Top congressional Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are pushing new laws to stamp out "domestic terrorism." But they're targeting only right-wing organizations. If rioters are looting and setting fires for a leftist cause, that's OK.
President Joe Biden's newly appointed attorney general, Merrick Garland, labels the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol invasion as "domestic terror," but refuses to apply the same term to the left-wing rioters who attacked the Portland federal courthouse last summer.
The Democrats' efforts to label only right-leaning groups as domestic terrorists is un-American. The First Amendment guarantees that we can join any political group we like, as long as we don't commit a crime.
If protesters attack a courthouse, assault cops or loot stores, there are enough laws on the books to punish them. And offenders should get the same treatment, whether they identify with antifa or the Proud Boys.
Tell that to Schumer. He introduced a Senate resolution calling on the FBI and intelligence community to examine the leadership and membership of right-wing groups and "prioritize the investigation and prosecution of such groups."
Schumer's proposal is dangerous. Belonging to an ideological group — far left or far right — isn't a crime in the U.S. You can be a Nazi, a Marxist, a member of the Proud Boys or any other despicable movement. The FBI's job is to investigate violent crimes, not ideology. It doesn't designate certain groups as domestic terrorists, though Schumer's resolution is suggesting they do that.
Schumer also promises to fast-track the proposed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021, a bill that calls for law enforcement "monitoring" of right-wing groups. You could become a target by interacting with such a group, even if you don't commit a crime.
The same bill would stiffen penalties for lawbreakers motivated by political beliefs the authorities don't approve of. Picture jails filled with right-wing protesters serving long sentences when Democrats are in power and vice-versa. Welcome to Putin-ville.
In the past, the U.S. has dealt effectively with extremist violence. In the 1970s, lefties from the Animal Liberation Front attacked animal testing facilities. The Symbionese Liberation Army committed murders and robbed banks. The individuals who committed the crimes were punished, but the federal government didn't designate the groups as terrorists or criminalize belonging to them.
Now, Democrats claim a right-wing threat justifies drastic action. The Washington Post says "domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right."
That's untrue. The Washington Post cites a report from the highly woke Center for Strategic and International Studies, which recorded 73 "far-right" violent incidents with two resulting deaths in 2020, compared with 25 leftist incidents with one resulting death. The numbers are minuscule, and the comparison between left and right incidents is meaningless because CSIS didn't count many of the violent events during last year's nationwide unrest after George Floyd's death.
During that riots, as many as 700 law enforcement officials were injured and property damage reached $2 billion. That shows leftist protesters, often acting with impunity, are a major threat.
Tell that to Garland.
In May 2020, as rioters were attacking public buildings in Portland and Minneapolis, Garland's predecessor, William Barr, deplored the attacks as "domestic terrorism" and named left-wing groups such as antifa.
But in a Senate hearing this February, Garland refused to call burning the Portland courthouse domestic terrorism. People are more likely to call something terrorism when they disagree with the ideology of the perpetrators.
Therein lies the danger. Even the ACLU and some Democratic lawmakers oppose a domestic terrorism law.
It's not needed to keep the peace. What's needed is a clear message that if protesters resort to looting, assaulting police or destroying public buildings, then they'll be punished, no matter how just their cause.
That's the opposite of California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters' message to Minneapolis protesters early Sunday, when she urged them to be "more confrontational." Yet, in Congress, she's exhorting federal investigators to shut down right-wing protesters.
Waters' hypocrisy shows how dangerous a domestic terrorism law would be.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of "The Next Pandemic," available at Amazon.com. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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