Members of the extremist Antifa network are flying around the country and participating in riots, Attorney General William Barr said in a new interview.
“I’ve talked to every police chief in every city where there has been major violence and they all have identified Antifa as the ramrod for the violence,” Barr said in an appearance this week on CNN’s “Situation Room.” “They are flying around the country. We know people who are flying around the country. We know where they’re going.”
“We see some of the purchases they are making before the riots of weapons to use in those riots,” he added. “So, we are following them.”
Crossing state lines to engage in rioting is illegal and a federal offense, the attorney general said.
Riots exploded in various American cities in late May, following the police custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Some of those arrested during unrest self-identify as members of the network, Barr noted, while others refuse to provide their identity. Antifa members have been arrested or identified as suspects in Washington, Portland, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, among other cities.
“I think it’s worrisome that people from out of town are coming here obviously without the intent to peacefully protest, but obviously with the intent to commit criminal acts,” Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith told The Epoch Times.
The Department of Justice, which Barr heads, is probing the heads of organizations behind the rioting, acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf said this week.
President Donald Trump on Fox News on Monday said he received information that a plane “almost completely loaded with thugs” wearing dark uniforms took off “from a certain city this weekend” headed to Washington. He later said that a person on the plane who was uncomfortable with the situation relayed details about the trip, and said the plane was taking off from Washington, not headed there.
Asked in the new interview if he has directed the FBI, a bureau within his department, to investigate the situation, Barr said he doesn’t see the need.
“I don’t have to ask the FBI, because we receive numerous reports of individuals coming from Portland, Washington, Seattle, and several other cities to come into Washington for the specific purpose of causing a riot,” he said. “There were many on planes. We received multiple reports on this topic.”
“We are trying to follow these things, and we received numerous reports of people coming from other cities into Washington, as we received many reports of people going into Kenosha from other states,” Barr continued.
Of the 175 people arrested in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for crimes during riots since Aug. 24, 102 had addresses from outside the city, police officials said. Those arrested came from 44 different cities.
In Washington, four people arrested for assaulting police officers during recent unrest, including one who allegedly struck an officer who was protecting Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), had addresses from out of state. One man arrested over the weekend also attended riots in Kenosha and Portland, police said.
Ten people arrested in Portland from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1 came from outside Oregon, according to arrest records. Two traveled from Reno, Nevada, while another showed a Mammoth Lake, California address. The others were from Washington state.
A number of people arrested in Portland since May self-identity as members of Antifa, a far-left, anarcho communist network that includes groups in most major cities. Some of them, and some others, describe themselves as supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. Chants in support of the movement have often been heard during riots in Oregon’s largest city.
Antifa is short for anti-fascist and members of the group have argued they’re opposing extremists on the other side, including white supremacists. Groups in the network have said they support violence in self-defense, with self-defense in certain cases defined as attacking before being attacked.
Members are known to dress in all-black, obscuring their face, wielding weapons, and using anarchist imagery including a large “A” and “ACAB,” an acronym that stands for “All Cops Are [Expletive].”
Barr has spoken out against Antifa before.
Back on May 31, Barr said groups of “radicals and agitators” were hijacking peaceful and legitimate protests.
“The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” he said.
The next month, the attorney general created a task force aimed at halting “violent anti-government extremists of all persuasions.”
Earlier this month, Barr described Antifa as a “revolutionary group that is interested in some form of socialism, communism.”
“They’re essentially Bolsheviks. Their tactics are fascistic,” he said.