Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is aiming to highlight the role Antifa and like-minded groups are playing in riots across the country, convening a Senate hearing Tuesday on the issue while alleging that radical left-wing groups are engaging in "organized terror attacks" designed to tear down government institutions.
“Across the country, we’re seeing horrific violence, we’re seeing our country torn apart. Violent anarchists and Marxists are exploiting protests to transform them into riots and direct assaults on the lives and safety of their fellow Americans,” Cruz told Fox News in an interview.
On Tuesday, Cruz will chair a hearing of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution to investigate groups such as Antifa, which, while active for years, have recently escalated their presence in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody. The hearing is called "The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence.”
Speakers will include Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, journalist Andy Ngo and law professor Jonathan Turley. It comes after two months of protests and violent riots hit downtown Portland, where rioters have attacked the Hatfield Courthouse and clashed with federal law enforcement protecting it.
As part of his opening statement, Cruz will play a video to the committee that shows peaceful protests led by civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., and contrasts them with the violence committed by Antifa and similar groups.
"These violent riots are not spontaneous, nor are they mere coincidences. Instead, the evidence suggests they are organized terror attacks designed to instill fear and tear down the fundamental institutions of government. This hearing is designed to understand who is driving the violence, who is driving the assaults, who is driving the murders, and what their objective is,” Cruz said.
Law enforcement in Portland were blinded by lasers, assaulted and doxed online. But local and state officials backed the protesters and accused the Trump administration of having escalated the situation with their presence, as well as "kidnapping" protesters. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and DHS came to an agreement late last month on a phased withdrawal for law enforcement, conditional on the courthouse being protected.
But Portland is one of a number of cities that have been hit by unrest amid broader protests, some of them peaceful, since the death of George Floyd in May. Cruz asserts that the violence is not a natural offshoot of peaceful protests against police brutality -- and he wants to get to the bottom of who is responsible.
"The hearing will assess who is driving the violence, who is driving the assaults, who is driving the fires, who is driving the explosions, who is driving the murders, why are they doing so, how are they doing so and what do they hope to achieve through violent acts of terror?" he told Fox News.
As well as Antifa, Cruz also wants the hearing to look at Black Lives Matter. He makes a distinction between the statement “black lives matter,” which he calls “unquestionably true,” and the organization Black Lives Matter -- which has called for people to “disrupt” the "Western-prescribed nuclear family structure" and defund police departments.
“The actual organization denominated Black Lives Matter was created by avowed Marxists pursuing a radical agenda including defunding police departments across the country and that agenda, if implemented, would have the consequence of a great many more Black lives being lost,” Cruz said.
The hearing comes after Cruz last month introduced the RECLAIM Act which would hold state and local officials liable for private property damage caused by rioters if those officials had given a stand-down order to police or had allowed rioters to establish an “autonomous zone” as happened recently in Seattle
Cruz says he hopes there is common ground with the Democratic minority in the Senate: “All of us should be able to come together and say ‘don't assault other Americans, don't burn their homes or businesses to the ground, don’t murder police officers.’”
However, he notes that a number of Democrats, both locally and nationally, have criticized the actions of law enforcement in places like Portland. Oregon’s Democratic congressional delegation demanded investigations into federal activity while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called officers “stormtroopers” -- a remark that outraged Cruz and others.
“When Nancy Pelosi calls federal law enforcement officers stormtroopers and that is a term that hearkens back to Nazi Germany, when she wrongfully alleges that they are kidnapping Americans, that is a grotesque lie, and a slander and it endangers the lives of law enforcement,” he said.
“It reflects the very unfortunate political determination that a lot of Democrats have made -- that given the choice between standing with innocent Americans or violent terrorists seeking to hurt their fellow citizens, to date too many of them have stood with terrorists,” he said.