Cruz kept mentioning Democrats’ failure to condemn a murder that was actually carried out by the far right — and refused to be corrected.
On Tuesday afternoon, with Congress still failing to agree on an urgent pandemic relief package, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, brought together a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee to propagandize. Instead of helping the pandemic-stricken, Cruz chaired an hourslong spectacle of a hearing designed to peddle misleading narratives about anarchists and anti-fascists.
If the propagandistic title of the hearing — “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence” — wasn’t enough to show his aims, Cruz’s own comments made clear the proceedings’ purpose as political theater. In a telling moment, Cruz twice chastised his Democratic colleagues for praising peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters while failing to condemn “antifa” and the “terrorists” who killed a federal security officer, Dave Patrick Underwood, during a May protest in Oakland. Cruz’s implication was clear: The left killed Underwood.
Right-wing extremists have carried out 329 murders since 1994. In the same period, a grand total of zero murders have been attributed to antifa participants.
Yet Underwood was killed by a member of the far right — one of 329 murders carried out by right-wing extremists since 1994.
In the same period, a grand total of zero murders have been attributed to antifa participants.
The political affiliations of the man charged in Underwood’s murder have been public knowledge for nearly two months. The alleged killer, Air Force Sgt. Steve Carillo, who also killed another federal officer during the premeditated ambush, is an open adherent of the boogaloo movement, which is aimed at hastening a second civil war.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pointed out Cruz’s error after the Texas Republican’s first mention of Underwood, noting that the killer was on the far right. This did not stop Cruz raising the killing again later in the hearing, once again within the context of a blustering speech about antifa.
The hearing was just the latest stage for baseless overtures on the threat of the far left. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, made numerous attempts to change the afternoon’s focus onto a more worthy target — deadly white supremacist violence — to little avail.
For the government to ignore white supremacist violence and focus instead on the far left is nothing new. The Intercept reported last month, based on leaked law enforcement documents, that while the Trump administration has sought to demonize and target antifa, reports amassed of deadly white supremacist violence and substantive threats — including to the police themselves.
Not that the police should be let off the hook for the right’s pernicious priorities. U.S. law enforcement has an unbroken history of deprioritizing, if not outright aiding, white supremacist movements. During Tuesday’s unnecessary hearing, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox said that she was overseeing a task force to investigate current anti-government threats, which was not focused on white supremacists.
One of the few voices of reason throughout the afternoon, Michael German, a former FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism who is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, noted the “sensationalized” focus on the far left has “distracted from focus on the deadly threats” posed by the far right. “As a matter of policy, far-right violence is deprioritized,” German said.
In line with German’s criticism, the hearing proceeded with paranoiac speeches about the tactics of anti-racist, anti-fascist protesters. Acting Deputy Secretary of of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli discussed protesters using laser pointers and small projectiles, like frozen water bottles, against brutal federal agents in Portland, Oregon. He spoke as if he was describing weapons of mass destruction when he said that demonstrators were taking up “the oldest weapon in history” — rocks.
Meanwhile, as German previously told The Intercept, on the far right “you have these heavily armed groups right there, who have a much more direct and lengthy history of violence than anything antifa or anarchist-involved does.”
The only member of the media called to testify was right-wing provocateur Andy Ngo. Ngo spoke of the long history of antifa organizing in Portland, but unsurprisingly omitted the most obvious reason for it: In recent years, Portland has become an epicenter of far-right violence, to which anti-fascist action is a rightful response.
Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy also testified as an alleged expert on the nature of antifa as an organization of international terrorism, drawing comparisons to Al Qaeda. As Hirono pointed out at the hearing, the Center for Security Policy is designated by the Southern Policy Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group. Only one witness identified as an anti-fascist and a participant in the ongoing anti-racist protests for Black lives, Nkenge Harmon Johnson of the Portland Urban League; she was asked no questions by the committee after her brief statement in support of the movement. Cruz, meanwhile, gave Shideler extra speaking time to defend his hate group against criticism.
Cruz closed the proceedings with a frenzied tirade about the dangers of Black Lives Matter — purported criticisms that bear no repeating. Suffice it to say that Cruz, a racist police apologist, is no fan of Black liberation icons like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur.
Yet — and there’s no surprise here — Senate Democrats at the hearing did no favors to the ongoing uprisings either. Hirono may have made welcome reference to the scourge of white supremacist violence, but she also dismissed the serious and reasonable demand to defund the police at the center of the protests. “Who takes that literally?” she said, “I certainly don’t.” Such are the establishment powers against which anarchists, among many others, have good reason to act.