New Jersey’s Homeland Security has listed the broader anti-fascist (antifa) movement as a domestic terror group.
This decision follows a series of demonstrations and protests undertaken by a multitude of locally coordinated antifa groups within the country. In New Jersey’s case, there were three chapters in the state (North Jersey Antifa, South Jersey Antifa, and HubCity Antifa) cited as the primary targets of the decision. The official website of NJHS then goes on to list a doxxing campaign carried out by Antifa Action-Nebraska against a figure head of the American Vanguard, a white-nationalist group. This is followed by a few incidents where Trump supporters or white supremacists were caught in a melee with antifa demonstrators/black-bloc protesters.
The reasoning behind NJHS’s decision has left many activists in New Jersey concerned. The department cites the numerous attempts by antifa demonstrators engaging white supremacist groups with violence--not just in New Jersey, but in other states as well--since last year’s election. One would have assumed the NJHS would have cited destruction of property before the attacks on white supremacist groups as a justification for their decision. For some activists, this is indicative of the lengths NJHS will go to misdirect the impact of local antifa chapters.
What does this mean at the federal level? Nothing immediately. The decision made by NJHS currently reflects only the Governorship and what some describe as their hostility towards the “far left”. Taking this move into account, it wouldn’t be surprising to find more and more states enacting this policy as they become increasingly threatened by the existence of demonstrators willing to engage hate groups with violence. If history is an indicator, the state using the label “domestic terrorist” will green light political arrest and sanction the bodily harm of demonstrators and activists defending themselves.
Looking back to previous state action against demonstrators, the beginning of this year saw several legislators attempt to introduce bills to crack down on the increasing number of protests in the country. The suggested legislation ranged anywhere from utilizing anti-racketeering laws, to criminalizing anyone wearing a mask, and even removing the penalties towards motorists that strike protesters.
While all of these attempts have been met with differing levels of success and failure (with some being completely voted down) it demonstrates the willingness of local authorities to not only dissuade the increasingly justified violence (i.e. rioting and physically confronting hate groups), but to confine protest within boundaries deemed beneficial by the state.
Despite the differing rationale, both conservative and liberal political establishments oppose the form of demonstration most often used by antifa groups. With this common ground comes two separate possible outcomes for the protesters; one is harsh and disproportionate punishment in the event of an arrest, and the other suggests setting certain parameters for protestors in an effort to, as mentioned before, confine and control the demonstrations.