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Subcommittee Chair Bishop: “It’s Past Time We Recognize Left-Wing Violence for What it is”

May 16, 2023

Subcommittee Chair Bishop: “It’s Past Time We Recognize Left-Wing Violence for What it is” 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC) delivered the following remarks during a hearing for National Police Week on how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can help state and local law enforcement better anticipate, prepare for, and respond to threats in the wake of violence perpetrated by left-wing agitators, as well as how anti-police rhetoric has negatively impacted law enforcement.

The full hearing is livestreamed here.

As prepared for delivery:

Today’s hearing will examine the threat of organized left-wing violence and how the federal government, and the Department of Homeland Security in particular, can best help state and local law enforcement understand, anticipate, prepare for, and respond to these threats.

Peaceful protests, robust debate, and civil dialogue are all essential to our democratic society. The Subcommittee just reaffirmed that principle in a hearing inquiring into the Department of Homeland Security’s troubling and dangerous venture into censorship of Americans’ online expression, which some astute observers have termed the Censorship Laundering Enterprise. However, another threat to free expression is the contemporaneous phenomenon of more and more left-wing, organized violence that likewise appears designed to co-opt and suppress open debate. Time and again, across the nation, Americans have seen both episodic and in some cases sustained violence against people, especially law enforcement, and property damage from so-called anti-fascist and anarchist groups. But it often seems that, of this, the federal government takes little notice.

I anticipate that my Democratic colleagues will reply with the official line from all the security agencies that right-wing extremism represents the most lethal, terroristic threat to the homeland. Certainly, that issue has received no lack of official attention. But, this is not about grading extremism. Violence in public discourse is always unacceptable – no matter the ideology behind it.

But, mention left-wing violence and the prevarications begin: Some will claim that it’s not that big of a deal, or that Antifa is a myth. And we all remember state-aligned media’s fervent effort to label fiery, violent rioting as quote – “mostly peaceful.”

Well, it’s time that Congress takes a closer look at what “mostly peaceful” looks like. Here’s one of our witnesses, a former collegiate swimmer who found herself on the wrong end of a mob when she appeared at San Francisco State University last month to speak her mind about the state of women’s sports. She was barricaded in a room for several hours before finally being able to leave.

Our colleges and universities – once the symbol of free and open debate – are increasingly scenes of violent intimidation by left-wing extremists to silence those with whom they disagree.

In another recent incident, left-wing agitators at Stanford Law School disrupted a student-organized lecture from a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Protesters shouted him down and refused to let him deliver his speech. And then the University DEI administrator who appeared didn’t act to establish order and contain the heckling; instead she took the podium to deliver prepared remarks praising the disruptive intimidation and suggesting that Stanford rethink its commitment to free speech. The judge eventually had to be escorted out by federal marshals.

But it’s not just colleges and universities. In 2020, the American people watched as riots raged, causing an estimated two billion dollars in damages and chaos across our country. Minneapolis, Kenosha, other such places, we saw courthouses and police facilities in Portland and Seattle, and even the very notion of government control, targeted with months of sustained violence.

Any notion that this was a phenomenon limited to a specific time or region gave way more recently to the specter of left-wing activists carrying out a sustained, violent campaign against a Public Safety Training Center under development in Atlanta. The agitators — several of whom were arrested on terrorism charges — attacked law enforcement with rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and commercial-grade fireworks. This is not what peaceful protest looks like.

It’s past time to recognize that these are not random or spontaneous outbursts of violence. Far from it. Self-styled anti-fascist and anarchist groups, often exploit bona fide causes deliberately to organize and deploy street violence for political ends. They use sophisticated tactics to assault law enforcement officers, destroy property, and spread fear and disorder.

They travel across the country to targeted locations to unleash their destructive rage. For example, 21 of the 23 people arrested in the Atlanta attack came from outside the State of Georgia. Just two were locals – including a lawyer employed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

These groups are sophisticated. They are well-trained and financed. They have extensive logistical support. And, they are extremely clever in masking their activities. According to the FBI, groups like Antifa avoid traditional hierarchies and leadership structures. They prefer small-cell activities tailored to specific events.

Some use the opaque nature of groups like Antifa as an excuse to claim Antifa is a “false issue” or a myth.

But, the law enforcement personnel and journalists on the ground, including our witnesses, know the threat is real. And, the opaque and diffuse nature of groups like Antifa means local law enforcement often lack the insights they need to prepare for and counter destructive activities.

Unfortunately, it is not clear that the Department of Homeland Security is always engaging in the level of information sharing and coordination sufficient to address this threat.

Part of the Department’s mission is to share timely and actionable information to enable state and local partners to keep their communities safe. The question is – Does the Department sufficiently share analyses and collect lessons learned from prior incidents of organized left-wing violence with state and local partners? After all, you cannot address a threat you decline to define or acknowledge.

So, today’s hearing is not about whether left or right-wing extremism is worse. They are different problems requiring different strategies. And, it is well past time we recognize organized left-wing violence for the threat that it is.

Earlier today, two other subcommittees on the Homeland Security Committee held a hearing about federal efforts to support state and local law enforcement. As we celebrate National Police Week, we on the Committee are reminded of the importance of these federal and local partnerships.

This afternoon, we are fortunate to have Scott Erickson, a former police officer and former high-ranking Homeland Security official, share with us his testimony on the tools and information local law enforcement needs from the federal government to help secure our communities.

Americans like our witnesses today, Riley Gaines – who has the right to speak her mind – and Julio Rosas – who has the right to report the news – deserve no less than to exercise their constitutional rights without the constant fear of being violently attacked for doing so.