Attorney General William Barr said federal authorities are conducting comprehensive investigations into certain individuals with ties to the extremist group Antifa.
He said this is why the group Antifa hasn’t been mentioned in criminal complaints related to the rioting amid protests following the death of George Floyd.
“We have some investigations underway and very focused investigations on certain individuals that relate to Antifa,” Barr said during an interview with Fox News on June 8. “But in the … initial phase of identifying people and arresting them, they were arrested for crimes that don’t require us to identify a particular group or don’t necessitate that.”
Over the past week, federal authorities have attributed the violent activity observed amid protests over Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, to extremist organizations such as Antifa. Barr said in a press conference on June 3 that Antifa and other similar groups and “actors of a variety of different political persuasions” have been behind the recent violent activities in order to carry out their own separate agendas.
He said these actors had “hijacked” the 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.”
Barr’s comments were echoed by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said these individuals have “set out to sow discord and upheaval rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice.”
The government has made 51 arrests so far for federal crimes in connection with the rioting, the attorney general said.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office announced on June 6 that three members of a local anti-government group in Austin formerly called Austin Red Guards, which identifies itself as part of Antifa, were arrested in connection with looting, burglarizing, and damaging property at a Target retail store (pdf).
Barr said their investigation will look into the sources of funding behind the extremist groups and will also focus on the coordinated tactics used by these groups during the protests.
“Some of it relates to an Antifa. Some of it relates to groups that act very much like an Antifa. As I said, there’s a witch’s brew of extremist groups that are trying to exploit this situation on all sides,” Barr said.
The Epoch Times has previously reported on the unprecedented and coordinated effort behind the riots, which has spanned several states across the country. Among these efforts include allegedly leaving materials such as bricks and water bottles filled with gasoline in convenient locations to be used to fuel rioting.
The Kansas City Police Department in Missouri stated on Twitter on May 31 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.
Similarly, the Minneapolis Police Department warned of “incendiary materials and accelerants” such as water bottles filled with gasoline found hidden in bushes and neighborhoods.
Bricks and similar objects have appeared in Manhattan, Baltimore, North Carolina, and more. Protesters outside the White House were caught throwing bricks. Meanwhile, there have also been false alarms, as the Frisco Police Department in Texas determined that one reported pile actually belonged to a legitimate construction project.
State authorities have also launched investigations into whether Antifa has been behind the recent rioting. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced one such investigation last week.
“The protest and looting of Target in Austin that was done and organized by an Antifa web page and of course, the surveillance that was provided over the Internet identifying where law enforcement resources were staged, was done over Antifa accounts,” said Texas DPS Director Steven McGraw, according to Reform Austin.
“We are talking about violent extremists. There’s anarchists. There’s Antifa, but there are also criminals that are using this as an opportunity to exploit and to loot and hurt others. That’s happened.”
Members of other extremist groups have been arrested during the protests. Men with ties to the boogaloo movement—which federal officials say is focused on the belief that a coming civil war or collapse of society is near—were arrested and charged with violations of federal and state law for conspiracy to cause destruction during protests in Las Vegas, and possession of a Molotov cocktail. They have also been charged with a number of state offenses including a conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.
The origins of the group Antifa can be traced back to Germany’s “anti-fascist” movement, which was part of the Soviet Union’s front operations to incite a communist revolution in the European country. In the United States, the group claims that its members are fighting fascism, but rarely do they confront actual fascists. Instead, their members, who are made up of communists, socialists, and other hard-left radicals, label parties and individuals who don’t align with their ideology as “fascists” to justify their use of violence against them.
The group has frequently made headlines for its violent attacks on opposing groups, particularly Trump supporters, whom they have branded as “fascists.”
President Donald Trump announced on May 31 that his administration would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.
Bowen Xiao, Ivan Pentchoukov, and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.