Trump Reaches New Low Calling Protesters Domestic Terrorists

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

Even by Trump standards, this has been a strange couple of weeks for Trump tweets. It started in May with the verbal condemnation of Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis, and has continued into mid-June with similar accusations of what he terms “domestic terrorism” in Seattle. While others recognize the 1st Amendment rights of Americans, Trump can’t seem to wrap his head around this one. The press are “enemies of the people.” Protesters asking for redress from the government after the killing of George Floyd are “THUGS!” in the Trump lexicon.

On May 31st, Trump tweeted, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” This was in response to protests for Black Lives Matter, which in some instances, went from peacefully protesting to outright rioting and looting. Trump now believes that antifa was behind some of the more aggressive actions. The problem with this declaration is that the President doesn’t actually have the authority to legally label a group of in this way. Normally, designating a group as a terrorist organization is reserved for foreign born groups, under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and requires six steps involving various departments, including the U.S. State Department., a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, states, “…there is no such official federal designation for domestic terrorism organizations.” So, in fact, there are no laws on the books for Trump to even make such a declaration. As the article points out, antifa is not really an organization, at least not one in the traditional sense. It’s more of an umbrella term for those who are anti-fascist, which encompasses numerous left-leaning organizations. In Congressional testimony last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray referred to antifa as “more of an ideology than an organization.”

This hasn’t stopped Trump from seeing antifa around every corner. And it hasn’t stopped him from treating citizens exercising their 1st Amendment rights, as if they are criminals. In Lafayette Square, the Administration employed the US Park Police and National Guard to remove peaceful protesters with the use of chemical agents, rubber bullets, shields, and batons—a clear violation of their 1st Amendment rights. All of this was done primarily for a photo op of Trump holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Both the ACLU and Black Lives Matter are suing the White House for those violations.

Now, it seems, if it’s a protest that doesn’t follow his views, he sees antifa and domestic terrorism everywhere. In 2017, however, at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after James Alex Fields, Jr. killed Heather Heyer and injured 28 others, by driving his car into them, Trump had this to say instead:

“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at, you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it…you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” In that particular instance, the Trump administration saw no point in pushing for a designation of the Proud Boys, Vanguard America, and other neo-Nazi organizers of Unite the Right as “domestic terrorists.” While then Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray called the attack an act of domestic terrorism, individuals in the aforementioned groups were prosecuted for individual criminal acts under existing U.S. statutes.

In the clearing of Lafayette Square, Trump defended his actions, tweeting, “Our great National Guard Troops who took care of the area around the White House could hardly believe how easy it was. ‘A walk in the park’, one said. The protesters, agitators, anarchists (ANTIFA), and others, were handled VERY easily by the Guard, D.C. Police, & S.S. GREAT JOB!”

Some found his use of the term “S.S.” both curious and telling. S.S is not a term used much these days outside of history books and white supremacist circles. The Schutzstaffel which is what SS is associated with was a paramilitary group in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. One branch, the SS-Totenkopfverbände, was responsible for running Nazi death camps. The U.S. Secret Service, which generally goes by the initials USSS, is presumably who Trump referred to in his tweet.

Antifa, it should be made clear, stands for anti-fascism, once considered a very good thing. Anti-fascists in Europe fought Mussolini and other military dictatorships.

On June 10th, Trump tweeted, “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!” In this instance, Trump was referring to the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), an area that was created with the acquiescence of the Seattle Police Department. It’s an area that is police free, with medical care and food supplies, and so far, has had few incidents of violence by the civilian population. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin and Washington Governor Jay Inslee have expressed no interest in what they see as the President’s interference via tweet.

All of this, this disregard for the 1st Amendment, the domestic “designation” of terrorist organizations is, for a man who has seen so many lows, a new low even for him. As recently as early May, Trump tweeted, “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.” This was in reference to the heavily armed men who took over the State Capitol building threatening the Michigan legislature, if they refused to reopen the state during the coronavirus pandemic. The “good people” this time, included of self-identified “Boogaloo Boys” a group that wants to start a new civil war.

“Fascism Anyone?” Written by Laurence W. Britt, for Free Inquiry Magazine (  includes a list of the 14 signs of a society that is becoming fascist. Two of these are “Disdain for the importance of human rights,” and the “Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.”

Draw your own conclusions.

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