AP: Leftist Rioters Are Not Just Antifa Wackos, They’re Normal Suburban Kids

AP: Leftist Rioters Are Not Just Antifa Wackos, They’re Normal Suburban Kids

If the AP characterization is accurate, tolerance for violence in the service of political ends is not just concentrated in fringe outliers like Antifa cells.
Joy Pullmann
By

“[M]ost arrested in protests aren’t leftist radicals,” headlined an Associated Press analysis published Oct. 20. Of those arrested this summer during the nation’s largest outbreak of riots in 30 years, “Very few of those charged appear to be affiliated with highly organized extremist groups, and many are young suburban adults from the very neighborhoods Trump vows to protect from the violence in his reelection push to win support from the suburbs,” the article’s second paragraph says.

These nice young people throwing Molotov cocktails and setting police cars on fire are basically the kids next door, the article implies. It is clear from the article’s framing the AP intends it to be another entry into the “move along, nothing to see here” genre employed against facts that make the left look bad and are impossible to ignore. In reality, however, the article makes things look even worse than the reality it is meant to counter.

The AP doesn’t show or explain how it came to the conclusion that most of the 286 people being federally prosecuted for crimes in connection with this summer’s Black Lives Matter riots are the young, suburban, “not leftist radicals” its article claims. If this is true, however, it suggests violence has become uncomfortably normalized among those who identify on the political left.

If the AP characterization is accurate, tolerance for violence in the service of political ends is not just concentrated in fringe outliers like Antifa cells. It is attracting middle-class people who grew up in comfortable suburbia. People whose parents are aware that their children are politically intoxicated to the point of arson and still bail them out of jail and hire them lawyers. This is not comforting at all.

What We Can Learn from This Article about Rioters

The article does give information about age, race, and sex. A plurality of those charged with federal crimes in connection with summer riot violence are white; most are men, and seven in 10 are under 30: “More than 40% of those facing federal charges are white. At least a third are Black, and about 6% Hispanic. More than two-thirds are under the age of 30 and most are men. More than a quarter have been charged with arson, which if convicted means a five-year minimum prison sentence.”

It also includes a graph counting up all the federal charges these 286 people are facing. The most common are arson (one-third of those charged), illegal possession of a firearm (one-sixth of those charged), and civil unrest/rioting (one-tenth of those charged).

The AP article gives two examples of young men we are apparently meant to take as representative of these rioters. Both are in their early 20s, male, leftist, with no previous criminal records, and living with their parents.

“Brian Bartels, a 20-year-old suburban Pittsburgh man who is described by prosecutors as a ‘self-identified left-wing anarchist,’ was flanked by his parents when he turned himself in to authorities,” says the AP article. “Bartels, who lives at his parents’ house, spray painted an ‘A’ on a police cruiser before jumping on top of it and smashing its windshield during a protest in the city, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in September.” The other such young man was “caught on camera making a Molotov cocktail.”

The article is rife with the “both sides have bad people” frame the corporate press goes nuts about after falsely characterizing its use by President Trump. For example: “Some of those facing charges undoubtedly share far-left and anti-government views. Far-right protesters also have been arrested and charged.”

Far later, the article runs down the six cases out of these 300 that could be attributed to “far-right protesters.” Six. For those who can’t do basic math, that’s 2 percent of the total. Again, in attempting to debunk something President Trump and conservatives are saying, the article reinforces it.

Article Provides No Evidence for Its Own Headline

The article also contains nearly no evidence for its headline claim, that “most arrested aren’t leftist radicals.” Instead, it says the AP reporters were unable to find evidence in court documents that the majority of the 286 people whose cases they reviewed are part of Antifa or formally affiliated with similarly “radical” groups.

The AP reporters may have scoured the social media accounts of every person in this group to try to discern their political leanings. But the article does not say they’ve done so. It says the reporters looked at “thousands of pages of court documents.” In those documents, “the only apparent mention of antifa is in a Boston case.”

Of these 286, which may not be representative of all summer rioters as most are being charged under state, not federal laws, “many have had no previous run-ins with the law and no apparent ties to antifa, the umbrella term for leftist militant groups that Trump has said he wants to declare a terrorist organization,” the article also says.

“While some of the defendants clearly hold radical or anti-government beliefs,” the article says elsewhere, “prosecutors have provided little evidence of any affiliations they have with organized extremist groups.” Besides a handful of mentions of individuals’ social media, this is the total of the evidence provided to bolster the headline claim that most BLM rioters are not leftists.

Notice also all of the qualifications to get to that conclusion: these had to be federal cases, the prosecutors had to have explicitly noted the political affiliation of the person charged in court documents, and that affiliation had to be with an “organized extremist group.” Not with the Democratic Party, not with MoveOn.org, not with some political campaign or club. An “organized extremist group,” whatever that is. Technically, according to their frame, such an extremist group couldn’t even be Antifa, because as the article notes, FBI Director Christopher Wray claims Antifa “is more of an ideology or a movement than an organization.”

The evidence presented suggests these reporters searched the court documents for the term “Antifa,” found it once, and therefore concluded that they had proved none of the people arrested would consider themselves on the political left. That’s like saying because I looked in your car for a book and didn’t find one, you probably don’t know how to read.

There is no formal membership card for the “Leftist Radical Club.” Therefore, according to the AP’s apparent logic, nobody is a leftist radical. Apply that logic to Antifa, and you end up with Wray’s conclusion that it’s not an organization at all, it’s just an ideology.

We All Know BLM Is Linked with These Riots

The AP’s supposed conclusion also contradicts facts we do know about the riots, which is that they have been explicitly and openly connected with self-described Marxist organizing groups, most obviously the Black Lives Matter organization. Another report that twisted itself to try to hide the connections between BLM and rioting still showed that 95 percent of the summer riots were linked to BLM.

One in ten of these protests involved violence, according to the data collected — an astronomical number. Far, far fewer than one-tenth of U.S. mosques, let alone Muslims themselves, are connected to Islamist terrorists. If the 2010s Tea Party protests had been as violent as the BLM protests, the Obama administration could have labeled the Tea Party a domestic terror group.

People at all of these protests carry signs emblazoned with leftist politics. Anyone just passing through anyone could easily see that. BLM signs at every one accompanied a host of other politically left demands, such as ending “housing discrimination,” defunding the police, and demanding reparations. This an explicitly leftist movement. Who are you going to believe, the Associated Press or your own eyes?

Covering for Extremists Is Bad for the Country

We have other indications that extremism is moving to the center among America’s political left. For one, Joe Biden let the openly self-proclaimed socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez write his policy platform.

Pertinently and recently, 200 leftist elites war-gamed the election and released a report explicitly rejecting the possibility of a legitimate Trump win and winking at violence to impose such a perception on Americans: “this may well be a street fight, not a legal battle; technocratic solutions, courts, and a reliance on elites observing norms are not the answer here.”

And no less an elite Democrat than Hillary Clinton “declared publicly that Joe Biden should not concede the election “under any circumstances.” “Any circumstances” includes “Trump legitimately winning.” The ground troops have heard these calls for unrest and are preparing to attack members of Congress and businesses like Amazon should Trump declare victory under any circumstances.

America is not served by a berserked left. Not only is it morally wrong to kill, steal, and destroy to get what you want, when one party’s platform is not fit to govern a garden club, let alone the greatest nation in the world, it erases all pressure on the other party to excel. All they have to be is not physically attacking bystanders or endorsing unfettered unborn genocide, and they win. Any dummy can do that, and lots of dummies are doing that. As a result, the nation’s business has long been left undone.

If Democrats don’t want Trump to be president, rather than scaring the stuffing out of the people who vote for him, they need to present a rational alternative. Violence is not a rational alternative. And I shouldn’t need to say that.

Joy Pullmann is executive editor of The Federalist, a happy wife, and the mother of six children. Her newest ebook is "The Family Read-Aloud Advent Calendar," and her bestselling ebook is "Classic Books for Young Children." A Hillsdale College honors graduate, @JoyPullmann is also the author of "The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids," from Encounter Books.
Photo Kylee Zempel / The Federalist

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