Declaring Antifa A Terrorist Organization Could Achieve Its Anti-Free Speech Agenda

Antifa_The_Anti-Fascist_HandbookBelow is my column in The Los Angeles Times on President Donald Trump’s declaration that Antifa would be designated as a terrorist organization. I have explained that such a designation would ordinarily be made for “foreign terrorist organizations” by the State Department.  It is also unnecessary. As I wrote recently, there is a case in New York that could be the perfect framing prosecution for treating rioting as domestic terrorism.

Ironically, Antifa is a vehemently anti-free speech organization and it could achieve that purpose if it is declared a terrorist organization.  Such a designation of the entire movement could prove highly damaging to free speech in this country.

Here is the column:


President Trump tweeted that his administration will designate “antifa,” a term used by some self-described anti-fascists, a “terrorist organization.”

We still do not have a clear idea of what groups are involved in these protests. As a long-standing critic of antifa, which has been a plague of college campuses, I have no sympathy for this militant, anti-free-speech movement. But President Trump’s declaration is legally dubious and constitutionally dangerous.

A president does not have power to declare an entity to be a terrorist organization. Such a designation under federal law is confined to “foreign terrorist” organizations — and for that reason, these designations are made through the U.S. State Department.

While many have dismissed the possibility of a terrorist designation for antifa because it is a domestic movement, the administration could make a slim, if highly challengeable, claim that antifa has international reach with supporters in other countries. It would be a stretch, but people should not assume that such a designation is impossible.

The administration could also move to bar travel and entry of those associated with the movement, including foreign associates. Most worrisome, such a designation can allow a broader crackdown, and even criminal charges, for those deemed to offer “material support” to the movement.

That, of course, raises serious constitutional concerns. This terrorist designation would raise chilling implications for free speech in the United States.

First, antifa is not a traditional organization. Indeed, it is designed not to have any specific leadership or structure that could be targeted by the government. It is an informal and amorphous collection of individuals and groups who hold militant and anarchist views. The designation of such an ambiguously defined group would allow the government to trigger criminal investigative and prosecution powers over a vaguely defined range of political activists.

Second, many people in the antifa movement engage in traditional acts of civil disobedience, from blocking roads to chaining themselves to doors. Many organizations have had members who have been investigated and prosecuted for criminal activity without being declared terrorist entities, ranging from hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan to more traditional political groups like Greenpeace.

If the government can designate a terrorist organization based on the conduct of some members, the criminalization of political speech could be virtually unlimited.

Finally, what we’ve seen across the country is spontaneous looting and rioting caused by pent-up anger and, in some cases, opportunistic crime. To suggest that antifa members are driving this damage overstates their importance and understates the problem.

We do not need to use the designation of terrorist organizations to curb acts of violence in this country.  When antifa members or others engage in criminal acts, we have ample criminal laws to use against them. Indeed, cases currently being prosecuted by the Justice Department for throwing Molotov cocktails in New York, including charges against two young attorneys, are likely to be framed as domestic terrorism without any formal designation.

As for the movement itself, all we all need to oppose antifa’s anti-free speech agenda with the strongest weapon in our arsenal: free speech itself.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a CBS and BBC legal analyst.


137 thoughts on “Declaring Antifa A Terrorist Organization Could Achieve Its Anti-Free Speech Agenda”

  1. To eschew riots & violence is a good thing. Let me espouse on this subject matter.

    There were the Weathermen, Black Panthers & Symbionese Liberation Army.

    It is with great regret based on a hypothesis & premise, that Antifa is of the same mindset.

    1. Anyone on the blog recall The German American Bund?
      It went underground after Pearl Harbour Day.

        1. Trump and his father were sued in 1973 for refusing to rent apartments to blacks.
          Fred Trump was a Nazi.
          Look him up.

          1. (music to tune of Hello Mudda Hello Fadda, here I am in Camp Grenada)

            Hello Donald. I’m your daddy.
            Have some golf, with your caddy.
            Hail to Coolidge, Hail go Hitler.
            When you grow up, be a shitler.

  2. “This Week’s Violence Has Set Our Black Community Back Decades”
    – Pastor Corey Brooks
    Senior Pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago and founder and CEO of Project H.O.O.D Communities Development Corporation.

    We worked tirelessly to turn around the city’s most violent neighborhood, only to see it burned and looted.

    Martin Luther King famously noted that violence “destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue.” This week’s violent looting has produced a deafening monologue.

    On the south side of Chicago, where I pastor a church and lead a ministry, Project H.O.O.D., we are in the business of building dialogue as the way of rebuilding our community. We help build community leaders and we equip our neighbors—especially young black men who are exiting gangs—to build their own character and to help rebuild the streets. We build self-esteem and respect for our fellow man. And we build stronger families with firmer foundations.

    The destructive violence, rioting, and looting of the last few days, however, have quickly erased years of our dialogue.

    When I began New Beginnings Church on the south side of Chicago, the neighborhood held the sad distinction of having one of the nation’s highest homicide rates. Over the years, we have changed that statistic. We have built a thriving church with an average of 600 to 750 people at our services each Sunday. We have a community center with a free gym, a career center that offers advice and assistance with interviews, and a high-impact jobs training program that has helped people build successful careers in fields such as construction or landscaping.

    Our work has paid off, and we have witnessed the power of a changed life. I have seen the excitement of young men who have turned away from violent gangs to embark on their own new beginning and get fitted for construction boots for their new jobs.

    Where despair once reigned, we have replaced it with hope and opportunity.

    The riots of this past week, however, have set us back in our ministry work and have done incalculable damage to our community. The physical damage to property pales in comparison to the damage done to our morale.

    George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis sparked understandable outrage. How could another black man have died because of police brutality? The protests began as a natural outpouring of grief, as white and black Americans were united in their horror at this senseless act.

    But these protests turned violent, and the victims of this widespread looting are often the black community leaders and business owners. How does it advance our cause of racial harmony to wreck the black communities?

    We are still surveying the damage on our streets. All of the CVS and Walgreens buildings were looted. The result is that we no longer have a pharmacy in our neighborhood. Church members are shuttling members of our community out to the suburbs to get their prescriptions and basic goods.

    The grocery stores were also looted, leaving us without options to purchase local food.

    The question lingers on many of our minds: Will these stores and pharmacies—so essential for daily living here—ever come back? It’s challenging enough in normal times to lure stores and businesses to rough neighborhoods; it’s going to be far more difficult to entice business owners to set up shop in our beleaguered communities now.

    Liberal politicians in Illinois and across the country have fanned the flames of anger over the past several years. Their policies and worldview emphasize government as the solution to all problems, except, paradoxically, when we need police. Our mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has been unable or unwilling to put a stop to the violence in the streets of our home city, in part because she has been unable to offer a strong defense for good law enforcement agents doing the necessary work of making our neighborhoods livable.

    Lost in the liberal messaging is the reality that the foundation of our society is the rule of law. The tragic killing of George Floyd reminds us that we need better training and screening for police officers. But the vast majority of the law enforcement agents in our nation advance racial equality, and help black Americans participate in the American dream.

    No one, after all, wants to live in an un-policed and lawless neighborhood. Thriving neighborhoods are able to attract businesses and families precisely because of the rule of law and the police officers upholding it. Lawless neighborhoods, by contrast, are a turn-off for parents and business owners.

    Violence is rampant in Chicago, and it has nothing to do with isolated incidents of police brutality. Over Memorial Day weekend, ten African-Americans were shot and killed in drive-by shootings. I’ve given funeral sermons for victims of drive-by shootings in the past, and those victims’ deaths are each a senseless tragedy.

    On the south side of Chicago, we don’t need police stepping back and retreating because of political agendas. The logical extension of liberal police reform is for law enforcement agents to retreat from their duties, but this is exactly wrong and will weaken our neighborhoods.

    We need justice in the George Floyd case, and we need assurances that these hateful acts will not take place again. At the same time, we need partnerships with the police so they will help us re-establish law and order in our neighborhoods.

    Democrats, however, cling to wrongheaded rhetoric that does nothing to stop the destruction of our homes. It is no coincidence that the most violent looting and destruction took place this past week in cities heavily controlled by Democrats.

    I’ve been attacked, been robbed, life has been threatened. Black Americans deserve better than this.

    Pastor Corey Brooks is the founder and Senior Pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago and founder and CEO of Project H.O.O.D Communities Development Corporation.

    1. “But these protests turned violent, and the victims of this widespread looting are often the black community leaders and business owners. How does it advance our cause of racial harmony to wreck the black communities?”

      So if they had done this to white communities it would have been ok and advanced the black communities? To me, this is the problem, blacks seem to want to identify themselves as black and then say others are racist or use terms like BLM which is an offensive statement that they know will instigate push back. It is all very calculated.

  3. The problem with ANTIFA is not that they would shout fire in a crowded theater. The problem is that they would set fires in a crowded theater.

  4. Pink Floyd. Covid Floyd. Gerald Ford.
    A new examination and autopsy might disclose the role of covid 19 in the strangled man’s death.

  5. Having difficulty seeing Antifa as an actual organization. Maybe because so-called members do a lot of MaryJane?

  6. I’d like to see a RICO suit contra Antifa, with it’s paymasters named as defendants. That’s Dr. Evil himself and his offspring.

  7. Is it me, or does it seem odd to worry about our Constitution for a group that wants to remove it from us? I also wonder how is destroying small local business’ removing fascism?

    1. Picking and choosing which citizens get constitutional protections- Brilliant idea if you’re into that totalitarian thing. Some animals are more equal than others, eh?

    1. One of my comments there didn’t post either, perhaps because I introduced other op-ed topics that I’d object to the NYT publishing (such as an op-ed calling for assassination).

      But it may be that it’s being held for moderation. I once had a comment show up several hours later, after it was approved.

  8. 2 of my comments have been excised.

    So much for free speech on the only nominally “free speech” blog.


    1. Were they excised or did they never make it? I tried 3 times last night to post something, with no bad words in it, and it did not make it thru the wordpress filter for some reason. And I doubt anybody was moderating here at 2:30 in the morning.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. Squeeky Fromm and David B. Benson, I’ve also had issues with the WordPress widget filter accepting my comments for some reason. It happened several days ago on this JT blog, but then I was able to comment later on that day. I’ve no idea what happened.

  9. Your last paragraph is rather hypocritical since you continue to contribute to media outlets that themselves, curtail free speech with wanton disregard of facts or veracity. That is why designating them a terrorist organization becomes necessary because their own speech alludes to a desire to destroy our own government. Please use your common sense for once.

  10. “We still do not have a clear idea of what groups are involved in these protests.”
    Oh, please … I guess we’re not sure who bombed Pearl Harbor either.

    1. Of course, Antifa is involved–probably big time. If word got out that Antifa were NOT involved in the looting and destruction, it would be a public relations disaster for the organization.

      1. I think they were back then too. Maybe just not as fat. I had a crazy great-uncle who was in the Klan. He was just pure-dee mean all the way around.

        But when he lived in a certain poorer white neighborhood, kids could play outside at night, and be safe. People could walk the streets and there was little or no crime. The area was clean and well kept. Maybe a car or two on cinderblocks. Then, blacks moved into the neighborhood and now there is crime and gunshots nightly. The home values are crap and the whole area is pretty much blighted, and there are iron bars on window and doors.

        As I get older, I am beginning to wonder if he was really crazy, or was he just more realistic. I hate having those thoughts, because I really do not believe there is any good reason why most blacks can’t behave themselves. Half of them do. But you know, the other half is so criminal, savage and stupid that I am wondering if the Old Segregationalists weren’t right. Maybe the Black race, as a whole, is never going to fit in.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

    1. KKK

      Back in their day when the KKK had power DemoKKKrat Senators were members of the KKK some with rank


      DemoKKKrat Senator Robert Byrd


      One of Hillary Clinton’s mentors

  11. ANTIFAR have proven they do not want Free Speech, unless its their ideas, they have proven they are THUGS and Terrorist It appears AG BARR/DOJ are zeroing in on them and those who support them with $$$$. Stories yesterday DOJ may have already developed a list of some of their Financial backers and also some US Politicians who are supplying them with info and etc.

  12. “As I wrote recently, there is a case in New York that could be the perfect framing prosecution for treating rioting as domestic terrorism.”

    It’s striking that Turley writes about Mattis and Rahman in NY, who (in Turley’s words) “may have supplied an alternative avenue in using ample federal laws to prosecute attacks as domestic terrorism without the need of any formal designation,” but is silent about strikingly similar actions from right-wing extremists in Nevada:

    “Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.

    “Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus and later sought to capitalize on protests over George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died police custody.

    “They were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest in downtown Las Vegas after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint. …”

    That said, this is a rare column where I agree with much of what was said.

    1. That is why you are here! To bring up some of the 100s of stories everyday that don’t make it here, and then to say dumb things and shill.

      That being said, hopefully the Boogaloo Boys can get as well funded and organized as Anitfa. It is unfair for Left wingers to have their own paramilitary, and not the other side.

      If one side has Brown Shirt terrorists, then so should the other side!

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. You could choose to respond in a civil and honest way, even though our views are different. But you don’t. Responses like yours undermine our communal well-being (and so are unpatriotic) rather than advancing it.

        1. Commit, virtually none of the Trump posters here can keep a serious discussion going and almost always respond with personal insults. It speaks to who supports Trump.

          1. BTB….you’re just a piece of sh!t that has sh!t for for brains and sh!ts words thinking they are golden bricks.

            name calling works really well. Sh!t you taught us so we do thank you for that you sh!thead


          2. you 2 should get a room to massage each other deeply just like you massage each others comments in lock step at the same time

            what do you do with your other hand when you’re not responding to your own comments with varied sockpuppet accounts?


        2. Squeek’s namesake took it upon herself to sexually satisfy the old guy at Spahn ranch on a daily basis so the squating Manson family could have a place to trip and plan their impending race war.

          Chances are he/she is an active Boogaloo that went to Charlottesville a couple years back.

          There are a handful here that similarly identify. Turley is most likely paid to produce blog posts to whip these clowns up and give them a place to go to try to make nice enough with their thoughts and feelings to fit enough into society to not be considered wildly antisocial misfits. In their dreams anyway. Mostly they’re normal keyboard jockies getting off on being repulsive and seeing people get upset about it.

          Election day next November will be a traumatic event for the vast majority here. I love it.

  13. Quote by Malcolm X: “The white liberal is the worst enemy to America…” Still holds true today!

  14. I am going to bet some smart attorney in the DoJ is going to warp some statutes to come up with Domestic Terrorism. SPLC has designated groups as domestic terrorists, why cannot the government.

    1. Paul:
      “I am going to bet some smart attorney in the DoJ is going to warp some statutes ”
      No need. Already plenty of laws to handle precisely that. See my posting on the Andrew McCarthy article yesterday from the National Review website.

      1. Mespo- Yes, existing laws are adequate if they are enforced. The ‘domestic terrorist’ designation should never be more than rhetoric. All of these extreme measures get turned back on the people sooner or later and both parties are complicit in anusing them.

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