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'Domestic Terrorist Actors’ Could Exploit Floyd Protests, DHS Memo Warns

June 09, 2020 3:58 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

Reposted from Politico

Anarchist and militia extremists could try to exploit the recent nationwide protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, the Department of Homeland Security warned in an intelligence note sent to law enforcement officials around the country.

Floyd, a black man who pleaded that he couldn't breathe while a police officer held him down and pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes, was killed in Minnesota on May 25. The officer responsible has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

The memo, dated May 29 and marked unclassified/law enforcement sensitive, cites “previous incidents of domestic terrorists exploiting First Amendment-protected events” as one reason for DHS’ concern of additional targeted violence by “domestic terrorist actors.”

It also reveals, citing the FBI, that on May 27, two days after Floyd’s death, “a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the ‘boogaloo ’— a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War — by shooting in a crowd.” One Telegram message encouraged potential shooters to “frame the crowd around you” for the violence, the document said.

And on May 29, “suspected anarchist extremists and militia extremists allegedly planned to storm and burn the Minnesota State Capitol,” the memo reads, citing FBI information. 

The body of the memo says the plans about the state capitol were made in 2019, but a footnote describing the FBI’s information says twice that the plans were made in 2020. Spokespersons for DHS and the FBI did not respond to requests for clarification on the dates, but a source familiar with the report said 2019 was a typo, and the plans were made in 2020. 

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said he was unable to confirm or deny the report for security reasons. A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment. After publication, a DHS spokesperson flagged a tweet from DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. In the tweet, Wolf confirmed that DHS had reported that domestic terrorists were trying to exploit the protests. 

News of the report comes as the Trump administration has touted its ambition to crack down on Antifa, a cohort of far-left activists who often destroy private property and use violent tactics.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have blamed Antifa radicals for inciting violence at the protests, and Barr on Sunday said the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces would coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to find violent perpetrators.

“The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” Barr said. Trump also tweeted that he would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization––a move he does not have the legal authority to make.

Despite the DHS intelligence note, administration officials have focused overwhelmingly on alleged left-wing violence. The note itself does not use the terms “left” or “right.” But it defines “militia extremists” as people who direct violence at the government because they believe it is taking away Americans’ freedoms and setting up a totalitarian regime. That definition also notes that militia extremists oppose laws regulating gun ownership and often form armed paramilitary groups. Those details are all hallmarks of far right extremism.

The document also defines “anarchist extremists” as people who use violence to change the government and society because they oppose capitalism and globalization, and believe government institutions are unnecessary and harmful––hallmarks of the far left. 

The DHS intelligence note is at least the fifth the department has sent out to law enforcement officials in the last two months warning of the mobilization of domestic terrorists and violent extremists in the context of a national crisis. 

On April 23, as so-called Liberate protesters began demonstrating outside several states' capitol buildings demanding an end to the coronavirus lockdowns, DHS warned that the pandemic was “driving violent actors — both non-ideologically and ideologically motivated — to threaten violence” and “serving as the impetus for some domestic terrorist plots.”

In remarks to the Security Industry Association on Monday, DHS’ assistant director for Infrastructure Security, Brian Harrell, said the department had been “touched by this violence,” too. He cited the murder of a Federal Protective Service contract officer on Friday as he and his partner, who was wounded, monitored protests, as well as assaults on Secret Service officers that evening and over the weekend. 

“As Americans, we should all support peaceful demonstrations and exercising our constitutional rights,” Harrell said. “However, violence, destruction, and bloodshed in the streets is never the answer. DHS, as the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, will continue to support our state and local police and first responder agencies, to bring a quick, safe, and peaceful ending to the disorderly violence in the streets.” 

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