As peaceful protests started a couple of days after the death of George Floyd, they suddenly took a sinister turn. Within 48 hours, there were highly coordinated riots throughout the US that rapidly multiplied.
The protests have been quickly infiltrated by mainly white extremist groups, including most visible in videos anarchist Antifa leftist activists. Clad in black, they have initiated and instigated looting and property destruction.
They have also targeted domestic security forces and burned police stations to weaken law and order and destroyed critical infrastructure such as banks, pharmacies and grocery stores, sowing further chaos among a population already reeling from the pandemic.
There is a concern that Antifa is hijacking protests to incite a race war to destabilize the US, similar to how radical Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated Syrian protests to incite a religious war that was ultimately hijacked by ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates.
Back in 2017, as California debated listing Antifa as a street gang because of rampant violence and criminal activities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security had already classified them as “domestic terrorists,” according to an internal document.
FBI surveillance also discovered some college students in Antifa had ties with ISIS and al-Qaeda to gain access to bombs and chemical weapons and training in tactics for “possible massive disruptive attacks in the US.”
Antifa hijacks protests
Antifa is a loosely organized international grouping of radical left-wing, anti-fascist, militant political activists that aims to achieve its political objectives through the use of direct violent action rather than through policy reform.
Agents engage in varied protest tactics including digital activism, property damage, physical violence and harassment against those they identify as fascist, racist or on the far right.
The name “antifa” is a loanword from German, taken as a shortened form of the word antifaschistisch (“anti-fascist”) and the name of Antifaschistische Aktion, an organization affiliated with the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) that existed from 1932 to 1933.
However, in exploiting and hijacking a legitimate civil-rights protest and attempting to turn it into an illegitimate race war, Antifa has undermined the platform of black Americans and desecrated the memory of George Floyd.
Among the protesters, people are increasingly seeing black-clad agents provocateurs inciting violence between demonstrators and law enforcement. Cities and neighborhoods across the US are descending into chaos and violence with pre-positioned assets such as bottles, rocks and bricks to throw at law enforcement, white men driving around handing bricks to black protesters, paid protesters, protesters being bused in from other states and widespread property destruction and arson.
Frustrated, the legitimate protesters are beginning to push back against the white anarchists. In one instance when white Antifa agents gave a group of black men bricks to throw, a woman schooled them for putting the black protesters in danger from the police and abusing them as cannon fodder to serve an agenda.
In another instance when these agitators were going around vandalizing and spray-painting “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) on buildings, they were rebuked by another protester, who condemned them for setting black people up to be criminalized by law enforcement.
One observer noted how Antifa co-opting a peaceful movement to commit violence that pins the blame on BLM is actually racist itself.
CNN’s Van Jones also called out this hypocrisy. In reference to Amy Cooper, a white woman who called the police on a black man in New York’s Central Park late last month after he asked that she put her dog on a leash, Jones observed how a “white, liberal Hillary Clinton supporter walking her dog in Central Park” can quickly weaponize race, and pose a more insidious threat to black Americans than openly racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Now, as uncontrollable violence continues to escalate against citizens, law enforcement and critical infrastructure for communities throughout the US, a public-safety issue has become a national security issue.
National guards have been called in to support law enforcement and President Donald Trump will likely need to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy military assets to assist.
The Insurrection Act of 1807 allows the president to deploy military troops within US territory to suppress civil disorder, insurrection and rebellion and was last invoked by President George H W Bush during the 1992 Los Angeles riots to quell civil unrest and restore law and order.
With non-stop media images of so much stoking of violence, sectarian hatred and division, things seem bleak for a people just emerging from isolation and quarantine from the pandemic. Nonetheless, glimmers of hope are beginning to appear, as some Americans are stepping up and coming together as one race – the human race – and defending fellow citizens from harm.
George Floyd’s faith and legacy
One iconic image is of a lone police officer who was separated from his team and was in danger, but was quickly encircled by a group of black men to protect him from being lynched by an angry mob.
Other instances are of peaceful Floyd protesters protecting White House police, and volunteers coming together to help neighbors clean up their communities decimated by the violent rioters as well as provide security to protect their neighbors’ businesses from looters.
These people are the ones actually honoring the memory of George Floyd, who his pastor says was a “person of peace.”
While in Houston, Floyd was engaged in Christian outreach, especially in the Cuney Homes housing project that became known as the “Church in the Bricks,” and often spoke of breaking the cycle of violence he saw among young people.
Pastor P T Ngwolo of Resurrection Houston said, “George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in,” and provided a platform for the church to reach neglected and forgotten neighborhoods.
As the violence and crimes being committed in his name continue to destroy all that Floyd had stood for and dishonor his memory, his family is condemning the violence.
His fiancée Courteney Ross said she is “heartbroken” by the riots and that this would “devastate” Floyd. She called for peaceful protests.
However, while her pleas may resonate with some of the rioters, it is unlikely anarchists with their goal of overthrowing the government will heed her calls or honor Floyd’s legacy against violence.
Christina Lin is a California-based foreign and security policy analyst. She has extensive US government experience working on national security and economic issues and her current focus is on China-Middle East/Mediterranean relations.