Trump says he will designate Antifa a terrorist group as GOP points fingers at extremists
Democratic and Republican officials on Sunday took aim at groups like Antifa and Boogaloo as well as demonstrators from "out of the area" as responsible for violent episodes at protests in major cities across the country.
President Donald Trump tweeted that he was designating Antifa as a terrorist organization.
That followed the president and Attorney General William Barr earlier pointing to anti-fascist organizers and anarchists as culprits behind the mayhem following the death of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Others said right-wing extremists such as Boogaloo followers, who hope to bring about a second Civil War, were pushing for such uprising in the protests.
"This is being driven by Antifa," national security adviser Robert O'Brien told CNN's "State of the Union." "And they did it in Seattle. They have done it in Portland. They have done it in Berkeley. This is a destructive force of radical — I don't even know if we want to call them leftists. Whatever they are, they're — they're militants who are coming in and burning our cities, and we're going to get to the bottom of it."
Antifa, meaning "anti-fascist," is a coalition of protesters, left-wing activists and self-described anarchists who seek to physically confront and bring down what they deem as the far right. Trump and his administration have long targeted the group, which has made its presence felt at protests throughout his presidency.
O'Brien called for the FBI to engage in surveillance of Antifa and to prosecute its members.
"And if they haven't been doing that, we need a plan right away to make sure that happens," O'Brien told reporters after appearing in the Sunday shows. "I think the Attorney General has already been in touch with Director Wray, and I think the President wants to know what the FBI has been doing, and what their plan is going forward, and if they haven't been doing anything about Antifa."
O'Brien said that while he condemns "all extremists," he pinned the violence on left-wing radicals.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted the "big story" being missed is that in "city after city we have a rogues gallery of terrorists from Antifa to 'Boogaloo' groups encouraging & committing violence."
"They may not be ideologically compatible but share a hatred of govt & police & are taking advantage of the protests," Rubio, acting chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, added, saying the demonstrators "don't fit a simple left vs. right identity."
These individuals want to "tear the whole system down even if it requires a new civil war, Rubio said.
3 groups of people at protests:
1. Peaceful protestors angry at the murder of Mr. Floyd but who have even protected police officers at protests
2. Locals who see the opportunity for wilding
3. Domestic extremists taking advantage of lawful protests to advance their own agenda
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 31, 2020
The protests began last week after a video showed Minneapolis police officers pinning Floyd to the ground as he exclaimed that he could not breathe. One officer, Derek Chauvin, was seen holding his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he begged for mercy — with Chauvin continuing to pin Floyd down even after he became unresponsive. Floyd was pronounced dead soon after.
Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers were also involved in Floyd's detainment. They have not been charged with any crimes stemming from the incident.
The protests ratcheted up over the weekend after demonstrations became violent in Minnesota. Peaceful protests across the country became increasingly tense as night fell upon cities across the country this weekend, with fires breaking out in many of them. Meanwhile, police at the protests have been recorded using harsh force against demonstrators.
Melvin Carter, the mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, told "State of the Union" that some of the protesters are driven "by a passion for our community, by a love for our community, and by a deep desire to never see a loss of life like the killing on the video, the killing of George Floyd we all saw this week."
"And then there's folks in the street who are there to burn down our black-owned barbershops, to burn down our family-owned businesses, to burn down our immigrant-owned restaurants and it is very clear to me those people are not driven by a love for our community," Carter said. "And there is no way you can argue those actions are designed to produce a better future for our community, quite the opposite."
Carter had apologized Saturday after saying that "every person" arrested in the protests were from out of state, saying he was given inaccurate information during a police briefing. Local media examined local jail data that found nearly all of the people arrested at the protests live in Minneapolis or the surrounding metropolitan area.
Other top officials in Minnesota, like Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, had said out-of-staters were responsible for some of the looting and arson.
Speaking with NBC's "Meet the Press," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a Democrat, said he's become aware of "very suspicious" people taking part in the demonstrations through video recordings made at the protests.
"The truth is, nobody really knows," he said of who is responsible for the more violent activity. "I talked to people who were demonstrating, they say they think some of those folks are from Minnesota. And they also say some people have come from out of town. What the exact political motivation is is unclear at this point. We need to investigate it."