Screenshot from the report.
The day after the killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl—an antifascist activist who appeared to admit to killing a militia member at a pro-Trump rally in Portland in September—one of the very police departments in Washington State involved with his killing issued an intelligence report to local police about the shooting. The report, in part, decries “ANTIFA” as a dangerous threat.
“Law enforcement agents in Washington State killed a suspect in Lacey on Thursday night in the shooting death of a right-wing activist (Patriot Prayer) in Portland, Ore., last week, the latest development in the protests and counter-demonstrations that have escalated tensions in the city and drawn the nation’s attention,” reads a Pierce County police intelligence bulletin provided to officers in the region. (Pierce County Sheriff’s Department was one of the agencies involved in the shooting.)
“Mr. Reinoehl’s death is also playing out during a broader confrontation between opposing visions for the nation, as protesters demanding racial justice clash with right-wing activists on the streets in events that have become increasingly politicized ahead of the presidential election.” The report is clear that local police should be on high alert at protests, and describes Washington and Oregon as hotbeds for terrorism. A portion of the bulletin that presumably gives more information about Reinoehl’s killing is redacted; police cited an active investigation.
In the bulletin, Antifa, a largely disorganized group of antifascists, is listed alongside threats about ISIS and a white supremacist terror organization.
“The anarchist and ANTIFA connections go up and down the I-5 corridor from Seattle to Portland,” it reads. “Officers are encouraged to remain vigilant when assigned to public and gatherings, especially when counter-protest activity is present. Officers should attempt to identify indicators that a protest is deteriorating into rioting, looting, or a conflict between protest and counter-protest movements.”
The report, obtained by Motherboard using a freedom of information request, is marked as “LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY,” and was apparently intended to be kept away from the public and the media: “THIS DOCUMENT OR ANY SEGMENT THEREOF, MAY NOT BE RELEASED TO ANY MEDIA SOURCES,” a disclaimer reads.
The document gives more insight into how police look at the current Black Lives Matter protests, and how even local police believe their role is to stamp out terrorism. The document itself is quite interesting, in that it contains a lot of information that might be useful to cops. It includes, for example, links to articles about cybersecurity best practices, explains that cops likely shouldn’t be worried about terrorists who have been released from prison after serving their sentences, and has a link to a series of articles about organized crime. As far as law enforcement documents go, it appears to attempt to be fair: It explains that most recent protests have been peaceful and that at one specific protest, police should “anticipate … that none of the aggressive type actions or activity will occur during this event.”
And yet, when it comes to Antifa, there are still highly unrealistic levels of paranoia ascribed to antifascist activism—a decentralized political movement, with no clear entity pulling the strings of activists across the world—by law enforcement which increasingly describes it in the same breath as prolific terror groups that regularly carry out attacks.
One section of the document explains that “though followers of Antifa frequently profess extreme beliefs and willfully engage in violence in furtherance of those beliefs, some security professionals argue that the depiction of Antifa as a terror organization is inaccurate. Without a clear and defined membership apparatus, identifiable leadership, and/or financing mechanisms, they contend that Antifa is not an organization; rather it is a loose network of individuals who commonly employ violence. Nevertheless, specific violent acts perpetrated by individuals to further political, social, or ideological objectives can satisfy some widely accepted definitions of terrorism.”
Prepared in part with intelligence gleaned from the Department of Homeland Security and an FBI counterterrorism initiative, it describes the many Black Lives Matter protests in the region as “peaceful gatherings” but that some have “escalated into violence” with protesters smashing windows and damaging local businesses.
It’s at that point the report takes a major leap and links those protests with the killing of an anarchist in Tacoma last year who was armed with a rifle and throwing Molotov cocktails at an ICE detention facility, then subsequently gunned down.
“And not to forget when Willem Van Spronsen, an anarchist and anti-fascist from Washington who was fatally shot by police on July 13  while trying to set a fire with incendiary devices during an attack at an ICE detention center in Tacoma,” reads the bulletin. “Van Spronsen was armed with a rifle and threw ‘lit objects’ at buildings and vehicles in the parking lot of the Northwest Detention Center.”
Another warning found inside the bulletin describes an arrested antifascist activist in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who police say went by the moniker ‘Commander Red,’ as a “violent Antifa member who incites violence in otherwise relatively peaceful protests.”
The general tone of the bulletin gives a glimpse into how local police forces are fed hyperbolic information about antifascists, conflating a movement that is broadly understood by experts and the current FBI director to be a loosely organized group of people who oppose fascism with specific, organized far-right groups and centralized terror networks like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
But recent words from President Trump, who has vowed to designate “Antifa” a terrorist organization, and Attorney General William Barr, who is intent on prosecuting antifascist activists in droves, has increased the national perception the protests demanding racial equality across the U.S. are in fact a leftist insurrection.