Anyone who thought Antifa would exit stage left after President Trump was defeated can think again.
The black-clad anti-fascist agitators have hardly missed a beat since President Biden was elected. They continue to smash windows, chuck projectiles and set fires in Portland, Oregon, while raising law enforcement fears of a riot redux pegged to the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
“The Antifa protests last year were not anti-Trump protests, they were anti-government protests,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, spokesperson for the National Police Association. “What they want is to destroy and dismantle the government, and they’ve been pretty successful in Portland. I think they’d like to see that success across the nation.”
She predicted that supporters of the movement are already mobilizing around the murder trial of Mr. Chauvin, 45, a former Minneapolis police officer who faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in the May 25 death of 46-year-old George Floyd.
“Whatever the outcome of the Chauvin trial will be, that’s going to be a tinderbox,” she said. “That is going to be the rally cry for Antifa and Black Lives Matter to link arms and violently protest. It’s not just going to be in Minneapolis, but across the country.”
More than 200 black-clad protesters descended Sunday on the Oregon Capitol in Salem to counter a “freedom rally” car caravan. They threw rocks at passing vehicles that shattered windows and splattered cars with paint-filled balloons.
One truck had its front windshield impaled by a tree branch, as shown on video posted by Portland journalist Andy Ngo. Four protesters were arrested on charges that included disorderly conduct, unlawful pointing of a laser and interfering with a police officer.
“Social media posts connected to the group indicated their intention to prevent the Freedom Rally caravan from meeting at the state capitol,” Oregon State Police said in a press release.
A truck driver was ordered to the ground and detained by officers after exiting his vehicle holding a handgun, but the state police said Monday that he was not arrested.
“The person in the photo was the victim of extensive damage to his vehicle,” said the release. “When he stopped to assess the damage, he was assaulted with pepper spray. After being assaulted with pepper spray, the person pulled a handgun from his waistband to defend himself. He did not point the weapon at anyone and dropped it when ordered to do so by Law Enforcement. This person has a valid concealed handgun license.”
No city has been hit harder over the past year than Portland, where vandalism, violence and renewed attacks on the federal courthouse prompted Mayor Ted Wheeler and civic leaders to plead with activists for a cease-fire at a March 18 press conference.
While city officials did not announce any actions or policies to crack down on the rioting, they accused anarchists of hijacking the Black Lives Matter movement to wreak destruction.
Former Oregon state Sen. Avel Gordly, a Black woman and a Democrat, said the anarchists “intentionally create mayhem through criminally destructive behavior.”
“You are not helping. You are hurting Black people. We need peacemakers and peacekeepers,” she said during a video press conference.
The protest unrest continues even though Mr. Wheeler pinned the blame last year on Mr. Trump, telling the president at a remote press conference that “it’s you who have created this hate and division.”
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Biden said in August that “if I were president today, the country would be safer and we’d be seeing a lot less violence.”
Minneapolis braces for violence
The Minneapolis City Council reacted to “defund the police” calls by slicing $19 million from the police budget, but local officials appear to have little confidence that their cuts will assuage protesters in the aftermath of the trial.
The city has spent more than $1 million to barricade and fence public buildings, including City Hall and the five metropolis police precincts, after rioting caused an estimated $500 million in damage.
Some businesses are still being rebuilt and have yet to reopen. Target announced it will not reopen its City Center location. Retailers that remain have boarded up their storefronts against fears of another round of unrest after the Chauvin verdict.
The threat of more rioting comes amid a political split on Antifa between Republicans, who blame the anarchist group for stoking unrest and destruction on the heels of last summer’s widespread Black Lives Matter protests, and Democrats, who say the real threat comes from right-wing extremists.
They point to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and arrests of “false flag” rioters such as Ivan Harrison Hunter, charged in October with firing an AK-47 into the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct as it burned, and Steven Carrillo, charged in the death of Federal Protective Services Officer Dave Underwood in Oakland, California.
Both had ties to the anti-government Boogaloo Bois, authorities said.
The Justice Department announced Monday that a Washington state man, Kelly Thomas Jackson, had been sentenced to 40 months in prison for torching two Seattle police cars at a May protest, but federal and local prosecutors across the country have been reluctant to pursue cases against rioters.
In Portland, more than one-third of the cases arising from last summer’s violent protests were dismissed by the Justice Department, according to a study by local television station KGW.
Of the 90 protest-related cases, 31 had been dismissed, including several with felony charges. One of the most serious charges dropped included assaulting an officer, the television station discovered.
Local prosecutors were even more dismissive of charges. Portland police referred nearly 1,100 protest-related cases to the Multnomah County district attorney’s office since May.
Prosecutors declined to process 81% of the cases, according to an online dashboard created by the district attorney’s office.
With the violence threatening to reignite, Republicans are pushing their own solutions. Rep. Lauren Boebert, Colorado Republican, introduced last week legislation to declare Antifa a domestic terrorist group. She said that “ANTIFA, and the Democrats who support it, are enemies of the American people.”
“Opposing violent extremists terrorist organizations used to be a bi-partisan issue, but now Democrats are putting their radical left supporters ahead of national security,” said a Boebert press release. “Now, the Biden administration is pretending that ANTIFA is a myth.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, wrote letters Monday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding an explanation of how they plan to protect federal property and personnel in Portland.
In his letter, Mr. Jordan noted that the Portland police faced budget cuts and was dealing with a staffing shortage.
“The Biden administration has a duty to ensure that the federal law is enforced and that individuals who seek to destroy and vandalize federal property in Portland are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Jordan wrote to the two department heads.
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