In contrast, right-wing extremists and white supremacists have killed at least 329 people in violent attacks since 1994.
There have been more than 900 politically-motivated attacks and plots carried out in the United States since 1994, but not a single one committed by an anti-fascist has led to deaths of innocent civilians, according to a new database assembled by researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a centrist thinktank, and reviewed by the Guardian.
In total, researchers found just one attack perpetrated by an anti-fascist that led to deaths, and in that case, the person killed was the suspect himself. In contrast, right-wing extremists and American white supremacists have killed at least 329 people in violent attacks over the same period, according to the database, which included incidents from January 1, 1994 to May 8, 2020.
The findings represent a stark contrast to President Trump’s frequent attempts to paint the anti-fascist movement—which he commonly refers to as “Antifa”—as violent extremists who hate America and want to stage a revolution. In reality, the nation’s anti-fascists are a small, decentralized group of activists who, simply put, oppose fascism. Anti-fascists have been involved in fights, vandalized property, and engaged in other questionable and confrontational tactics, but they have been linked to exactly zero murders in the past 26 years.
Yet despite a complete lack of evidence to back up Trump’s attacks on anti-fascists, his allies in the federal government and in the right-wing media ecosystem have amplified his claims that left-wing antifa members have infiltrated the protests to cause havoc.
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent and extremist agenda,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in response to the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd. “The violence instigated and carried out by [anti-fascists] and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
Trump and Barr have since overseen the deployment of federal law enforcement officers to Portland—a city with a history of anti-fascist protests—to defend a federal courthouse from vandalism. In the process, those federal forces have violently cracked down on protesters, shooting them in the head with impact munitions, throwing flash bang grenades at them, and deploying tear gas. The federal government on Wednesday agreed to withdraw its forces from Portland, bringing an end to what the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, described as an “occupation.”
A new Department of Justice task force focused on violent, anti-government extremists also listed “antifa” as a major threat, but made no mention of white supremacists. In testimony before Congress this week, Barr once again discussed people opposed to fascism as a movement that could become a threat unless the government took action.
“Antifa is heavily represented in the recent riots,” Barr told lawmakers.
Researchers at CSIS disagreed that the group or other left-wing groups represented a serious threat. “Left-wing violence has not been a major terrorism threat,” Seth Jones, a counter-terrorism expert who led the creation of CSIS’s dataset, told the Guardian.
Researchers who monitor extremist groups at the Anti-Defamation League and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism told the Guardian that they were similarly unaware of any murders linked to an American anti-fascist in the last two decades.
The Center for Investigative Reporting also come to a same conclusion: right-wing extremists presents a far greater deadly threat to Americans than anti-fascists or “far-left” violence. They found only one fatal incident tied to “antifa”—the same one as CSIS: Willem Van Spronsen’s failed attack on an immigrant detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, in July 2019, which ended with Van Spronsen being shot dead by local police.
In total, only 4% of “terror incidents” from 2017 through 2019 involved left-wing extremists, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. Consequently, they found that far-right terrorists killed 87 people over the first three years of the Trump administration.
“Antifa is not going around murdering people like right-wing extremists are. It’s a false equivalence,” Heidi Beirich, a co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told the Guardian. “I’ve at times been critical of antifa for getting into fights with Nazis at rallies and that kind of violence, but I can’t think of one case in which an antifa person was accused of murder,” she added.
The CSIS database does not yet include any incidents linked to the ongoing protests following George Floyd’s death, including the killings of two California law enforcement officers by a suspect with apparent connections to the right-wing “boogaloo” movement, which wants to bring about a second civil war in the U.S.
Trump has yet to publicly comment on the boogaloo movement. On Tuesday, he took to Twitter and once again took aim at Antifa. “They are Anarchists with miles of “tape” showing their illegal activity,” he wrote.
There’s no tape showing any murders, however.