By Scott Wheeler
National security analysts, scholars, and a federal indictment reveal that threats from left-wing extremist groups in the United States are more dangerous than right-wing and “MAGA Republican” groups recently cited by the Biden administration as “threats to democracy.”
According to the U.S. government, some of the left-wing groups are being funded by Russian influence operations to “sow discord, spread pro-Russian propaganda, and interfere in elections within the United States.”
On July 29, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment of a Russian national for working on behalf of the Russian government to sow discord in the United States.
“From at least December 2014 until March 2022, Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a resident of Moscow, together with at least three Russian officials, engaged in a years-long foreign malign influence campaign targeting the United States” the indictment alleged.
A DOJ press release stated, “Ionov—working under the supervision of the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Services] and with the Russian government’s support—recruited political groups within the United States, including U.S. Political Group 1 in Florida, U.S. Political Group 2 in Georgia, and U.S. Political Group 3 in California, and exercised direction or control over them on behalf of the FSB.”
Russia Supports Left-wing Groups
Ionov’s activities were not in support of right-wing groups, the operation was allegedly funding left-wing groups that promoted socialism, defunding police, and California secession, according to multiple reports.
In August, the Tampa Bay Times reported that “Political Group 1” named in the indictment is the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) of St Petersburg, Florida. On the group’s website, its chairman, Omali Yeshitela, is quoted as saying “we need a revolution” and promotes calls for reparations for slavery. On July 29, the same day the indictment for Ionov was unsealed, it was raided by the FBI, according to the APSP. When contacted for comment, a spokesman for the APSP said it was unlikely that the group would be able to answer questions from The Epoch Times based on advice from counsel.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified “Political Group 2” in a July 29 article as the Atlanta-based Black Hammer Party. On May 31, 2020, the group’s website featured a statement by Ionov responding to the death of George Floyd that stated:
“Justice for George Floyd and all Colonized people (aka “people of color”), who have died at the hands of White Power Colonial terrorism (aka america’s racist police system).”
The group states it exists to “take the land back for all colonized people worldwide … Currently, our physical and intellectual labor is being coerced to build for the capitalist white colonial state, but it can be redirected to a noble cause.” The Black Hammer Party could not be reached for comment.
The Sacramento Bee identified “Political Group 3” as Yes California, an organization formed to promote California secession from the United States. Louis Marinelli, the founder of the organization, had worked in Russia teaching English. According to some news sources, Marinelli may once have held conservative views, however, the Yes California Twitter feed was critical of President Donald Trump and suggested that his “reactionary” policies were helping to drive the California secession movement. Marinelli could not be reached for comment.
Politicizing Domestic Threats
Critics have accused the Biden administration of using the levers of the federal government to attack his political opposition by prioritizing what he calls threats to democracy and domestic tranquility. Biden’s list of targets has included Trump supporters, “election deniers,” and “white supremacists.”
In early September, bathed in a red-lit backdrop and flanked by two U.S. Marines, Biden told the nation, “There is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.”
Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made groups and individuals that Biden considers a threat a priority for investigation. The DHS refused to be interviewed for this report but provided a “Summary of Terrorism Threat to the United States” which was published in the June National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin.
The bulletin stated: “The continued proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding current events could reinforce existing personal grievances or ideologies, and in combination with other factors, could inspire individuals to mobilize to violence.”
Many of the domestic threats listed in the bulletin were identifying those who question the administration’s policies:
“Some domestic violent extremists have expressed grievances related to their perception that the U.S. government is unwilling or unable to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.”
“Given a high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case about abortion rights, individuals who advocate both for and against abortion have, on public forums, encouraged violence, including against government, religious, and reproductive healthcare personnel and facilities, as well as those with opposing ideologies.”
The bulletin also predicts, “As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase.”
While the DHS and the Biden administration say they are expecting violence from right-wing groups, others say there is a more pressing threat from the left.
Academic Report Fears Leftists
In the summer of 2020, Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience issued a report (pdf) that found evidence that left-wing groups pose a considerable threat:
“Anarcho-socialist militias which explicitly glorify Martyr narratives, classic authoritarian narratives, and revolutionary narratives are now formally organizing—and are growing.”
The Miller Center cited leftist groups such as the Youth Liberation Front, John Brown Gun Club, Redneck Revolt, and the Socialist Rifle Association, among others, which claim 10,000 to 40,000 members on social media accounts.
The Miller Center report says these groups use social media to promote violence: “Extreme anarcho-socialist fringe online forums on Reddit use memes calling for the death of police and memes for stockpiling munitions to promote violent revolution.”
The report cites the example of Willem Van Spronsen who was shot and killed during a shootout with police in July 2019. Van Spronsen was fire-bombing an Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Washington state. Multiple news reports state that Van Spronsen was a member of Antifa and the John Brown Gun Club.
According to the global nonprofit organization Counter Extremism Project (CEP), many of these groups operate “under the wide umbrella of Antifa” which is made up of individual cells and “the leaders of these cells remain autonomous,” states CEP’s reporting.
John Farmer, Director of the Miller Center, in an email response to questions from The Epoch Times, stated that he does not see a serious national security threat from either the right or left. “Quite frankly, I don’t view either the so-called ‘anarcho-socialist extremists’ or the ‘white nationalist extremists’ as a serious threat to national security,” Farmer stated.
However, extremists on both sides do pose problems, according to Farmer: “Each in their own way is a threat to public order; each, for different reasons, seeks to destabilize our institutions and overthrow the established norms of democracy. Each has proven violent, even murderous, in differing contexts.”
What Political Attacks Mean
J. Michael Waller, a national security and intelligence expert at the Center for Security Policy, told The Epoch Times that the Biden administration is “trying to frighten the public” by labeling Trump supporters as threats to democracy: “They are trying to create a political, psychological, and legal pretext for cracking down on groups and larger movements that they can connect through guilt by association.”
Waller compares this sort of labeling to the so-called “red scare” period during the Cold War.
“If you apply subjective definitions to words, and you make the words mean what you want them to mean, and you recklessly apply those words to your opponent, you are creating a 21st-century red scare.” Waller says he sees a disturbing pattern in Biden’s words.
“You label someone you don’t like with an inflammatory term that objectively does not apply, which gives you the public support you need to amass more power to create more bureaucracy. You then have the legal grounds to go after what amounts to political opponents.”
“Look at the way they throw around the word ‘fascists,” Waller said. “They are not even using the objective definition of fascist.”
Why Trump Supporters
Emily Finley, author of “The Ideology of Democratism,” told The Epoch Times that the Biden administration is laying the groundwork to “normalize the idea that MAGA Republicans are extremists,” adding that “the larger philosophical impetus” behind Biden’s Philadelphia speech is to segregate and “marginalize” MAGA Republicans.
“By suggesting they are outside of the democratic process, they can safely exclude these ‘extremists’ from the democratic process. They can be censored, they can be disenfranchised, if they are labeled as ‘domestic terrorists,’ they can be jailed.”
Finley stated that when politicians decide what is and is not democracy it provides them with cover to pursue their own interests outside of the democratic process. Finley calls this “democratism.”
“It’s democracy as they see it, and it doesn’t necessarily incorporate any actual elements of popular rule. They can even do away with the pretense that they are working toward democracy and that their actions are part of the democratic process.”
By declaring themselves arbiters of democracy, politicians can create extrajudicial authority for themselves, according to Finley.
“They can censor, they can collude with big tech to censor, and they don’t even have to worry about being accused of a First Amendment violation because so many of the elites are in on this understanding of democracy. There is almost an unspoken agreement that certain voices can be marginalized and silenced and can be excluded.”
“They have a very particular idea about normative politics in mind,” said Finley, referring to the political class and the media, which she says explains why it appears that there is collaboration.
“This ideology is like the air that we breathe. There is such a widespread understanding of democracy as democratism instead of actual popular rule; the understanding of that is so wide and deep in western society now there doesn’t need to be someone telling them how to interpret events,” Finley said.
“They hold certain assumptions on social issues. They have certain assumptions about human nature, about biology, about social organization, about gender. They have preconceived ideas about what society should look like and so the vision they have in mind, to them, is considered the democracy that we should be striving toward. So, whenever the electorate goes in the opposite direction from what they think is true democracy, then they will find ways to label that opposition as ‘anti-democratic.’”
The White House Press office did not return calls for comment.