According to a 2018 CRS report:

Presumably, the Bureau would investigate antifa followers suspected of criminal activity as domestic terrorists, categorizing them as a type of anarchist extremist FBI Director Christopher Wray has suggested as much, noting that the Bureau has opened counterterrorism investigations into people committing crimes in the name of antifa beliefs. In congressional testimony in November 2017, he said that the FBI was pursuing “a number of what we would call anarchist extremist investigations, where we have properly predicated subjects [people] who are motivated to commit violent criminal activity on kind of an antifa ideology. So we have a number of active investigations in that space, all around the country.” In public remarks in January 2018, Thomas E. Brzozowski, the Department of Justice’s Counsel for Domestic Terrorism Matters, reiterated Wray’s comments. The FBI has not made public additional information about its antifa-related cases.

Basically, has anything changed since 2018 in that regard?

In view of some comments below, in order to answer this, one apparently has to consider the intricacies of US laws regarding terrorism, at least at federal level

In short, the government can't file a criminal charge of domestic terrorism, but so defining the incident does allow it to investigate not only an individual suspect, but also any group the suspect may be affiliated with.

So, have there been any cases made public of officially designated terrorism incidents in which the people charged by USA (state or federal) justice officials either self-identified as Antifa or were described by the justice officials as endorsing Antifa ideology?

  • You may need to define "terrorist offenses" or "terrorist charges" more clearly. There is a definition of "domestic terrorism" in the USA PATRIOT Act, but I can find no evidence of anyone ever having been charged with domestic terrorism charges per se, if that's even possible. Recent events that might be considered domestic terrorism have only brought federal charges related to hate crimes, illegal firearms, etc. as far as I can tell
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 19:36
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    @BrianZ: I see now what you mean that such a designation (domestic terror) can't apply to the charges in the US. However, "In short, the government can't file a criminal charge of domestic terrorism, but so defining the incident does allow it to investigate not only an individual suspect, but also any group the suspect may be affiliated with." So, I guess, the q is then: have such concrete investigations into Antifa "violent criminal activity" been designated terrorist incidents? Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 19:48
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    So then perhaps a reasonable revision of the question would be something like "how many domestic terrorism investigations have lead to federal charges against antifa activsts", or something like that? I think the answer is "none" but I'm not certain.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 19:52
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    Are antifa activities of a terrorist nature, as the term is usually employed outside of political demagogy? To me a terrorist has a premeditated intent to kill opponents. Tim McVeigh would have made a fine domestic terrorist and same with people like the synagogue shooter or the white supremacist who gunned down Black people in church. Until Antifa does something like this, or is at least caught planning to do so, using the term terrorism on them cheapens the term, IMHO. They can well be thrown in jail when they damage property or wound people, using existing, non-terror, laws. Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 4:18
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica "Terrorism" is trying to install fear by attacking and threatening civilians. Usually part of the threat is "you too can be next!" Granted, the most fear is sowed by killing, but that's not a strict requirement.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


As I understand it, there is no 'antifa' ideology, aside from a rough belief that the only effective opposition to fascism is to meet fascists on their own level of violence. It's an adult version, perhaps, of the maxim that one deals with a bully by punching him in the nose. The word 'antifa' is generally used as an adjective to describe an attitude, not a noun to indicate group membership. Antifa isn't really even a movement, exactly — it has no political goals of its own, no agendas or expectations — it's little more than a loose agreement among a wide variety of people that fascists need punching, because no other act will serve. See Al Jezeera's "What id Antifa?" for a decently non-partisan perspective.

If the FBI has undertaken any investigations subsequent to that 2018 declaration, it has not (to my knowledge) reached the light of day in any public arrest or court case. Antifascists have been arrested sporadically over the last eight years or so, when they have been caught engaging in violent protests, but those protests have always tended to be spontaneous outbursts rather than organized and planned actions. It's impossible to know, of course, whether any FBI investigations have led to arrests for other crimes, without the 'antifa' or 'terrorism' labels, but to be frank, I'm not certain even this administration would attempt to invoke a more severe felony charge on the grounds an individual was attempting to terrorize fascists. The sympathies of a jury would be far too undependable in such a context.

Also, no fascist would willingly seek out the protection of the courts. Strength and authority are central parts of fascist ideology, and relying on the courts for protection would give the appearance of weakness and vulnerability. C'est la vie...

I think we can all safely assume that this 'antifa' moment is the Trump administration looking for a way deflect blame for the protests and the administration's poor response onto some convenient target. When antifa fails to show up as a significant cause of the current troubles, they will be forgotten as the administration moves on to another convenient target. It's the same pattern Trump has used throughout his tenure, looking for scapegoats to blame his own political failures on.

  • 6
    How is it the case that no fascist would seek out the protection of the courts? Perhaps with a narrow definition of fascism, but if you allow a little more leeway, one can easily come up with examples. If one considers the KKK fascist, they once sued to be able to adopt a highway in the US. If one considers neo-Nazis fascists, they (at least) once sued to be able to protest. If one considers the Trump administration fascist, it has launched and defended countless lawsuits. There was a Nazi sympathizer in Britain who filed a libel case against someone who criticized him.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 21:51
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    The DPRK is a democratic republic by that standard? I don't think you should be so trusting of the goal these people claim to have. Also, I've been told by multiple Antifa people online that they do indeed see themselves as an organisation continuing the fight the original hard-left Stalinists were in 1932 Germany were.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 22:13
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    I did not downvote because of that though. I downvoted because I disagree with the argument. In the al-Jazeera article, they mention an example of a group called RCA that attacked a meeting of white supremacists. What was the net result of their actions? Well, they ended up it prison, so that's harm. Some of them were probably injured, so that's harm. Some of the white supremacists presumably were as well (I am a utilitarian; I do not believe in "deserving" harm). In prison, their ability to contribute appreciably to resisting fascism is seriously diminished: also harm.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 22:18
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    @Obie2.0: As to the rest... You're entitled to downvote for any reason you like; I always expect a few, though I do appreciate it when people tell me why. I'm not really an antifa supporter (though I am decidedly anti-fascist in my own right), because I see violence as a last resort. But I do understand their perspective. Antifa may become more organized as the pro-fascist tendencies of the current administration mount; that I can't speak to. But the fact remains that they aren't really 'for' anything in particular. They just don't like fascists, and that's not much of an organizing principle. Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 22:23
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    @OperatingChown: And besides, 'antifa' is shorthand for 'anti-fascist'. Talking about antifa without mentioning fascists is like talking about climate change without mentioning climate. If there were no fascists, anti-fascism would fade away like the morning dew, so by all means let's get rid of the fascists and kill two birds with one stone (so to speak)... Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 6:54

Have there been any cases made public of officially designated terrorism incidents in which the people charged by USA (state or federal) justice officials either self-identified as Antifa or were described by the justice officials as endorsing Antifa ideology?

Short answer: if there were bona fide cases of Antifa terrorism, we would know about them already.

In fact, if there were, we would be sick of hearing about them by now.

Longer answer: The current president, Donald Trump, is in the reelection fight of his life. The Covid pandemic has been ravaging the US and stepping on his strongest case for reelection, the economy. The handling of the situation by Trump, his administration, and his allies has been, in the kindest non-delusional analysis, spotty:

Not only that, but a Woodward book revealed that Trump can't even plead ignorance of the direness of the situation as an excuse. And, as if to metaphorically encapsulate Trump's failure to protect the country from Covid, he failed to protect himself from Covid as well. As a result, Trump has been trailing his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, in the polls consistently for months.

Actual cases of "Antifa terrorists" would be an immeasurable boon to Trump's bid for four more years

Needless to say, Trump is well aware of the desperate straits his reelection campaign is in, and has been desperate to change the subject from Covid for some time now. One way he has hoped to do so is by making the case that antifa are terrorists, who Joe Biden will "appease" if elected.

However, the tumult from the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police has mostly subsided, and for the moment, nothing appears likely to take its place. Some instances of the well-publicized unrest - ranging from peaceful protests, to looting and rioting - from that time might arguably fit some definitions of terrorism, although the definitions themselves are contentious. But insofar as the general public has any idea what "terrorism" is, it's something a lot closer to

"carefully coordinated and organized attacks that either target civilians directly, or cause indiscriminate collateral damage to civilians"

like McVeigh, Tsarnaev, bin Laden, Kaczynski, rather than

"spontaneous outbursts of public emotion that turn violent"

like basically all of the post-Floyd rioting and looting. In the absence of some indisputable public face--either a person or an organization--and indisputable public act of "antifa terrorism", and together with:

Trump's attempt to sell the country on the idea that "Joe Biden is weak on antifa domestic terrorists", or even that "fighting antifa terrorism [rather than ending the Covid pandemic] is the election-defining issue of 2020", has failed to take hold as it might have.

But if the FBI were to publicly announce an investigation into acts of antifa terrorism, and charge a specific perpetrator or perpetrators in court for their actions, all of Trump's messaging difficulties about Biden and "antifa terrorism" would--like a miracle--disappear.

Chris Wray, the FBI Director, is under immense pressure to produce an "October surprise"

Needless to say, under the circumstances, Trump has been strongly leaning on the FBI and DOJ to corroborate his apocalyptic visions of far-left extremists burning American cities to the ground. William Barr, Trump's Attorney General and the head of the DOJ, has mostly been happy to help. But Barr is (correctly) perceived as a partisan henchman whose main qualification for his job, from the beginning, was finding sophisticated-sounding ways to justify whatever insulation from legal or political consequence Trump and his allies require. As such, his imprimatur is not enough to move the needle of public opinion.

Chris Wray is another story. Although a Republican, he's not a firebreathing partisan like Barr, and therefore has the institutional credibility to legitimize the "antifa terrorist" narrative in a way Barr never could. But while Wray has confirmed that there are antifa-associated extremists that the FBI is keeping tabs on, his failure to follow Barr's lead and denounce antifa as Public Enemy No. 1 when given the opportunity has put him in the doghouse with Trump, who is reportedly considering firing Wray if he wins reelection. Under the circumstances, if Wray had the merest bone to throw Trump regarding antifa terrorist prosecutions, he almost certainly would have done so. And the idea that significant and undeniable antifa terrorist acts could have escaped the notice of both the FBI and the Trump campaign--much less that somehow a "deep state" in the FBI could have successfully hidden the conclusive evidence of antifa's terrorist activity from a Trump administration eager to exploit it and a 24-hour news cycle eager for more eyeballs and clicks--doesn't pass the straight face test.

So in conclusion: if the FBI had legit antifa terrorists to charge and prosecute for legit antifa terrorist acts, it would for sure be prosecuting them right now, and Trump would be tweeting about it every six minutes. The fact that this is not happening is strong evidence that they don't exist.

  • But Trump's followers are circulating news of "Antifa terrorists" and it is a significant boon for Trump. Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 11:05
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    @user253751 a) Trump’s followers will circulate literally anything he says and b) Trump’s followers are also circulating news that Democrats are running a pedophile sex cult, plotting white genocide, and that Covid masks are a step towards making everyone wear a hijab and instituting sharia law nationwide. If anything, their circulating it lumps “antifa terrorism” in with those other conspiracy theories (where it belongs). To win reelection, Trump needs to persuade independents and other people outside his base, and for that, it would really help if Wray would play ball. Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 15:10
  • I'm just saying, if you want to say "if it was true we would've heard about it by now", that's not useful because we hear about all sorts of things all the time, and then ignore them and then pretend we're not hearing about them because we believe they're fake. Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 15:56
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    @user253751 You’re misrepresenting what I said, which was that if the FBI had major antifa terrorists to prosecute, the prosecution and the terrorists would be such major news that we would be hearing about them from sources more credible and reliable than the people who believed in Pizzagate. Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 16:33
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    Ah, but you see, the FBI is also part of the antifa conspiracy. (according to Trump supporters) Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 17:45

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