Jason Rantz: I was inside Antifa riots in Tacoma -- this is what I saw
Having a front-row seat for the anarchy was equal parts scary and tense
Antifa violence and chaos made its journey to Tacoma, Wash., on Sunday evening January 24, just a 40 minute drive south of Seattle in the state’s third largest city.
Several hours later, the radicals destroyed the storefronts of local businesses, smashed cars, tried to break fencing around the local jail with demands prisoners be set free, torched an American flag, and threatened to kill cops.
This was inevitable.
The "direct action," code word activist’s violent rampages, won’t stop in Tacoma or even the Pacific Northwest, a hotbed of this criminal activism.
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After months of ignoring, downplaying, or even justifying left-wing violence, these radical, criminal activists feel empowered. Can you blame them? They’re seeing policy wins, while avoiding serious consequences for their criminality.
The latest "peaceful protest" was instigated by a dramatic, viral video showing a Tacoma Police officer driving out of a mob of people that swarmed his patrol SUV. He was responding to calls about a crowd of about 100 who assembled to watch drivers illegally run doughnuts and burnouts.
The moment the officer pulled in, the mob of mostly young adults swarmed him, pounding on the hood of the car and his windows. The officer, a nearly 30-year-veteran of the department, was threatened. He tried to reverse, but police say he was blocked in.
After warning the crowd with his siren and horn, they wouldn’t stop. He drove through them, running over one male, knocking over several others. When he retreated to safety, he called for medics. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured.
Antifa and other anti-police activists immediately declared Tacoma would become the next flashpoint. They organized on Twitter and Facebook, cancelled another planned protest for that Sunday, and assembled in Downtown Tacoma.
I was there for the entire march and riot. Having a front-row seat for the anarchy, when I wasn’t supposed to be there, was equal parts scary and tense.
About 150 activists dressed in black bloc, to protect their identity and evade arrest, met at Frost Park and quickly occupied the intersection. These were mostly Seattle-area Antifa activists who made the drive down. There were some Portland activists in the crowd as well. I recognized many of them from Seattle events.
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They dragged trash bins and street signs into the intersection and started a bonfire with whatever trash they could find. After leaders riled up the mob, they started to march. And when Antifa marches, their goal is to be loud, intimidating, and destructive. They lived up to their promise.
When the group stopped near a bail bonds office, several Antifa thugs smashed the windows with weapons they brought from home: I saw a pipe and a crowbar. They tagged the property with anti-police messages and tipped over trash bins onto the street nearby.
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As they marched towards the Pierce County district court, a man maniacally shattered the windows and doorway of South Sound 911. Staffers inside had to be evacuated. At the courthouse, more of the same: plenty of smashed windows, including to cars in the parking lot.
They made a stop at Pierce County Corrections where the radicals tried pulling down fencing, chanting demands that the prisoners be released.
As they passed homes, the mob shined flashlights on residents who looked through their windows, curious about the commotion.
They’d chant, "Out of your homes, and into the streets!" demanding the neighbors join them. But they didn’t. In fact, the locals mostly shouted at the Antifa mob, scolding them for trashing their neighborhood. Even some in the mob left, upset with the vandalism.
"I’m not going to jail for this," one woman said and she left with a friend.
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The marchers would routinely stop to allow vandals to spray paint anti-police messages and anarchist symbols on street signs and poles, businesses, and sidewalks. They were surrounded by activists who use umbrellas to shield them from video or photos.
It’s not safe for media members to join the mob. Most stay far behind or only cover the destruction once the mob leaves.
If you have a camera out, you will be harassed, blocked, and likely assaulted. In fact, if you get too close and they think you’re filming with your cell phone, you’re threatened, then likely assaulted.
I was in with the mob and tried to blend in. But there are coordinated harassment efforts on Twitter to protect Antifa thugs and weed out media outsiders.
An activist "journalist" based in Portland named Griffin Malone tweeted an image of me, saying I was "in Tacoma tonight recording crowds."
Immediately, activists retweeted and tagged area-accounts to alert them. The intent seems clear: I could expose the criminals, so I was a threat. The same happened to a YouTuber who fled the mob for safety.
Malone boasts his work has been picked up by PBS, ABC and NBC. I wonder if they know he identifies media members for harassment -- a charge he denies.
Police were absent for most of the night, but around 9:45pm they finally advanced and ordered the mob to disperse.
They ignored the orders at first. Instead, Antifa shouted insults and threats, burned American and Blue Lives Matter flags, and flaunted their lawlessness.
Soon, however, they got tired and didn’t want to risk arrest. There were no more windows to break, businesses to destroy, messages to tag. Just after 10pm, the majority of the crowd dispersed.
For residents of Seattle and Portland, these riots and marauding marches happen nightly. But other cities in and out of the Pacific Northwest are starting to realize they’re not immune to the mob.
The criminal activism continues to spread because Democrat politicians mostly refuse to condemn it. In fact, rather than punish rioters, they’re rewarded.
After violent and deadly actions to defund the police, the Seattle City Council did just that, cutting the Seattle Police Department by nearly 20% in late 2020, with promises to cut more in 2021.
They even vowed to specifically fire white officers, a dubious and almost certainly illegal attempt to maintain a diverse police force.
The budget cuts also came in Portland and Minneapolis. And Democratic city or district attorneys have standing policies that refuse charges for most "protest" related arrests. If you vandalize property, you’ll almost certainly see no meaningful punishment.
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Many Democrats support the underlying ideology that informs the riots, so they are reticent to condemn the movement. Some don’t want activists turning their attention to their campaigns and threatening their power, and, at least in 2020, the movement was seen as politically beneficial in their efforts to defeat President Donald Trump. Some of the rioters also happen to be a part of their base.
There’s also little reason to believe the Biden administration and the Democrat Party will take the threat seriously on a national level. At most, you’ll get some empty condemnation, which White House press secretary Jen Psaki reluctantly offered after a second day of questioning.
If Democrats were truly interested in ending the scourge of political violence, recognizing the destructive actions Antifa seems like a good start.
The radicals organize out in the open over Twitter and Facebook and declare their intentions to wreak havoc. They show up to protests-turned-riots in black bloc uniforms, wave flags, and quite literally chant "Antifa!" They’re not hard to find. More alarmingly, they have no qualms using violence to attain their radical political agenda. It’s the textbook definition of domestic terrorism.
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But Democrat’s interest in domestic terrorism is singularly focused on right-wing extremism. Democrats are already using the January 6 Capitol riot to justify an assault on conservatives: there are threats to monitor Trump supporters, purging conservatives from social media, and declarations that 74 million voters were radicalized and in need of deprogramming.
In other words, the issue is being politicized. That gives Antifa and the violent actions of other like-minded radicals a pass. It also guarantees the violence won’t just continue, it will spread.
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