The son of Minnesota’s attorney general declared his support for Antifa in response to President Trump’s announcement that his administration would seek to designate it a ‘terrorist organization' as the state's top prosecutor is tapped to lead the prosecution of the officer involved in the death of George Floyd.
Jeremiah Ellison, a Minneapolis city councilman and the son of State Attorney General Keith Ellison, tweeted on Sunday: ‘I hereby declare, officially, my support for ANTIFA.
‘Unless someone can prove to me ANTIFA is behind the burning of black and immigrant owned businesses in my ward, I’ll keep focusing on stopping the white power terrorist THE ARE ACTUALLY ATTACKING US!’
Ellison's tweet was in response to Trump's announcement about Antifa.
'The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,' the president tweeted earlier on Sunday.
Minneapolis City Councilman Jeremiah Ellison (left) declared his support for Antifa on Sunday in response to President Trump's (right) announcement that his administration would seek to designate the group as a terrorist organization
‘I hereby declare, officially, my support for ANTIFA,' Jeremiah Ellison tweeted. ‘Unless someone can prove to me ANTIFA is behind the burning of black and immigrant owned businesses in my ward, I’ll keep focusing on stopping the white power terrorist THE ARE ACTUALLY ATTACKING US!’
On Saturday, Trump blamed Antifa for violent nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Video of Floyd's arrest shows one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, 44, press his knee onto his neck, cutting off his air supply.
The video of Floyd's arrest, his death, and the local prosecutor's decision to wait several days before arresting Chauvin and then charging him with third-degree murder sparked outrage.
The anger spread across the country as activists and protesters took to the streets of dozens of cities for days-long demonstrations - many of which turned violent.
Looting, arson, vandalism, and destruction of property have been reported, prompting mayors to issue curfews and state governors to call in the National Guard.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz suggested that foreign influences, white supremacists and drug cartels are fueling the chaos.
'It's ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don't lay the blame on others!' Trump said in a tweet on Saturday, referring to the militant far-left movement, short for 'anti-fascism', that is known for violence.
Echoing the president, Attorney General Bill Barr said on Saturday that 'the voices of peaceful protest are being hijacked by radical elements'.
Ellison is the son of Keith Ellison (above), Minnesota's attorney general
'Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,' Barr said in an on-camera statement.
'In many places it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and far-left extremist groups using antifa-like tactics.'
'It is a federal crime to cross state lines or use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting and we will enforce those laws,' he added, saying that the FBI, US Marshals, DEA, ATF and US Attorney's Offices would fully support local and state law enforcement in restoring order and cracking down on violence.
In an attempt to calm anger from critics, Walz has asked Keith Ellison, to oversee the investigation and prosecution of Chauvin.
There are also growing calls from Floyd's family and others to charge the three other police officers with crimes.
'We are going to bring to bear all the resources necessary to achieve justice in this case,' Ellison said in response.
Walz’s unusual decision to put Ellison in the lead was a win for local civil rights activists, who say the longtime prosecutor does not have the trust of the black community needed to handle a case that has sparked widespread unrest and a national focus on racism in the criminal justice system.
Ellison, who was a vocal progressive congressman before winning state office in 2018, has the experience and community confidence for the job, Walz told reporters Sunday.
WHAT IS THE ANTI-FASCIST MOVEMENT (ANTIFA)
The anti-fascist protest movement known as antifa gained new prominence in the United States after the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, in August 2017.
In Charlottesville and at many subsequent events held by white supremacists or right-wing extremists, antifa activists have aggressively confronted what they believe to be authoritarian movements and groups.
While most counter-protestors tend to be peaceful, there have been several instances where encounters between antifa and the far-right have turned violent.
The antifa sometimes use a logo with a double flag, usually in black and red
These violent counter-protesters are often part of 'antifa' (short for 'antifascist'), a loose collection of groups, networks and individuals who believe in active, aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements. Their ideology is rooted in the assumption that the Nazi party would never have been able to come to power in Germany if people had more aggressively fought them in the streets in the 1920s and 30s.
Most antifa come from the anarchist movement or from the far left, though since the 2016 presidential election, some people with more mainstream political backgrounds have also joined their ranks.
The antifa sometimes use a logo with a double flag, usually in black and red. The antifa movement began in the 1960s in Europe, and had reached the US by the end of the 1970s. Most people who show up to counter or oppose white supremacist public events are peaceful demonstrators, but when antifa show up, as they frequently do, they can increase the chances that an event may turn violent.
Antifa have expanded their definition of fascist/fascism to include not just white supremacists and other extremists, but also many conservatives and supporters of President Trump.
Because there is no unifying body for antifa, it is impossible to know how many 'members' are currently active. Different localities have antifa populations of different strengths, but antifa are also sometimes willing to travel hundreds of miles to oppose a white supremacist event.
Source: Anti-Defamation League
'Keith Ellison, our attorney general of Minnesota, needs to lead this case,' Walz said, adding that he made the decision after talking to the Floyd family.
'They wanted the system to work for them. They wanted to believe that there was trust, and they wanted to believe that the facts would be heard and justice would be served.'
Walz made the announcement shortly after Freeman released a statement saying he asked Ellison to 'assist' him in the case in a 'joint effort.'
'There have been recent developments in the facts of the case where the help and expertise of the Attorney General would be valuable,' Freeman said.
Chauvin, 44, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Three other officers who were involved have not been charged, though Freeman and Ellison have said additional charges are possible.
Floyd’s death has triggered calls for police reforms, peaceful protests, as well destruction and violence in Minneapolis and cities across the country.
Ellison, who is black, said he and Freeman, who is white, will be working together. Both men have sought to set expectations in a case certain to be closely scrutinized.
Keith Ellison's office will oversee the prosecution of Derek Chauvin (above), the Minneapolis police officer who dug his knee into George Floyd's neck on Monday evening
Floyd's (pictured) heartbroken family have called for Chauvin to be charged with a more serious crime than third-degree murder
'Let me also note a dose of reality, prosecuting police officers for misconduct, including homicide, murder, is very difficult,' Ellison said Sunday.
'We'll come under attack as we present this case to a jury or a fact finder. And we need to make sure that we are absolutely prepared. We intend to be absolutely prepared.'
Calling in an outside prosecutor is extremely rare, and typically only reserved for cases in which the prosecuting office has a conflict of interest.
The move followed days of criticism from activists, who view Freeman as part of the system they want reformed.
He served as Hennepin County attorney in the 1990s and was elected to the post again in 2006.
While leading the office, he has charged only one officer in a fatal shooting — and that was in the case of Mohamed Noor, a black officer who killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was white.
It took four days for Freeman to bring charges against Chauvin, a delay criticized by activists.
More than 100 people gathered outside Freeman’s home Sunday, calling for a special prosecutor, the arrests of all four officers and for Freeman’s resignation.
'We want somebody who’s on our side. Mike Freeman is not on our side,' said Sharaunta Beach, a protester.
'We have to have people who are for the truth and what’s right.'
In a letter to Walz, Ellison and Freeman, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Sunday that having Freeman investigate the police, which his office works with daily, 'fosters distrust and suspicion in the community.'
The letter urged that the case be transferred to Ellison’s office, where an attorney qualified to handle such cases could be appointed.
The death of Floyd ignited nationwide protests and rioting. The image above shows a crowd of protesters outside the White House late on Sunday
'Doing so would send a strong message to the community that a third party ... will vigorously pursue justice and police accountability,' Minnesota ACLU president John Gordon wrote.
Several Minneapolis City Council members also called on Walz to appoint Ellison, who as attorney general helped form a working group on reducing police-involved deadly force incidents.
But Ellison also has a national political profile likely to draw partisan criticism. He rose to national prominence as the first Muslim elected to Congress and served as deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
After he decided to run for attorney general, an ex-girlfriend accused him of abuse, saying he dragged her off a bed during an argument.
An investigation commissioned by Minnesota Democrats ruled the accusation was 'unsubstantiated.'
As Ellison was discussed for the Floyd case, a January 2018 tweet resurfaced, showing a picture of him holding up the book 'Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.'
Ellison tweeted that the book would strike fear in the heart of President Donald Trump.
Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.
Federal officials have suggested the group may be involved in the wave of protests this week.
When asked about that on Sunday, Ellison said: 'It means nothing. I was in a bookstore. I saw a book. And I think it’s just a complete diversion.'
It’s not clear whether Ellison’s involvement will quiet the concerns of activists.
Before news that Ellison would take the lead on the case, Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights activist and former head of the Minneapolis NAACP, was among those calling for a special prosecutor, but she did not endorse Ellison for the job.
Criminal justice reforms were not his priority when he was a congressman in Minneapolis’ 5th District, she said.
'There needs to be a completely independent special prosecutor,' she said.