A researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center said he had not seen evidence supporting the theory that white supremacist militia members were responsible for inciting violence at protests against police brutality last week.
“I have not seen any clear evidence that white supremacists or militiamen are masking up and going out to burn and loot,” Howard Graves, a research analyst at the SPLC, told The New York Times for a report published Sunday. The group, which tracks anti-government extremist groups, has been criticized for calling mainstream conservative organizations “hate groups.”
Some politicians and commentators have speculated about whether extremist groups are derailing demonstrations against the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes, as shown in a video of the incident.
MSNBC host Joy Reid suggested in a series of tweets Saturday that white supremacists were interjecting themselves into the message.
Other groups disagreed with the SPLC’s claim that there was little evidence right-wing extremists.
“We’re going to see a diversity of fringe malefactors,” Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told TheNYT. “We know for a fact there have been far-right agitators both online and at these rallies, as well as far-left.”
The Trump administration believes the protests took a dark turn after left-wing agitators associated with the Antifa movement took advantage of an emotional issue to sow chaos. (RELATED: US Will Designate Antifa As A Terrorist Organization, President Trump Says)
“Unfortunately, with the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful protests are being hijacked by violent radical elements,” Attorney General Bill Barr said Saturday, according to Politico. “In many places it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by far left extremist groups and anarchic groups using Antifa-like tactics.”
The U.S. government is officially designating Antifa (short for anti-fascist) as a domestic terrorist group, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Sunday.
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