The FBI is investigating far-left Antifa radicals linked to violent attacks around the country, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told Congress on Thursday.
Mr. Wray was asked his views on whether Antifa, a leftist radical group that has triggered violent attacks in several U.S. cities, is an organized group.
“We consider Antifa to be more of a movement,” Mr. Wray said during an appearance before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “There are certainly local and regional nodes, individuals who self-identify with Antifa who commit violent attacks, citing that as their motivation. And we have a number of predicated investigations into such individuals.”
Antifa, he added “is a real thing. It is not a fiction.”
Mr. Wray‘s remarks appeared to step back from earlier comments suggesting the group was less of a threat. Last year, Mr. Wray testified that Antifa was viewed by the FBI as more an “ideology than an organization.”
“We take anarchist, violent extremism, much of which associates with the Antifa movement extremely seriously,” Mr. Wray said later in the hearing, adding that “it is something we investigate very aggressively.”
The number of investigations into Antifa violence “dramatically increased” over the past three years, Mr. Wray said, without elaborating.
“Last year we had more arrests in the anarchist/extremist space than in the past three years combined,” he said.
The lack of organization and structure of the group “does not mean that they are any less dangerous, or less threatening,” he said.
Antifa radicals have been spotted at protests in Minnesota over the recent apparent accidental shooting death of Daunte Wright by now-resigned police officer Kimberly Potter.
The shadowy Antifa radicals often are dressed in black hoodies and backpacks and in some cases helmets. They often carry shields that have been used in often violent protests.
Many of the Antifa protests took place last summer following the death of George Floyd in police custody, when Minneapolis was set ablaze by rioters.
Antifa radicals espouse anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and anti-state views while adhering to a number of left-wing and communist ideologies. The group was especially active in opposing the Trump administration. Antifa radicals also used violent protests to oppose conservative speakers on college campuses and elsewhere.
Beginning in January, the FBI shifted a large amount of its investigators and investigative resources into probing the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The FBI has made scores of arrests and has resorted to social media to appeal for help from the public in identifying rioters at the Capitol.
Critics have charged the FBI has not devoted the same emphasis on investigating Antifa, a group that has terrorized several cities with violent attacks on government buildings and in the case of Portland, Oregon, created a police-free “autonomous zone” that sought to carve out a sovereign enclave.
Asked by Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio Republican, whether Antifa as an organization is engaged in coordinated training, financing, directions and logistics in conducting its attacks, Mr. Wray said: “We have seen individual instances in small regional nodes of people coming together to train in some cases.”
Antifa, however, has no major national structure, relying instead on local nodes for its operations, Mr. Wray said.
Mr. Wray said the FBI is probing into how the movement is financed but declined to provide details.
“That’s something we continue to investigate,” he said.
Mr. Turner said Antifa members have been deployed for protests throughout the United States.
“We’ve seen them burning federal buildings, self-professed members claiming to be members of Antifa,” he said.