in March 2016. The group is identified as a white supremacist organization by the Anti-Defamation League and is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
Leaders and members of Identity Evropa, such as former leader Elliot Kline, have praised Nazi Germany and have openly pushed for what they described as the "Nazification of America". The white supremacist slogan "You will not replace us" originated from the group. In an attempt to boost its numbers, Identity Evropa has allied itself with the broader white nationalist alt-right and identitarian movements and the group particularly targets college campuses by distributing slogans on fliers, posters, and stickers. It is one of several groups which have contributed to the rapid growth of white nationalism in the U.S. since 2015.
Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that the federal government has evidence that the radical left-wing antifa movement, as well as other extremist groups, have "hijacked" legitimate protests around the country to incite violence, and said certain "foreign actors" are seizing on the unrest to sow discord in the U.S. Bar went on to say
We have evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.
There are some groups that don't have a particular ideology, other than anarchy and there's some groups that want to bring about a civil war -- the 'Boogaloo' group that has been on the margin of this as well trying to exacerbate the violence. So we are dealing with as I say a witch's brew of a lot of different extremist organizations.