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Federal officers use crowd control munitions and teargas to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on July 21, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP) Federal officers use crowd control munitions and teargas to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on July 21, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP)

Federal officers use crowd control munitions and teargas to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on July 21, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke July 21, 2020

Despite Trump talk, antifa has not been designated as a terrorist organization

If Your Time is short

  • Antifa stands for “anti-fascist.” It’s a broad, loosely affiliated coalition of left-wing activists that has not been designated as a terrorist organization.

  • Americans suspected of terrorism are afforded due process rights granted by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

  • Federal officers in unmarked vehicles have detained some people protesting against police brutality in Portland. It’s unclear to what extent those detained ally themselves with the antifa movement.

You may have heard that federal officers in unmarked vehicles have detained people protesting against police brutality in Portland. According to some reports, officers have given no explanation for the arrests.

Why? One Instagram post has a theory.

"Here is what is going on since Trump labeled ANTIFA a terrorist organization their rights were stripped by the Patriot Act which states if someone is labeled a terrorist they are not afforded due process," reads the July 18 post. "PS: Obama suspended habeas corpus too!"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook, which owns Instagram.) 

The Instagram post is a screenshot of a Facebook post from a comedian named Sam Tripoli. We reached out to him for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

Antifa stands for "anti-fascist." It’s a broad, loosely affiliated coalition of left-wing activists that’s been around for decades, but has had a resurgence since the election of President Donald Trump. 

The Trump administration has repeatedly blamed antifa activists for the violent protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd in late May. There’s no evidence that antifa played any significant role, but Trump said May 31 that the United States would designate the movement as a terrorist organization. 

The post is inaccurate. Antifa is not a designated terrorist organization, and even if it were, American activists would still have due process rights.

Antifa isn’t a terrorist organization

Despite Trump’s tweet, antifa has not been designated as a terrorist organization. It is not listed on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

National security experts told PolitiFact there is no legal process for designating domestic groups as terrorist organizations. If the Trump administration did try to designate antifa as a terrorist organization, it would likely be challenged in court. 

Also, antifa is not a structured organization — it has no leaders and is organized into autonomous local groups. 

Featured Fact-check

"It’s a little bit like feminism," Mark Bray, a historian and part-time lecturer at Rutgers University, told PolitiFact. "There are feminist groups just like there are antifa groups, but neither feminism nor antifa is a group."

Second: If antifa groups were designated terrorists, American activists would still have due process rights thanks to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Patriot Act, which passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, does not give federal officers the right to detain suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens without probable cause. The legislation mainly expanded law enforcement’s ability to use wiretaps in counter-terrorism investigations. It was re-authorized and revised in 2015 to place limits on how much telecommunication data intelligence agencies can collect from Americans.

What’s going on in Portland?

If antifa isn’t a terrorist organization, then why are law enforcement officials detaining protesters in Portland? It has to do with the federal government’s response to ongoing protests over police brutality.

Demonstrators in Portland have been protesting against police brutality and racism against Black Americans since the death of George Floyd in late May. On July 14, reports surfaced that federal law enforcement agents were using unmarked cars to detain protesters in Portland. Over the next few days, videos shared on social media showed the detentions.

Federal agents in Portland include members of the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and a unit from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. U.S. Border Patrol told CNBC that agents were deployed to Portland in support of a June 26 executive order from Trump and a new Homeland Security task force for protecting American communities.

The Trump administration says the officers are needed to restore peace in Portland, where protests devolved into rioting July 18. But Oregon officials and Democrats have criticized the federal government’s crackdown. 

The Oregon attorney general filed a lawsuit July 17 that alleges the federal government violated citizens’ rights by detaining them without probable cause. On July 19, House Democrats called for an investigation into allegations that federal officials were unlawfully arresting protesters. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley — all Democrats — have criticized the Trump administration’s use of force against protesters.

It’s unclear to what extent antifa activists are among the protesters detained in Portland. The city is home to the oldest antifa cell in the country, and activists associated with the movement have been involved in recent protests there. One purported antifa activist faces charges for alleged crimes that took place during the demonstrations.

Our ruling

The Instagram post claims that, since antifa is a terrorist organization, its members’ due process rights are stripped by the Patriot Act.

That’s wrong.

Antifa is not an organized group and has not been designated as a terrorist organization. Even if it were, American antifa activists would still have due process rights afforded to them by the Constitution. The Patriot Act does not give federal law enforcement officials the right to detain suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens without probable cause.

The Instagram post is inaccurate. We rate it False.

Our Sources

BBC, "Portland protests: All you need to know about Trump's crackdown," July 20, 2020

CNBC, "House Democrats call for an investigation into Trump’s use of force against protestors in Portland," July 19, 2020

CNBC, "Oregon outrage: Elected officials blast federal authorities for grabbing protesters off the streets in Portland," July 17, 2020

CNN, "What the US government can and cannot do to US citizens suspected of terrorism," Sept. 20, 2016

Congress.gov, H.R.2048 - USA FREEDOM Act of 2015

Congress.gov, H.R.3162 - Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001

Department of Homeland Security, "DHS Announces New Task Force to Protect American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues," July 1, 2020

Department of Justice, Highlights of the USA PATRIOT Act

Department of State, Foreign Terrorist Organizations

Facebook post from Sam Tripoli, July 18, 2020

The Guardian, "Federal officers are using unmarked cars to arrest Portland protesters," July 17, 2020

House Judiciary Committee, "Nadler, Thompson & Maloney Call for IG Investigation Into Trump Administration Use of Force Against Protestors," July 19, 2020

Instagram post, July 18, 2020

KOIN, "Feds charge 2 for roles in fiery Portland protests," July 14, 2020

KOIN, "TIMELINE: 50 days of Portland protests," July 17, 2020

KTVZ, "Fires set, fences moved: Police declare Portland protest a riot," July 18, 2020

The New York Times, "From Antifa to Mothers in Helmets, Diverse Elements Fuel Portland Protests," July 19, 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting, "Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets," July 16, 2020

PolitiFact, "Ask PolitiFact: What is antifa, and why is it all over my timeline?" July 2, 2020

PolitiFact, "Trump wants to designate antifa as a terrorist organization, but lacks legal authority for it," June 1, 2020

Tweet from Donald Trump, July 19, 2020

Tweet from Donald Trump, May 31, 2020

The Washington Post, "Oregon attorney general sues federal agencies for allegedly violating protesters’ civil rights," July 19, 2020

The White House, "Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence," June 26, 2020

YouTube video from KGW, July 17, 2020

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Despite Trump talk, antifa has not been designated as a terrorist organization

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