The U.S. Justice Department moved swiftly to bring federal charges against 53 individuals accused of inciting violence during nationwide protests that swept across the United States calling for an end to police brutality.
“There are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.”
And Attorney General William Barr promised a crackdown on members of the anti-fascist movement known as antifa and other “extremists” he blamed for helping to drive the violence.
“We have evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.”
But a Reuters examination of federal court records found that the word “antifa” does not appear in any documents related to the charges so far. In most cases, prosecutors describe disorganized acts of violence by people who have few obvious connections to organized groups.
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania accused 20-year-old Brian Bartells of inciting violence, claiming video from a Pittsburgh protest showed him clad in black and vandalizing a police car. After his arrest, Bartells allegedly told federal agents he came equipped with spray paint, identified as far-left, and attacked the cruiser in a “fuck it” moment.
25-year-old Emmanuel Quinones was arrested in Lubbock, Texas, after he brandished an assault rifle at a protest and shouted: “This is a revolution” and “President Trump must die,” according to prosecutors. And police arrested 26-year-old Ca’Quintez Gibson for using social media to encourage people to loot in Peoria, Illinois. The U.S. Attorney in that case told Reuters Gibson had no connection with any political group or motive.
Eight people in New York have so far been charged with federal crimes relating to the protests, including what police said were molotov cocktails thrown at cop cars. None of the accused in those cases are alleged to have ties to specific anarchist groups.
Antifa, short for anti-fascist action, is a loose affiliation of left-wing activists that to date has not been accused of large-scale violence. The Department of Justice declined to comment on Reuters findings. On Monday Barr told Fox News investigations were still underway.