Federal law enforcement officials are saying that far-left groups are stoking violence at protests over the death last week of George Floyd while he was in the custody of the Minneapolis police department.
Some leftist media in the United States have made claims that white nationalists and white supremacists are hijacking otherwise peaceful protests, burning and looting businesses and landmarks in communities across the country, including in the nation’s capitol, where President Donald Trump and his family were in lockdown on Sunday night.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on the development Sunday night:
As demonstrations spread from Minneapolis to the White House, New York City and overseas, federal law enforcement officials insisted far-left groups were stoking violence. Meanwhile, experts who track extremist groups also reported seeing evidence of the far-right at work.
Investigators were also tracking online interference and looking into whether foreign agents were behind the effort. Officials have seen a surge of social media accounts with fewer than 200 followers created in the last month, a textbook sign of a disinformation effort.
The accounts have posted graphic images of the protests, material on police brutality and material on the coronavirus pandemic that appeared designed to inflame tensions across the political divide, according to three administration officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss investigations.
But Democrat leaders — mostly in charge of states roiled by protests devolving into destructive riots — are blaming outside forces, including a cyber attack on Minnesota’s state infrastructure.
“Before our operation kicked off last night, a very sophisticated denial of service attack on all computers was executed,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said in the AP report. “That’s not somebody sitting in their basement. That’s pretty sophisticated.”
“Short for anti-fascists, Antifa is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations,” AP reported as its description of the groups that have worn masks long before the coronavirus and that have stoked violence at so-called “counter protests” across the country.
According to AP, two U.S. Defense Department officials said that one Antifa group put a message in the Telegram channel over the weekend telling people the Minnesota National Guard troops were “easy targets.”
AP included the speculation by a woman with George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, J.J. MacNab, who said she is monitoring the “Boogaloo” movement on social media that focuses on a second civil war.
“I think mostly they don’t want to hurt these protests,” McNab said. “They want to co-opt them in order to start their war. They see themselves as being on the side of protesters and that the protesters themselves are useful in causing anarchy.”
AP reported, repeating the debunked narrative of the president praising racists:
The Trump administration has largely remained silent on local reports that far-right protesters were also involved. Meanwhile, Democratic mayors said Trump’s handling of the crisis was reminiscent of one of the darkest moments of his presidency — when he said there were “good people on both sides” of protests in 2017 over white supremacists demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Despite her criticism of Trump, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser acknowledged in the AP report that people who destroyed businesses and tried to burn down a historic church near the White House on Sunday were not peaceful protesters.
“They had tools to break windows and tools or a strategy to distribute materials, among them,” Bowser said. “The thing that we’re struck by is that it was an organized group that appeared more bent on destruction on then on protest.”
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