Editor’s note: at the end of August, I wrote an ominous essay about the rise of American fascism that touched on far-right/fascist attempts to use the government to target anti-fascists and the disturbing crusade to criminalize protest by the Jeff Sessions lead Department of Justice that revolved around mass arrests at the J20 Inauguration Day protests. At the time, I warned that there were a number of frightening signs that the Trump administration and law enforcement might be acting in concert with fascist provocateurs and right wing extremists – a concern I felt strongly enough about to create an entire page on this website to continue tracking.
Now, just over three months later, today’s Tales from the American DMZ essay updates both of these situations by examining new evidence that the US government is openly embracing far-right “media” propagandists and actively legitimizing fascist ideology in an American court of law:
Note: if you’re having trouble reading the above info-graphic, just right click on it and select “view this image” to pop out a larger version; this format is ideal for sharing on message boards but sometime it gets a little cluttered inside this website’s framework.
FBI probe of ‘Antifa ideology’ underway, Wray tells House panel (warning: Fox News)
What Wray’s admission that the FBI is investigating anti-fascists means & why it matters:
While it’s tempting to focus on the inherent doublespeak involved in declaring the FBI doesn’t “investigate ideologies” only to then turn around and immediately admit that the Bureau *is* investigating groups who might be motivated by a “kind of an antifa ideology” – there are actually two larger problems with FBI Director Wray’s statement when examined in context; the growing evidence that law enforcement organizations in the US are actively siding with fascism and against left wing, anti-fascist protestors as well as the FBI’s disturbing track record of violating civil rights while combating “ideologies” on behalf of the state.
As I originally wrote back in August, attempts to criminalize or justify the persecution of “antifa” are extremely dangerous in their own right simply because the word “antifa” is just a short form of the expression “anti-fascist.” Although there are certainly groups who engage in direct action protests and also use the term “antifa” to describe themselves, there is no overarching “antifa” organization and the government’s recent insistence that wearing black & opposing fascism makes you a violent anarchist criminal is setting a very dangerous precedent in a world where the President of the United States is clearly a fascist.
Furthermore, these attempts to target left wing, anti-fascists seem to come at a time when American law enforcement appears demonstrably less interested in doing virtually anything to stop right wing reactionary violence; a position that seems blatantly unconscionable in light of recent American history. This is also despite the fact that anti-fascist protestors haven’t killed anyone in the US and home-grown, fascist terrorism most certainly has.
Finally of course, Wray’s blithe implication that the Bureau can successfully target groups “motivated to commit violent criminal activity” without infringing on the civil rights of people who are simply ideologically opposed to fascism rings extremely hollow in light of the FBI’s history – regardless of whether we’re talking about the horrors of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s use of entrapment tactics and discrimination against Muslim Americans during the disastrous “War on Terror” or even more recent targeting of Black Lives Matter activists in the aftermath of the 2014 Ferguson protests in Missouri.
Flawed Process – the US government’s Orwellian J20 trial:
Of course, it might be a little bit easier to take the FBI Director’s implied promise that the government wasn’t trying to persecute left wing activists and anti-fascist protestors seriously if the US Department of Justice wasn’t engaged in that exact activity as we speak. In a Washington DC Superior Court trial that almost certainly shouldn’t be taking place, Assistant US Attorneys Jennifer Kerkhoff and Rizwan Qureshi are trying the first six of one hundred and eighty-seven defendants (who face up to sixty-one years in prison) on a myriad of felony counts, including “inciting or urging to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and destruction of property.” Astonishingly, those charged include journalists, nurses and protestors the government willingly concedes weren’t involved in any property damage or acts of violence during the January 20th Inauguration day protest – including at least one activist who didn’t even attend the so-called “riot” at all!
Understanding why the government’s case against the J20 protestors is so horrifying doesn’t start in the courtroom however, it requires you to go back to the day of the protest itself and examine the massive violation of civil liberties by the DC Metropolitan Police Department in response to an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist rally organized by Disrupt J20. Despite the prosecution’s attempts to paint the protestors as violent “black bloc” rioters, numerous recordings already introduced into evidence during the trial prove that it was the police who attacked protestors without warning before initiating mass arrests with objectively abusive “kettling” tactics; an inexcusable departure from DC MPD standard procedure for “Handling First Amendment Assemblies & Mass Demonstrations” that may have been a direct result of the commanding officer’s *recorded* bias against protestors police perceived as “anarchists.”
Naturally, when your police department is caught on its own cameras beating legal observers with truncheons before casually violating the assembly rights of over two hundred people, the government has to get a little creative and that’s where these Orwellian conspiracy charges come into play. Deciding that the best defense is a good offense, the Department of Justice cooked up a literal “conspiracy theory” that allowed them to charge virtually everyone whose rights the DC MPD had just violated with at least one felony, while seizing control of a highly incriminating “on the ground” video and painting the protestors out as radical domestic terrorists who got what they deserved at the hands of the brave DC policemen. This strategy in turn has forced the US attorneys prosecuting the case to go to absurd and terrifying lengths to piece together an elaborate, Rube Goldberg-esque theory of the crime in which talking about a protest on a pre-recorded podcast is planning a riot, innocuous organizational text messages between protestors trying to locate each other during the march is irrefutable evidence of joining a riot and being in the general vicinity of someone else committing a crime both invalidates your right to free assembly and makes you a felon.
Finally, if all of that isn’t enough to make it clear that this entire trial is a grave miscarriage of justice, please note that much of the prosecution’s case appears to hinge on testimony from a police infiltrator who was previously accused of false arrest and using excessive force in a lawsuit eventually settled out of court by the city and a “sting” video produced by discredited far-right propaganda group (Project Veritas) that the DC police admit they edited themselves to hide the identity of the the “media” operative who recorded it. That would of course be the same Project Veritas that received donations from President Trump’s foundation as well as billionaire “conservative” donor Robert Mercer and whose founder James O’Keefe was forced to pay a $100,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit over his use of manipulated video evidence to defame an employee of now-defunct social welfare agency Acorn.
Would it even surprise you at this point to know that the DC police department mole who’d been used to establish the “authenticity” of the video in question, Officer Bryan Adelmeyer, admitted during cross examination that he had no idea if the footage had even been checked for signs of tampering? Furthermore, Adelmeyer also confessed that he had no idea if Project Veritas had planted other operatives at the recorded J20 organizational meeting; which means it’s entirely possible the government is basing part of its felony conspiracy charges on statements made by an actor specifically planted to say provocative things! Finally, over the course of the entire forty minute video literally nobody on camera ever says anything that directly links to the charges the DoJ is trying to bring against the protestors; it consists entirely of organizational conversations that would be standard for a large, peaceful protest, instructions *not* to break windows and a request that protestors wear black – which the government contends is irrefutable proof that this was an premeditated riot organized by violent anarchists.
Although many observers are still prepared to give “the system” enough benefit of the doubt to assume mounting evidence that the government is targeting anti-fascist protestors merely represents the natural byproduct of “conservative” law enforcement encountering youthful exuberance in a contentious setting; I believe that when examined inside the proper context of current political events in America, this assumption is quite naive.
Personally, I consider it highly unlikely that US law enforcement’s newly-intensified interest in left wing protestors and black rights activists is completely unrelated to the fact that the President of the United States is a fascist, his attorney general is at best a virulent racist who supports a white supremacist agenda and his government has included numerous white nationalists. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s an accident that this Department of Justice is attempting to try a fundamentally unjust case that would essentially criminalize all organized protest and actively intimidate journalists; as one defendant noted “conspiring to commit lawful acts is not a crime. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s called organizing.”
Frankly, the only real question left in my mind is why a sham conspiracy trial that could (for all intents and purposes) erase the right to free assembly in America, isn’t generating more interest from seemingly indifferent US corporate media corporations?
Maybe the story just needs a few more Russians?
- Nina Illingworth