Democrat presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden refused to identify Antifa as an organized and funded group when pressed on the subject during the first presidential debate last night in Cleveland, Ohio.
Biden, who was slow to condemn the violence fomented by the protests that took place after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, instead cherry-picked comments made by FBI director Christopher Wray that Antifa is an “idea.”
“Antifa is an idea, not an organization,” Biden said after President Trump called out Antifa as a chief source of organized violence in many of the troubled cities across the United States.
BIDEN: "Antifa is an idea, not an organization."
TRUMP: "Oh, you gotta be kidding me!" pic.twitter.com/CnYbeBpj0j
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) September 30, 2020
The exchanged prompted moderator Chris Wallace to challenge the President on condemning what the Left perceives as right-wing extremist groups and in particular the “Proud Boys,” who have shown up recently at protests around the county to counter the presence of Antifa and violent members of the Black Lives Matter organization.
When asked by Wallace, who appeared to be running interference for Biden on the matter, if the President would call on the Proud Boys and other perceived right-wing groups to cease violence in the streets, Trump responded in the affirmative: “stand back and stand by.”
PROUD BOYS – STAND BY
– President Trump pic.twitter.com/sXdLru2xPq
— Harrison Hill Smith ✞ (@Harrison_of_TX) September 30, 2020
In testimony before a congressional committee earlier this month, Wray said Antifa was a “real thing” and that the FBI was engaged in “any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would describe as violent anarchist extremists,” including into subjects who identify with Antifa.
Wray stated at one point that Antifa wasn’t “a group or an organization. It’s a movement or an ideology.” But he also said those who identify as the Antifa movement were “coalescing regionally into what you might describe as small groups or nodes.”
President Trump insisted that Wray’s declaration that Antifa is not an organization was “wrong.”
While Antifa activists don’t often formally band together under a central organization branded “Antifa,” they use social media and messaging apps to maintain a cohesive focus from coast to coast while finding support in a loose network of organizations that require investigative effort to trace.
Attorney General William Barr has stated on several occasions that he has “talked to every police chief in every city where there has been major violence and they all have identified Antifa as the ramrod for the violence.”