A new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence wing has likened certain types of political protests to “domestic terrorism,” and specifically outlined anger at President Donald Trump’s election as a driving force.
The document, obtained by the Intercept, was prepared by the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC) and DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A) with a particular focus on North Carolina. The document comes as Republicans in at least 18 different states have proposed anti-protest bills that seek to criminalize protesters engaging in property destruction and blocking highways, among other forms of protest.
The analysis focuses on acts described as “election-related physical and cyber incidents against political institutions,” and cited incidents that occurred in North Carolina in response to the 2016 presidential election. It draws specifically on acts of dissent targeting the GOP. For example, the report cited an arson attack that targeted a Republican office in October, as well as spray paint on a building across from the GOP office that read, “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.”
As reported by the Intercept, the DHS analysis did not mention graffiti on a wall in Durham that read, “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does Your Votes,” and also made no mention of a Democratic office in Carrboro that was spray painted with the words “Death to Capitalism.”
The report argued that the political violence will likely “decrease through the first half of 2017,” noting this is likely due to the “lack of threat reporting and the completion of the Presidential election and the near completion of political transitions in federal and state governments.”
Strikingly, the report follows the mobilization of various resistance tactics in recent months, including property damage during inauguration day protests in Washington, D.C. as well as an anti-Trump protest in Portland in November, which law enforcement dubbed as a “riot.” The DHS report cited both as examples of “domestic terrorist violence” driven by “anger over the results of the 2016 Presidential election.”
“The issue of what is counted as political violence and what isn’t, this is a longstanding problem,” Mike German told the Intercept. German is a former FBI agent who is now a fellow at the New York University Brennan Center for Justice.
German explained, “Law enforcement agencies have long tended to view vandalism, civil disobedience, or even just protest against government institutions as more serious than actual violence against marginalized populations. That’s why crimes against government property are ‘terrorism’ but crimes against minorities are ‘hate crimes’ at best and ignored at worst.”
The report’s use of language like “domestic terrorism” in these cases is all the more alarming as anti-protest bills make waves in states across the country. The president himself has referred to acts of dissent as enacted by “paid protesters” and “professional anarchists.”
“For a fusion center to amplify disorderly conduct, vandalism, or civil disobedience into terrorism is inappropriate, factually wrong, and potentially misleading to law enforcement,” German said.