A tale of two cases: Why states must take the lead against left-wing violence
Heading into the 2022 mid-term elections the only way to avoid a repeat of the violent, disruptive summer of chaos America endured in 2020, is if the states take strong, principled stands to prevent and prosecute Leftist violence. Two contemporary court cases illustrate why.
The first case is the laudable indictment of 11 Antifa and BLM violent extremists by a district attorney in San Diego, California. The second is a shameful, sweetheart plea deal by the US Department of Justice for two lawyers in New York who firebombed a NYPD police vehicle during a 2020 mob riot.
In the first case, a long-overdue indictment has been handed down in San Diego, bringing 29 felony counts against 11 left-wing violent extremists affiliated with Antifa. These indictments are especially significant in that they were brought by a grand jury process and not just from a prosecutor acting on his/her own.
This prosecution stems from an Antifa attack on peaceful, pro-Trump supporters and innocent bystanders on January 9th, 2020. According to the indictment by the grand jury Antifa members conducted a premeditated attack on the 1st amendment protected event, even stooping so low as to attack a pedestrian’s pet dog. Members of the group were subsequently also accused of seeking to intimidate witnesses and media in the case.
This prosecution is also significant in that it explicitly names Antifa as a violent organization whose members engaged in a criminal conspiracy, according to the indictment, which is the first of its kind in the United States.
Meanwhile, in the federal case, an entirely different outcome has emerged in what should be a clear-cut case of political violence. Two violent extremists, both lawyers who one would presume should know better, firebombed a police vehicle and got off with a slap on the wrist.
Attorneys Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, of Brooklyn, were arrested for possessing and using Molotov cocktails at a New York City protest in the Summer of 2020. Despite originally facing up to 10 years in prison and having already plead guilty to possession of Molotov cocktails, the Department of Justice has submitted sentencing recommending no more than 24 months.
It is particularly interesting that the left-wing legal intelligentsia rallied to the defense of the two extremists and seems to have played a role in encouraging federal prosecutors not to regard the attack as an act of domestic terrorism, which would have resulted in a much more serious charge. Ironically, simply looking at Rahman’s mug shot, featuring a Marxist slogan and image, makes clear the political motivation behind the violence.
Of course, neither of the defendants can claim to have been members of an oppressed class: one went to Princeton and NYU Law and the other to Fordham for undergrad and law school. Nor can they possibly claim ignorance of the law (which would not be a defense anyway).
This case illustrates the lenient attitude of the Biden Justice Department toward left-wing violent extremism—and why it is vital that state and local criminal justice and law enforcement move aggressively to investigate and prosecute this clear and present danger.
The current US Department of Justice has shown little disposition toward prosecuting left-wing violence. Already having brought shockingly few cases to trial following the summer of violence across the United States the Department of Justice has proceeded to either drop or reduce charges in the vast majority of those cases, and in no case has there been any effort to establish either the political nature of the violence, nor to demonstrate the role of organizations such as Antifa in perpetrating the attacks.
Where the DOJ has been absent, several states have stepped up to pass laws to provide their state criminal justice and law enforcement systems with the additional tools they need to deal with these attacks, most notably Florida, but also Arkansas, Iowa and others. Unfortunately, efforts in other states, notably North Carolina and Alabama, have fallen short.
In Alabama, law enforcement veteran Representative Allen Treadaway has authored crucial legislation two sessions in a row that would target the tactics and techniques used by Antifa. In both sessions his bill has sailed through the House of Representatives only to be bottled up by Senate leadership, who have stubbornly refused to even give the bill a committee hearing.
In North Carolina, the legislature passed similar legislation targeting the tactics and techniques used by Antifa, only to see their liberal governor veto the bill.
Time is of the essence. Using the tools currently at their disposal, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement investigators must move now to investigate and prosecute left-wing violent extremists in their jurisdictions because the US Justice Department cannot be depended upon. The San Diego district attorney deserves credit for showing the way forward. Additionally, state legislatures must move expeditiously to expand the tools available to those prosecutors and investigators. Failure to do so could result violence and terrorism marring the elections of 2022 and 2024.