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Wilson writes: "An intelligence report produced for law enforcement agencies in the months before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which a neo-Nazi killed one protester by driving a car into a crowd, appeared to endorse a view that leftist demonstrators were 'terrorists' and at least equally as responsible for street violence as white nationalists."

Antifa protesters in Berkeley. (photo: Erin McCormick)
Antifa protesters in Berkeley. (photo: Erin McCormick)


Intelligence Report Appeared to Endorse View Leftwing Protesters Were 'Terrorists'

By Jason Wilson, Guardian UK

01 April 19


Experts say the report produced before the Charlottesville rally mischaracterizes the dynamics of the street violence

n intelligence report produced for law enforcement agencies in the months before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which a neo-Nazi killed one protester by driving a car into a crowd, appeared to endorse a view that leftist demonstrators were “terrorists” and at least equally as responsible for street violence as white nationalists, the Guardian can reveal.

The report, Antifa/Anti-antifa: Violence in the Streets, was produced by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC) in May 2017. It was obtained with a Foia request from the not-for-profit transparency group Property of the People. Antifa is the name given to groups of leftwing protests who confront white nationalists, often violently.

Experts say the report mischaracterizes the dynamics of the street violence that was emerging at that time, and is mistaken in characterizing white nationalist groups as “anti-antifa”, suggesting they act in opposition to leftwing groups or out of a sense of anarchism rather than having their own political and violent agenda.

ROCIC is one of six Regional Intelligence Sharing System (RISS) Centers throughout the country. RISS is a federally funded program designed to share intelligence between federal, state and local agencies. ROCIC serves 14 southern states, including Virginia, the site of the 2017 Unite the Right rally.

Documents accompanying the Foia request indicate that the US Secret Service was among the agencies that the report was provided to.

The report frames political street violence in America as an evenly-poised battle between “antifa’s”, described as “an alliance between anarchists and communists to confront and defeat fascists and white supremacists by whatever means necessary”, and “anti-antifa, a loose collection of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, Ku Klux Klanners, white identity groups and a group called the alt-right”.

The report blames the two sides equally for the violence, continuing: “So it’s the anarchists versus the nationalists, the communists versus the Nazis, the leftwing extremists versus the rightwing extremists and the confrontations are becoming more violent and destructive.”

Michael German, a former FBI agent who infiltrated far right groups in the 1990s, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the report’s framing was wrong.

“Somehow they have this set up almost like antifa is the antagonist, and anti-antifa has developed to resist it,” he said “What it seems to do is completely whitewash the history of white supremacist violence in this country.”

German said that framing it this way belies the way in which “far-right groups use these public spectacles as the method to incite violence. And they come knowing that it will attract protest groups from the community.”

Such groups “intentionally go to places to provoke protesters to come out, and they go armed for a real street fight”, German said.

The report also reproduces an opinion piece by Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, on clashes at UC Berkeley in February 2017, first published in the conservative Washington Times. The excerpted text reads “the mob of antifa terrorists that violently attacked the [student union] … were as much declaring war on the ideology of the man for whom the building is named (Martin Luther King) and its citizens. America’s left was sending a message: Violence is the answer.”

The report takes the description of anti-fascists as “terrorists” at face value, something many experts disagree with.

Mark Bray, a lecturer at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, said the “anti-antifa” designation for American far-right groups is also potentially misleading.

“I don’t get the sense that that is the main source of their self-identification,” he said.

The report makes further assertions about the relationship between the groups that experts say are unsupported by facts. At one point, the report says: “The antifa can be considered leftwing anarchism and the anti-antifa can be considered rightwing anarchism.”

Bray said: “That’s ludicrous … most of these rightwing groups are not opposed to the state as a form of social organization. Many of them are fascists of some sort or another and believe in a strong state.”

Shane Burley, the author of Fascism Today: What it is and how to fight it, agreed, saying that “this idea that it’s rightwing anarchists, that’s not a phenomenon, that’s not a thing that actually exists”.

The report is heavily redacted, but spends much of its unredacted length discussing alleged antifascist violence, and sometimes implicitly blames those groups for violence visited upon them.

At one point, it focuses in particular on an event in Sacramento in June 2016, which led the FBI to open a controversial investigation on a leftwing group.

At that time, groups including By Any Means Necessary (Bamn) organized a counter-protest against a white supremacist rally which included members of the Traditionalist Workers party and the Golden State Skinheads, some of whom were wielding knives. Several people were stabbed at the event, including at least seven counter-protesters.

Following this event, California law enforcement cooperated with neo-Nazis to identify counter-protesters, pursued charges against counter-protesters, including stabbing victims and did not prosecute neo-Nazis over the stabbings.

In February, the Guardian revealed that the FBI had responded to the event by surveilling and investigating Bamn.

In the ROCIC report there is also no discussion of the specific groups actively organizing the Unite the Right rally not long after the report’s publication date. Neo-confederate groups such as the League of the South; neo-Nazi and Identitarian groups such as Vanguard America, the National Socialist Movement, the Rise Above Movement and Identity Evropa; and street-fighting groups such as the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights and the Proud Boys are not mentioned.

All of these groups were involved in the demonstration in Charlottesville, which culminated in the killing of Heather Heyer by James Alex Fields, who marched with Vanguard America.

The report also extensively sources information from conservative media and rightwing advocacy groups. It quotes a report from Glenn Beck’s the Blaze, which cites the Washington Times, and Laura Ingraham’s conservative lifestyle website LifeZette alongside more reputable sources, including the Guardian.

Bray criticized the thinness of the report’s sourcing. “There’s a wealth of literature out there about the nature of far-right politics in Europe and the United States. It just sounds like someone got tasked with Googling this,” he added.

Ryan Shapiro, the executive director of Property of the People, which sourced the documents, said: “US intelligence agencies have a long, sad history of targeting progressive movements as threats to American security”

Neither ROCIC nor RISS replied to repeated requests for comment on the report.

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