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Crime

Hand-Wringing Indecision on Counting Antifa as Street Gang

Written by Joe Scudder

The media admits Antifa could fit the definition of a violent street gang, but doesn’t want to interfere with their freedom.

The most fascinating aspect of a recent L.A. Times story on regarding Antifa as a street gang, is they are concerned about criminalizing a political ideology. In the same story they mention racist groups (smudging them together with nonracist groups in order to libel them) but express no acknowledgment of their constitutional right of free speech. Furthermore, disguising your identity in public is illegal. By definition the police should round up the “black bloc” wherever they appear.

There is no need to label anyone a street gang.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “After Bay Area violence, California debates classifying ‘antifa’ as a street gang.

Not long after dozens of black-hooded protesters were filmed pummeling people on his city’s streets, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin made clear his disgust for the self-stylized vigilantes.

“Antifa,” he said, is no different than a street gang, and police should start treating protesters in the anti-fascist movement accordingly.

Later that day, legislators in Sacramento advanced resolutions that would treat violent acts committed by antifa movement’s enemies — white nationalists and neo-Nazis — as terrorist acts under state law.

As forces on the extremes of the nation’s ever-widening political divide continue to battle with fists and weapons on the streets of California, law enforcement officials and politicians have started debating whether these extremist groups should be classified as street gangs.

[…]

But such a move raises legal issues because unlike with traditional street gangs, the underlying motive of these extremist groups is political expression rather than criminal enterprise.

Law enforcement experts say the groups that have been warring in the Bay Area for months — which include anti-fascists and those using “black bloc” militant tactics, far-right organizations such as the Proud Boys and the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, and white nationalist groups such as Identity Evropa — certainly share similarities with a street gang.

“It is gang behavior with some ideology. But it is also a social entity as well as a political one,” said Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

[…]

But some gang experts also expressed concern about linking the far left to street gang activity. While the groups may share commonalities with gangs, the idea of labeling them as such could be seen as a punishing a political viewpoint, no matter how extreme.

“There’s an argument for it, but there’s also a very grave concern because they are exercising their constitutional rights,” said San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Britt Imes, a nationally renowned expert on gang activity. “Their criminal actions, not their free speech actions, their criminal actions, will determine whether they qualify as a criminal street gang.”

Read the entire L.A. Times story.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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