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H.R.6054 - Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018

To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide penalty enhancements for committing certain offenses while in disguise, and for other purposes.

You might favor this bill if:
►  You believe that those who threaten others while masked or disguised in any form of protest should be penalized with up to 15 years in prison.

You might oppose this bill if:
►  You believe that any form of penalization to protesters is a direct infringement of the first amendment. Also, the legislation does not define the term "threatening others," which could leave the legislation open for interpretation.

The Unmasking Antifa Act would penalize those who commit certain offenses, such as threatening or injuring others, while in disguise or masked. Penalties include fines and imprisonment of up to 15 years. Law enforcement officers would not subject to the act, as the bill only targets civilians.

The "Antifa" movement, short for "anti-fascist", is an autonomous movement whose main goal is to harass those whom they identify as fascists, or racists, both online and in real life. According to the BBC, their stated focus is on fighting far-right and white supremacist ideologies directly, rather than politically. The "Antifa" name is an umbrella term for a collection of groups and individuals. It holds no formal organization, membership, or actual leadership and often times organize independently. Often times, Antifa members will wear black masks in demonstrations, and this is exactly what the bill is attacking.

The legislation states, "whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both."

Some worry the legislation could potentially violate first amendment rights and not be specific enough. For instance, even unpopular groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) should be permitted to gather and protest, even masked, under protections of the first amendment, but when does the group "cross the line" and become threatening to others? The legislation is broad and does not really answer the question.

Antifa supporters say the law is aimed directly at them and not at other groups. While the KKK could still be considered a group of "masked individuals who threaten others," they are not named anywhere on the legislation, while groups like Antifa are directly named on the title of the bill.

"This is another draconian measure to actually criminalize dissent in the United States," said Scott Crow, a former Antifa organizer and author. "Because the law, even if it doesn't explicitly state 'leftists who mask up,' that's who the largest potential target of the law is," he said, "far more than white nationalists.”

The far-right has used Antifa as a scapegoats of sorts, attempting to falsely link them with mass-shooting attacks, gang-style attacks, and portraying them as being just as violent as white nationalists. A report from the Anti-Defamation League concluded that the "far-left" is often times less violent than the "far-right."

"Over the past 10 years (2007-2016), domestic extremists of all kinds have killed at least 372 people in the United States. Of those deaths, approximately 74 percent were at the hands of right-wing extremists, about 24 percent of the victims were killed by domestic Islamic extremists, and the remainder were killed by left-wing extremists," said the Anti-Defamation League report.

Rep. Donovan defends his legislation.


Sponsored by: Donovan, Daniel M., Jr. [R-NY-11].

Cosponsored by: 3 Rep / 0 Dem.

See list of cosponsors.

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