The California State Legislature began debating the question of whether Antifa should be classified as a street gang last Monday, following following the lead of Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin, who criticized “Antifa” after its violent assaults against protesters were captured on video the day before.
According to a Breitbart News report, which covered the mayor’s initial comments suggesting the street gang designation, critics on both sides of the aisle believe that new tactics should be deployed to rein in the violent leftist group.
The Los Angeles Times reports that “legislators in Sacramento advanced resolutions that would treat violent acts committed by antifa [and the] movement’s enemies — white nationalists and neo-Nazis — as terrorist acts under state law.”
By identifying Antifa as a street gang, law enforcement would have more latitude in curbing its activity, according to the Times:
Labeling either far-left or far-right groups as street gangs could have serious consequences for those arrested during the inevitable next clash at a counter-protest in California. Under the state’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act — a piece of legislation passed at the height of the nation’s gang boom — gang enhancements can add two to 15 years to a criminal sentence for people convicted of committing a crime in concert with gang activity.
Some experts say that the danger of that approach, however, is that it could dampen free speech and political expression by groups whose primary purpose is political, not criminal.
Unfortunately, law enforcement has been largely neutered in the face of left-wing mobs like the ones that have rioted throughout the country this year.
Brian Levin, a criminology professor at Cal State San Bernardino who studies hate groups, spoke to the San Jose Mercury News and called Antifa’s tactics “glorified mob violence tied to an ideology.”
Beyond local politicians and police who are frustrated with Antifa, and state legislators who are considering legislation, national politicians, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), are condemning the group as well.