The Department of Justice has evidence that the far-left extremist organization Antifa and other similar groups have been behind the recent riots in order to fuel their own violent agenda, according to Attorney General William Barr.
Barr told reporters at a June 4 presser that there are “three different sets of actors” involved, including peaceful demonstrators, opportunistic looters, and extremist agitators. Foreign actors have also played a role in the violence, he said.
“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,” he said. “We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.”
While most have peacefully demonstrated, Barr said, some “have hijacked protests to engage in lawlessness, violent rioting, arson, looting of businesses, and public property assaults on law enforcement officers and innocent people, and even the murder of a federal agent.”
“There are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,” he said.
So far, the government has made 51 arrests for federal crimes in connection with the rioting. On May 31, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.
The FBI has also directed 200 joint terrorism task forces from across the country to help law enforcement with apprehending and charging violent agitators.
What started as peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd on May 25, who said multiple times he couldn’t breathe and became nonresponsive while a police officer knelt on his neck, has been exploited and turned into violent chaos.
At the same presser, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that “anarchists like Antifa and other agitators” are “exploiting the situation to pursue violent, extremist agendas.”
“These individuals have set out to sow discord and upheaval rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice,” Wray said.
The violence has sprung up in many states. As of June 3, the U.S. Marshals Service has reported damage and vandalism to “21 federal courthouses located in 15 different states and the District of Colombia,” according to U.S. Marshals Service Director Donald W. Washington.
“There has been damage and vandalism to many other federal properties,” he added.
While it is their “absolute duty” to protect people exercising constitutional rights, this doesn’t apply to “rioters, arsonists, thieves, looters, and their protagonists [who] are criminals,” said Washington.
During a question-and-answer segment, Barr also pointed out the “witches brew that we have of extremists, individuals, and groups that are involved.” He noted the disinformation on this front in that there have been members “posing as different groups.”
“The intelligence being collected by our U.S. attorneys office, particularly integrated by the FBI from multiple different sources is building up,” he said. “There are some specific cases against individuals, some Antifa-related.”
“There are some groups that don’t have a particular ideology other than anarchy,” Barr said. “There’s some groups that want to bring about a civil war—the boogaloo group, that has been on the margin on this as well, trying to exacerbate the violence.”
Police departments in several states in recent days have warned of materials being purposely planted in certain locations so as to fuel rioting.
The Kansas City Police Department in Missouri stated on Twitter that it “learned of & discovered stashes of bricks and rocks” in some areas “to be used during a riot,” and asked people to report such cases to authorities to be removed.
Days later, the Minneapolis Police Department warned of “incendiary materials and accelerants” such as water bottles filled with gasoline found hidden in bushes and neighborhoods.
The FBI has “quite a number of ongoing investigations” against “violent anarchists extremists” according to Wray, including what he described as “those motivated by Antifa, or an Antifa-like ideology.”
“We categorize and treat those as domestic terrorism investigations and are actively pursuing them through our joint terrorism task forces,” he said. “What tactics they use varies widely sometimes from city to city, sometimes even from night to night.”