The claim: 'Not a single' Democrat has condemned violence linked to BLM and antifa
A meme posted to Facebook claims that Democrats have turned a blind eye on violent protests.
“Not a single Democrat has condemned nor called for an end of the BLM and ANTIFA caused violence,” the post reads. “They are aiding and abetting mass violence across the country.”
The text is accompanied by a photo of Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The image was taken by J. Scott Applewhite of the Associated Press June 20, 2018, when Democrats called for an end to family separations at the border with Mexico.
The user who posted the meme did not respond to a request from USA TODAY for comment.
Top Democrats told Black Lives Matter activists to steer clear of violence
Multiple high-profile Democrats have spoken out against violence at Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May.
On May 31, the fifth night of demonstrations, former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee, wrote in a statement that protesting police brutality is “right and necessary” and the “American response."
“But burning down communities and needless destruction is not,” Biden wrote. “Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”
On June 3, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the majority whip of the House of Representatives, told The Washington Post that the movement for racial justice suffers when it is “hijacked” by violence.
"We have to make sure we do not allow ourselves to play the other person’s game,” Clyburn said. “Peaceful protest is our game. Violence is their game. Purposeful protest is our game. This looting and rioting, that's their game. We cannot allow ourselves to play their game."
Clyburn said he encourages young activists to remember the “purpose” of their efforts: “to make a better country, a better world, for those who must come after us.”
“Breaking out a window will not contribute to that. Setting a fire, throwing stones at police officers, that’s destructive behavior, which will not contribute to anything that will make this a better country and make a better future for our children and our grandchildren,” he said.
Black leaders in many communities have echoed these calls, urging protesters not to shift their focus from "justice" to "violence." Some also blamed the violence on "white fringe elements" infiltrating the demonstrations.
And after clashes between protesters and police turned violent in Chicago last weekend, Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there is "no justification for criminal behavior," according to The New York Times.
"There cannot be any excuse for it, period. This was not legitimate First Amendment protected speech," she said. "To those who engaged in this criminal behavior, let's be clear: We are coming for you."
Democrats have condemned antifa violence
It's unclear if anti-fascist activists are responsible for violence committed at protests this summer.
A fact-check from The Washington Post in June found that there was no link between violent protests and antifa. That's in part because "antifa is a moniker, not a single group," so it's difficult to attribute any violence directly to that movement, which is focused on opposition to fascism and racism.
After recent protests in Portland, Oregon, for example, federal prosecutors produced no evidence to link the people arrested to the antifa or anarchist movements, according to Reuters.
Regardless of whether that violence is attributable to anti-fascist activists, the city's Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler recently condemned the actions of some protesters, including attempts to set fire to police union headquarters.
"When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder," he said, according to The Washington Post.
In addition, when there have been clear instances of violence attributed to anti-fascist activists, some Democrats have spoken out against it.
In 2017, Pelosi condemned “the violent actions of people calling themselves antifa" after a protest in Berkley, California, according to The Washington Post.
“Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts,” Pelosi said at the time.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, the claim that "not a single" Democrat has condemned violence at Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protests is FALSE. Top Democrats including Joe Biden and James Clyburn have spoken out against violence at Black Lives Matter demonstrations, as have some leaders of the movement itself.
Our fact-check sources:
- Medium Statement from Joe Biden, May 31, We are a nation furious at injustice.
- Washington Post, June 3, Race in America: A Conversation with House Majority Whip James Clyburn
- Des Moines Register, May 31, 'We're losing the message about justice': Des Moines community leaders fear attention now focused on violence
- Associated Press, July 3, Violence mars Portland protests, frustrates Black community
- New York Times, Aug. 10, Chicago Police Arrest More Than 100 People After Looting Batters Downtown
- Washington Post, June 22, "Who caused the violence at protests? It wasn’t antifa."
- Reuters, Aug. 4, "U.S. prosecutors do not charge Portland protesters with antifa ties"
- Washington Post, Aug. 9, "‘You can’t control people’s anger’: Portland protesters set fire to police union headquarters as tensions rise again"
- Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2017, "Pelosi condemns ‘violent actions’ of antifa protesters"
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Democrats have condemned violence linked to protests