The Department of Homeland Security has classified militant activities by Antifa, an anti-fascist organization, as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to documents obtained by Politico.
Antifa members have been present at multiple violent protests that occurred in August, including the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the “Free Speech” rally in Boston and the “No to Marxism in America” rallies in Berkeley.
“This decision on the federal level may have significance when it comes to the allocation of federal resources and the prioritization of federal efforts,” said UCPD spokesperson Sabrina Reich in an email.
In February’s protest against Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled campus appearance, a group of about 150 masked agitators interrupted peaceful protesters with militant action that resulted in broken windows and large fires. At the “No to Marxism in America” protest in August, similarly masked Antifa members broke through police barricades with flares.
“They use extreme violence and intimidation to silence anyone who opposes them,” the rally’s organizer, Amber Cummings, stated in a Facebook message. She called the federal classification of Antifa as a terror organization a “move in the right direction.”
In an op-ed to The Daily Californian in May, anonymous members of Berkeley Antifa defended their actions.
“We are anti-fascists. We are not paramilitary, outside agitators, or punks looking for a fight. We are members of this community who are invested in its safety,” members of Berkeley Antifa wrote.
Antifa’s violent tactics made them the subject of an online petition in February that called for President Donald Trump to declare Antifa a domestic terror organization. As of now, nearly 123,250 people have signed this petition. A similar petition, which started less than a month ago, has reached nearly 350,000 signatures.
“You may disagree with our actions, but if it protected even one student from being targeted, then we are not ashamed,” members of Berkeley Antifa wrote in their op-ed.
UCPD and the campus have collaborated to protect the campus during past and in preparation of future violent protests. In advance of Ann Coulter’s scheduled visit in May, which was canceled before it occurred, UCPD brought hundreds of extra officers costing more than $600,000 in total, according to Reich. Officers prevented anyone from entering campus wearing a mask and arrested noncompliers.
“I am fearful that the police won’t try very hard to keep Antifa violence under control,” Mitchell Zimmerman, a former UC Berkeley law student, stated in an email.
Despite potential changes in the federal approach to Antifa extremist protests, the new classification has not changed UCPD’s understanding of Antifa.
“On a campus, local, and regional level we already have ample evidence that extreme groups and individuals are more than ready to engage in violent, unlawful behavior in support of their political beliefs,” Reich wrote.