Republicans have been quick to condemn antifa as chaos erupts at various protests across the country, despite scant evidence to support their claims.
As protesters take to the streets to demand an end to police brutality against black Americans, Donald Trump has focused more on the scattered reports of violence and looting among the crowds and has cast blame for the destruction on antifa, a loose movement of "anti-fascists" who aggressively oppose white supremacy.
Now, even as far-right extremists are detained for attempting to hijack those protests and commit violence, Trump and his Republican defenders have continued their efforts to pin the blame on antifa.
It's not the first time Trump has summoned antifa to distract from a major news event. During the 2017 "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence, specifically criticizing the "alt-left" — a non-existent group into which right-wing extremists had lumped antifa — for supposedly jumpstarting the chaos.
One woman was killed at that rally after a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Now, Trump wants to designate antifa as a domestic terror organization, which experts say is dangerous, as it could pressure law enforcement to specifically target Trump's enemies and deprioritize the threat from organized white nationalist groups.
Authorities say those types of groups have already attempted to target the nationwide protests in order to cause destruction and commit violence.
Federal prosecutors this week charged three right-wing extremists with terrorist activities, alleging the men, who are white, were trying to "hijack the protests into violence" as part of the armed "boogaloo" movement, which aims to spark the next American Civil War.
The three men, who range in age from 23 to 40 years old and military experience, have specifically been charged with two counts each of conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive and possession of unregistered firearms.
The prosecutors said the men were arrested on Saturday "on the way to a protest in downtown Las Vegas after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles," according to the Associated Press.
Neither Trump nor members of his administration have commented on the three arrests, choosing instead to power forward with their efforts to target antifa. Attorney General William Barr, for example, mentioned antifa by name at a news conference on Thursday, but did not call out right-wing agitators like the ones in Nevada.
Trump's usual chorus of congressional defenders have also been largely quiet on the matter, despite many of them proactively calling out what they claim is antifa-led destruction.
Some, like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, have even gone so far as to call for military crackdowns on peaceful protesters, who have gathered across the country to demand an end to racist police brutality.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Cotton has been one of the most vocal lawmakers in the wake of the Floyd protests, demanding in a New York Times op-ed that Trump call in the military to target American citizens — an escalation that has since drawn heavy condemnation.
"Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight," Cotton tweeted on June 1. "If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division. We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction."
Cotton has still not commented publicly on the right-wing extremists arrested in Nevada.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Cruz, who has also been silent on the Nevada arrests, has been vocal about antifa, blaming the group for the violence at anti-racism protests across the country and saying he's been fighting the group for "years."
"[A]ntifa is a domestic terrorist organization led by hateful, intolerant radicals. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on The Constitution, I’ll convene a hearing on how to hold Antifa responsible for the violence & destruction we’ve seen throughout our communities," Cruz tweeted on Wednesday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)
Gaetz, who is well known for backing up even Trump's most baseless conspiracy theories, has been vocal about blaming antifa for violence at anti-racism protests, but has said nothing about the arrests in Nevada as of Thursday.
Gaetz was punished earlier this week on Twitter, after he questioned why law enforcement couldn't "hunt [antifa] down like we do those in the Middle East[.]"
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA)
The freshman Republican went on the right-wing cable channel Newsmax on Wednesday to condemn antifa and praise Trump for "putting a stop to this lawlessness so the rioters won’t overshadow this powerful and important cause."
Reschenthaler has also said nothing about the right-wing arrests in Nevada thus far.
Rep. Mark Green (R-TN)
Green this week compared antifa to the Chinese Communist Party, pointing to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdowns in which the Chinese government attacked pro-democracy student protesters, killing hundreds.
"Communism supported by terrorist tactics has always been the enemy of freedom, then at Tiananmen Square & now as seen w/ Antifa's violence," he wrote in a Facebook post.
Green has so far been silent on the Nevada arrests.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
Gosar praised the show of force by military police guarding the Lincoln Memorial this week, which many — including former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — have called disturbing.
Earlier in the week, photos of the uniformed police lining the steps of the memorial made the rounds on Twitter, prompting outcry from those who saw their presence as threatening.
"Nothing 'deeply disturbing' about protecting the Lincoln Memorial from ANTIFA," Gosar tweeted on June 2.
He has not commented about the arrests of the right-wing extremists in Nevada.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL)
Waltz on Tuesday blamed violence at the widespread protests — which were in reality mostly peaceful — on antifa.
"If what we're seeing with Antifa & looters isn't an insurrection as understood by the US Constitution, I don't know what is," he tweeted on June 2.
So far, Waltz has been silent on the arrests in Nevada.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
Cassidy has also blamed antifa for sparking violence at protests across the country.
"There are people protesting brutality and racism, which is good. All Americans are for that," he tweeted on Tuesday. "What we’re not for is Antifa and criminals sneaking into the movement to discredit it and work against society. That is wrong."
There is no publicly available evidence of antifa-related violence or destruction at the various protests. Early FBI reports on the demonstrations also contradict that claim.
Cassidy has still not commented about the Nevada arrests.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL)
Steube accused Democrats of being "silent" on alleged violence from Antifa, but has been silent himself on the arrests of right-wing extremists.
"While leaders on the left remain silent on the violence from groups like Antifa and some governors even excuse their behavior, we will restore law and order and ensure that justice is served for all," he tweeted Monday.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX)
Burgess similarly blamed the violence at some protests on antifa.
"This weekend the nation saw how peaceful protests were turned into violent riots by Antifa. The President and Attorney General Barr were right to classify Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization," he tweeted on June 1.
He has yet to acknowledge the alleged attempt by right-wing extremists in Nevada to carry out a violent attack on demonstrators.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)
The appointed senator from Georgia pushed Trump's narrative that antifa was behind violence at some of the protests and should be labeled a terrorist organization.
"Antifa is a despicable group whose sole mission is to terrorize this country and its citizens. It deserves to be categorized - and punished - accordingly," she tweeted on June 1. "As Antifa showed this weekend, it is a domestic terrorist organization. Period."
She has yet to comment on the right-wing extremists arrested in Nevada.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Like Trump, Blackburn also blamed antifa this week, calling them "domestic terrorists."
"This has gone beyond a peaceful protest. Members of Antifa are domestic terrorists burning American cities down to the ground. The #ThinBlueLine is standing between chaos and calm," Blackburn tweeted on May 31, linking to a video of her appearance on Fox News.
She has not commented on the Nevada arrests.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA)
Hice defended Trump's attacks on Antifa late last week, as well as Trump's call for violence against looters.
"If @Twitter is going to block content and limit speech, why aren't they taking action against the #Antifa accounts promoting and organizing last night's riots?" Hice tweeted on May 29.
He has not commented on the Nevada arrests, and was silent even after Twitter shut down some accounts posing as antifa that were discovered to be run by white nationalists.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.