FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a congressional hearing on Thursday that the bureau is pursuing multiple investigations into anarchist extremists, including the far-left anarcho-communist group Antifa that has been involved in rioting across the country in recent months.
He also noted that the FBI is “aggressively” looking into activities of interstate travelers alleged to have been involved in the riots.
“Antifa is a real thing. It is not a fiction. Now, we have seen organized tactical activity at both the local and regional level. We have seen Antifa adherents coalescing and working together in what I would describe as small groups and nodes,” Wray said at a hearing about national security and global threats before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“We have a number of predicated investigations into some anarchist violent extremists, some of whom operate through these nodes and subscribe to or self identify with anarchist extremism including Antifa,” he said. “And we will not hesitate, will not hesitate to aggressively investigate that kind of activity. So we’re going to be looking at, and we have been looking at, their funding, their tactics, their logistics, their supply chains, and we’re going to pursue all available charges.”
Wray’s comments are in part a reiteration of what he told the House Homeland Security Committee last week about Antifa, where he noted that they are “not an organization or a structure,” and also “not a group or an organization,” but rather a “movement, or an ideology.”
He noted that there are also “more militia types” in addition to Antifa, which the FBI are also investigating.
“I think trying to put all of these things into nice neat clean buckets is a bit of a challenge because one of the things that we see more and more in the counterterrorism space is people who assemble together in some kind of mishmash, a bunch of different ideologies,” Wray added. “What they’re really about is the violence. And we’re not going to stand for the violence.”
Attorney General William Barr in August described Antifa as a “revolutionary group” that wants to establish socialism or communism in the United States. Barr said the group is “essentially Bolsheviks”—a radical, far-left, and revolutionary Marxist faction that toppled Tsarist Russia 100 years ago.
Protests have flared across the United States since the end of May, and while some have been peaceful, others have turned violent, in part being hijacked by Antifa and other extremists groups. Americans across the nation have seen their businesses destroyed, looted, and set on fire.
Communism expert Trevor Loudon previously told The Epoch Times that Antifa is only one part of the picture, noting that “every significant communist or socialist party in the United States has been involved in these protests and riots from the beginning.”
The FBI has observed three broad categories of people amid the protests, Wray told the Senate committee.
“You’ve got the peaceful protesters; that’s maybe the biggest number of people. Then you’ve got the second category, which is what I would describe as criminal opportunists engaged in looting, low-level vandalism, etc. But then you’ve got a third group,” he said.
“While it might numerically be the smallest, it’s by far and away the most dangerous, the most serious, and the one that we might have to go after the most aggressively,” he said, adding that the FBI has observed “violent anarchist extremists participating in that mix” of people.
He described this group as “the people who are clearly violating federal law—IEDs, Molotov cocktail, the specific targeting of law enforcement, arsons of government facilities and businesses, etc. Who those people are—that’s our priority, that’s our focus.”
The motivations of such people “vary from day to day, city to city,” Wray said.
Wray said later in the hearing that interstate travelers “are often some of the most serious offenders” when it comes to violent protests.
“In Portland, for example, there were a couple of individuals that I can think of from the top of my head, who were coming from different states, in one case threatening to blow up a building, in another case attempting to attack a building. Charges brought in both instances,” Wray said.
For these individuals, the FBI is “aggressively” looking into possible funding, supply chains, networks, and communications with others in different parts of the United States, Wray said. He said that there are federal rioting charges that the FBI has begun to use when applicable.
“While there are certainly a large number, even a majority of people out there who are protesting peaceful … it doesn’t take very many people to suddenly cause very serious harm,” Wray said, noting that the FBI is focused on “the most dangerous actors, which tend to be the ones that are most coordinated, and therefore are potentially able to cause the most harm and the most damage.”