Well before the deadly Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville and the ongoing violent clashes with white supremacists and other groups, federal authorities warned local officials the actions of left-wing extremists were becoming increasingly confrontational and dangerous.
Federal agencies warned of the growing likelihood of lethal violence between left-wing anarchists and right-wing white supremacists.
Some even classified their activities as “domestic terrorist violence.”
In previously unreported documents dating back to April 2016 and viewed by Fox News, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security wrote that “anarchist extremists” and Antifa groups were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies. They blamed these groups for attacks on police, government and political institutions, racists, fascists and “symbols of capitalism.”
The agencies warned the rise of fascist, nationalist, racist or anti-immigrant groups in U.S. political discourse could lead to violent backlash from these “anarchist extremists.”
The FBI and DHS had no comment on the assessments, saying they were not intended to be made public.
POLITICO was the first to report on the documents Friday.
Brian Levin, a former New York City police officer who monitors domestic militants at the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, cautioned calling all members of the Antifa movement “domestic terrorists,” and said not all tolerate the use of violence while protesting.
“People in this movement allow for confronting, jostling, committing low-level types of offenses, but there has been for some time a core that have tipped the movement to confrontational violence,” he told Fox News on Friday. “The hardest edge in the Antifa spectrum comes under that category...not all Antifa are busting heads”
He added the same could be said for members of the alt-right, some of whom tolerate and justify the use of violence.
In recent decades, authorities have focused almost exclusively on right-wing groups as the most likely instigators of domestic terrorist violence, especially after Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people.
But groups such as Antifa, which is short for anti-fascist, have been growing in numbers and becoming more tolerant about using violence.
The violent clashes in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 that left one woman dead was only one recent event that drew dozens -- and in some cases hundreds -- of people on both sides, many of whom were armed and looking for a fight.
Some DHS and FBI intelligence reports began flagging protesters before the election, POLITICO reported.
“The socio-political landscape has changed,” Levin said. “The same way white nationalists used Obama as a figure to rally about...now Antifa and anarchists see in Trump a broad-base [enemy] that has united them.”
He added: “There is a sense that we are getting divided.”