U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday said the Justice Department was monitoring the protest movement antifa, saying that it is at the heart of violence in cities around the country.
“I’ve talked to every police chief in every city where there has been major violence and they all have identified antifa as the ramrod for the violence,” Barr said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “They are flying around the country. We know people who are flying around the country.”
“We see some of the purchases they are making before the riots of weapons to use in those riots,” Barr added. “So, we are following them.”
Antifa is a largely unstructured, far-left extremist organisation whose followers broadly aim to confront those they view as authoritarian or racist.
Republican President Donald Trump, who has been trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election, has been appealing to his base of white supporters with a “law and order” message. In a visit Tuesday to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a 17-year-old Trump supporter has been charged with killing two people during protests following the police shooting of a Black man in the back, Trump said the destruction that occurred was “really domestic terror.”
Barr on Wednesday also said he thought there was no systemic racism in the U.S. justice system, and that there is a “false narrative” that the country is in an “epidemic” of unarmed Black people being killed by white police officers.
“I think our institutions have been reformed in the past 60 years and if anything has been built into it it’s a bias toward non-discrimination,” Barr said.
In a Fox News interview late on Monday, Trump said an investigation was under way into alleged “thugs” who boarded a plane seeking to cause damage last week during the Republican Party convention, without providing details or evidence.
Law enforcement, intelligence and Congressional officials familiar with official reporting on weeks of protests and related arrests said on Tuesday they were aware of no incidents or reports that would confirm Trump’s anecdote.
Trump signed a memo on Wednesday that threatens to cut federal funding to “lawless” cities, including Seattle, Portland, New York and Washington.
“My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” said the memo, which was released by the White House.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter that the memo was an “illegal stunt.”