Who is the “Antifa” that Trump wants to call a “terrorist organization”?

Donald Trump said on Twitter Sunday that he wanted to label “Antifa” (anti-fascists) as a terrorist organization. But what the US President designates as an organization is in reality in the United States just a movement that brings together individuals without hierarchical hierarchy.

“The United States of America will call Antifa a terrorist organization.” Sunday 31 May Donald Trump spoke on Twitter again about the protests that have rocked the United States since George Floyd’s death.

The US president uses the term “Antifa” (for anti-fascists) to indicate the assumed leaders of these demonstrations organized across the country and some of which have been mixed with violence, especially in Minneapolis, New York and Washington.

In the United States, “Antifa” refers to individuals or groups that are also active against racism, such as homophobia or the fight against unbroken capitalism, as the Black Lives Matter or occupying Wall Street movements.

Anti-fascism across the Atlantic has no figurative head, no hierarchy, no established structure. New York Times highlightsmoreover, that the anti-fascist movement is part of a “constellation of militant movements that have gathered in recent years to oppose the extreme right”.

“It is wrong to say that most people (…) who caused these deteriorations identify themselves as Antifa or anti-fascists. There is no evidence of this,” said Mark Bray, author of the book “Anti-Fascism”, quoted by AFP . For him, “it is a maneuver of the right to delegitimize this protest movement”.

“Most people who demonstrate don’t break anything, but the percentage of those who attend or see it with a good eye seems higher than usual,” Mark Bray said.

This movement has nevertheless grown since the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, and even more so after the white supremacist demonstration organized in 2017 in Charlottesville (Virginia), Highlights Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an American anti-Semitism and NGO for human rights.

On social media, only a few groups claim to be anti-fascist. This is the case with New York Antifascist, Always anti-fascist or ANTIFA Philadelphia. “We look at and deal with fascism, racism and oppression of all kinds in # Philadelphia and around the world,” writes the group on Twitter to describe its action.

For Denis Lacorne, research director at Ceri at Sciences-Po, and author of “Les frontières de la tolerance” (Gallimard), contacted by France 24, Donald Trump’s reference to “Antifa” is nothing but “a diversionary activity.” seems to be at fault. He blames on the other hand: the Democrats and those he claims are Antifa. “

The researcher points to the presence of anti-fascists in the United States but insists that they are only a “very informal, widespread movement without national organization”. “Their role is to counter the supremacist right in the United States or to make counter-demonstrations to counter the extremist demonstrations, such as 2017 in Charlottesville. It is less likely that they go to demonstrations to attack police,” details Denis Lacorne.

Impossible to qualify

If the term antifa used by Donald Trump does not in any way designate a specific organization, his desire to have it placed on the list of terrorist organizations is simply impossible.

Only the US Secretary of State can really designate an organization as “terrorist”, provided it is a foreign structure. “Only the US Secretary of State can appoint a terrorist organization – and this is the term [d’une organisation] foreign, not national, “Bruce Hoffman, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a terrorist specialist, said on Twitter.

The term “domestic terrorism” is regularly discussed, especially in crimes committed by white supremacists or supporters of racist or homophobic groups. In practice, however, the torment “terrorist” is never used by the judges who hear these cases.

For example, Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who killed nine black church guests in Charleston, South Virginia, 2015, has been charged with “hate crimes”.

For Denis Lacorne, Donald Trump’s remarks are unlikely to give rise to any political action. But they will have served him, at least temporarily, as a screen.

“Trump could not give a sympathetic speech after George Floyd’s death. He is only working on the counter but it is not very good for him. He thought he would have an easy re-election thanks to the good health of the US economy and full employment but everything was destroyed by coronavirus and its management, “the researcher analyzes.

“The problem is that he is now only surrounded by people who are real blessings – yes-yes. No one has the opportunity to control him, unlike the beginning of his mandate,” he added. he.

Protesters suspected of coming from elsewhere

The Minister of Justice, William Barr, did not formally state the appointment of “Antifa” as a terrorist organization, but did not oppose the presidential thesis. “The violence waged and perpetrated by Antifa and other similar groups is national terrorism and will be treated as such,” he said in the wake of Donald Trump’s statement.

He also said in a statement that the FBI was responsible for identifying the organizers of the disturbance.

Like Donald Trump, several elected officials, including Atlanta Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, condemned the presence of protesters from other cities with the sole purpose of fighting it.

Melvin Carter, the mayor of Saint Paul, which borders Minneapolis, said Saturday that 80% of those arrested during the protests did not live in Minnesota before retiring later in the day.

According to several US journalists, who have consulted police documents, the proportion is in fact the opposite.

With AFP