As protests continue nationwide, President Trump has relied on the narrative that leftist groups are inciting violence. Trump has gone so far as to call protesters "sick and deranged anarchist and agitators" and continuously attacked anti-fascists, often referred to as "antifa." But new research shows that contrary to the administration's claims, antifa members haven't killed a single person in more than two decades— but white supremacists and other right-wing extremists are a critical threat.
The research comes from a database of almost 900 politically motivated attacks and plots in the United States since 1994. The database was compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and reviewed by The Guardian. It found that in the past 25 years, right-wing extremists have killed 329 people.
Per CSIS's findings, there is only one death, in 1994, linked to anti-fascists — and in that case, the person killed was the perpetrator. Even when looking at "left-wing violence" broadly, only 21 people have died since 2010. Now compare that to the 117 people killed because of right-wing violence during the same time period.
"Left-wing violence has not been a major terrorism threat," Seth Jones, the researcher who led the creation of the database, told The Guardian. “The most significant domestic terrorism threat comes from white supremacists, anti-government militias, and a handful of individuals associated with the ‘Boogaloo’ movement that are attempting to create a civil war in the United States.”
While important, the database is unlikely to make the president stop with his baseless claims. After all, anyone paying attention in recent years would have already noted the increased presence of fascists or alt-right groups on the streets and their attacks on protesters.
In recent years, people have begun to drive cars into protesters as a way of inciting violence. Earlier this month, USA Today reported that protesters were hit by cars 66 times at Black Lives Matter protests since George Floyd was killed by police in May. But, this type of violence has been around for ages. In 2017, James Fields Jr. murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, where people were counter-protesting a Unite the Right Rally.
Perhaps most ominously, though, white supremacist rhetoric has arisen time and time again in mass shootings. Take the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine Black people. Or, the shooter in El Paso, Texas, who drove over 11 hours through Texas to kill Latinx people at a Walmart. Before killing 23 people, the shooter uploaded a manifesto on 8chan, which bears terrifying parallels to Trump's own language.
And that alludes to the larger issue. At the end of the day, Trump doesn't need to be factually correct to incite violence against leftist groups. As Yvette Felarca, a California-based organizer told The Guardian, "It’s [Trump's] way of saying to his supporters: 'Yeah, go after them. Beat them or kill them to the point where they go back home and stay home afraid.'"
The group Trump targets may change — this summer, anarchists are a popular option — but the end result is the same. Overall, Trump is not so much concerned with facts as he is with utilizing whatever strategies necessary to quell dissent.