Below is my column in the Hill newspaper about yesterday's Senate hearing, which ended abruptly when Senator Hirono, after confronting Senator Cruz, quit because of his objection that the Democrats would avoid direct criticism of Antifa in about 50 hearings as a witness in the Congress was a first for me. I was in a lockout hearing, but I have never been in an exit hearing. I wasn't sure if I was expected to turn the lights off after both senators left.
However, the dramatic end of the hearing quickly supplanted the underlying problem. As I noted in my testimony, I am less concerned about Antifa's role in the protests than about his role in the growing movement for freedom of expression in the United States.
Here is the column:
If you read the coverage online or watch the cable networks, the extremist movement known as Antifa is either the new Al Qaeda or the new Big Foot. President Trump wants Antifa to be classified as a terrorist organization, while various Democrats insist that it is just a conservative phantom. The chairman of the House Justice Committee, Jerrold Nadler, even insisted that violence by Antifa was a myth and called the reports imaginary.
I refuse to call Antifa a terrorist organization, but its existence is certainly not a myth. Indeed, it can be the most successful movement against freedom of speech in modern history. However, its structure and tactics avoid easy recognition, which is why so many people claim that the group is an apparition. It is true that many people believe that it is Antifa when such spontaneous and concentrated violence breaks out.
Antifa is often the culprit at universities. In the film "The Usual Suspects" the character Virgil described the invisible villain Keyser Söze. He is "the biggest trick the devil has ever done was to convince the world that he didn't exist." Antifa exists and the past few weeks have shown how clever it is as the Keyser Söze of America's social unrest.
Antifa was founded on the rejection of formal structures and leaders. Many associated groups are part of the anti-racist action and a loose coordinating organization known as the Torch Network. This lack of structure not only appeals to the anarchist elements of the movement, but also serves to evade both law enforcement and legal challenges. The Antifa threat is not its role in riots, but its activities against freedom of expression.
Both right-wing extremist and right-wing extremist groups have been identified in riots in different cities. These extremist groups use social media and the Internet to sow disorder, hide their identity and frame other groups for their activities. Last week in particular, Richmond police identified both Antifa and the Boogaloo Boys in violent protests in the city. It is part of what Attorney General William Barr calls "witch brew of violent groups on both sides," like Antifa and some other similar groups.
Antifa members were arrested in cities and involved in violence. The President of the Portland National Association for the Promotion of Colored People wrote in the Washington Post to denounce the “white spectacle” of recent violence. He asked: "What are Antifa and other leftist agitators doing for black equality?"
The answer is that Antifa is not an ally of the Black Lives Matter. It is about revolutionary changes and the use of demonstrations to trigger major social unrest. It follows the same purpose that former Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley mistakenly stated after these riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention: “The police are not here to create clutter. You are here to keep clutter. “Antifa causes such violence.
Antifa found allies as the movement grew. It is primarily aimed at conservatives and the freedom of speech community, so it wasn't a big deal for liberals. Former Deputy National Democratic Committee chairman Keith Ellison, now Minnesota attorney general, once said that Antifa was "beating fear in the heart of Trump". This happened after Antifa was involved in numerous acts of violence and its website was banned in Germany. His own son, Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the Minneapolis City Council, declared his allegiance to Antifa in the heat of the protests this summer.
This fact is that Antifa works to beat fear not in the heart of Trump but in the heart of anyone who opposes the movement. The Antifa manual explains how the group rejected the idea of freedom of speech and organized protests for years to prevent conflicting views from being heard. This practice has also been adopted by other groups. Antifa violence can protect colleges or politicians if it excludes conservative speakers. Nancy Pelosi has requested the revocation of a permit for a conservative prayer group that is considered a security issue in San Francisco.
George Washington University student Jason Charter was accused of allegedly “leading” efforts to dismantle statues across the capital. Charter has been an active Antifa member on campus for years. After his arrest, he claimed that the "movement wins". It wins in part because local police officers order police to step down or drop criminal charges to avoid conflict. But it usually wins because people are silent.
Silence kills freedom of speech. Antifa knows that. It is the silence of professors who watch their colleagues being harassed, investigated or threatened. It is the silence of the students who watch others being attacked for divergent ideas. It is the silence of reporters who watch other journalists fired or retired for questioning Orthodox views. After all, it is the silence of those politicians who, according to Pelosi, dismiss property destruction as a case that "people will do what people will do".
Antifa will do a lot of damage if it is allowed.
That is why Antifa's presence is threatening for academics and writers and not mythological. As Virgil explained, Keyser Söze became "the creepy story criminals tell their children at night." Some politicians want to portray Antifa as a scary story that Republicans tell their children at night. However, it is not an illusion for those who have been the target of Antifa and related groups.
Antifa has reached the agenda against freedom of speech to a degree that even critics like me would never have thought possible. It was simply our government's inaction and our citizens' silence. Freedom of speech threats are reaching critical mass in our schools and on our streets. We can either take action or remain passive viewers for what's inevitable next.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Law of Public Interest at George Washington University, who will testify today to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Antifa and the United States Freedom of Speech Movement.