The Consequences of Designating Antifa as a Terrorist Organization


Heather J. Williams, Senior Policy Researcher

The Antifa movement, or the anti-fascist movement, is a loosely organized far-left movement. It presents itself as the foil to white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and other violent far-right movements. It came to national prominence after the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, but its activities predate that. Its numbers are unknown, but speculated to be in the few hundreds. And it's primarily involved in community organizing, letter writing, doxing, or exposing white supremacists. But some of its members do engage in violence. For example, they think it would be appropriate to assault a white supremacist if you were to come across them.

One of the challenges in attempting to designate Antifa as a terrorist group is that the United States only maintains a list of foreign terrorist organizations. We don't have a domestic counterpart. There's no legal framework for designating a domestic group as a terrorist group. The State Department maintains the list of foreign terrorist organizations, and those who have been involved in this process have pointed out that Antifa does not meet the criteria that they have used in the past to designate terrorist groups.

If the federal government were to attempt to move forward in designating Antifa regardless of that, there is a legal process by which Antifa could challenge the designation. If they were successful in that legal challenge, Antifa would be removed as a foreign terrorist group. But it could also raise larger legal questions about which groups are on the list and why they are there.