At least one big-city mayor is now calling on the federal government to investigate what appears to be an “organized” effort to foment unrest and engage in rioting, as security experts in other cities discover evidence that many of the weekend’s violent incidents may have been pre-planned and coordinated.
In Chicago, mayor Lori Lightfoot told media Sunday that she believes there is “strong evidence” of an organized effort to use the weekend’s anti-police brutality protests as a cover for violence, Crain’s Chicago Business reports, and said the city is speaking with at least three Federal agencies about a possible joint investigation.
“Speaking at an afternoon news conference today with other officials, Lightfoot didn’t say whether the groups are out-of-state left-wing anti-fascist organizations generally known as Antifa, right-wing agitators, local street gangs or something else. She said she’s asked three federal agencies—the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms & Explosives, and the U.S. Attorney’s office—for help, with a focus on AFT’s bomb and arson unit,” the outlet reported late Sunday.
“There is no doubt. This was an organized effort last night,” Lightfoot said in a weekend press conference, referring to Friday’s unrest. “There were clearly efforts to subvert the peaceful process and make it into something violent.”
“There’s no question that both the people who were fighting and brought the weapons, that was absolutely organized and choreographed,” Lightfoot went on. “It seems also clear that the fires that were set, both of the vehicles and buildings, that that was organized and that was opportunistic, as well as the looting.”
Lightfoot, Crain’s says, did not mention any specific incidents but appeared to refer to at least one instance where looters drove a U-Haul vehicle into high-end stores located adjacent to the city’s “Magnificent Mile” shopping district and to what appeared to be the fire-bombing of a camera shop on the city’s near north side.
In New York, terrorism task force officials told an NBC affiliate that there were “strong indicators” that rioters “planned for violence in advance using at times encrypted communications.”
“Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said there is a high level of confidence within the NYPD that these unnamed groups had organized scouts, medics, and supply routes of rocks, bottles, and accelerants for breakaway groups to commit vandalism and violence,” NBC News New York reported Sunday.
Although NYC officials have not named any particular groups they believe are associated with violence, Miller referred to “anarchists” in his briefing.
“Before the protests began, organizers of certain anarchists groups set out to raise bail money and people who would be responsible to be raising bail money, they set out to recruit medics and medical teams with gear to deploy in anticipation of violent interactions with police,” Miller said, per NBC New York. “They prepared to commit property damage and directed people who were following them that this should be done selectively and only in wealthier areas or at high-end stores run by corporate entities.”
Rioters “developed a complex network of bicycle scouts to move ahead of demonstrators in different directions of where police were and where police were not for purposes of being able to direct groups from the larger group to places where they could commit acts of vandalism including the torching of police vehicles and Molotov cocktails where they thought officers would not be,” according to Miller.
At least four people were arrested for throwing Molotov cocktails into police vehicles over the weekend in NYC. Officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, have promised to make information about the weekend’s violence available Monday.
In Minnesota, officials, speaking at a press conference Sunday, said that they’d intercepted several vehicles carrying “flammable materials” as well as “looted goods and weapons,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Officials also reported that law enforcement found “caches” of materials that appear to have been left for rioters to use.
“Earlier Sunday, state officials said several caches of flammable materials were found both in neighborhoods where there have already been fires and ‘in cars we’ve stopped as recently as this morning,’” according to a public safety commissioner. “Some of the caches look like they may have been planted days ago and some only in the last 24 hours or so, he said.”
President Donald Trump said, on Sunday, that he plans to declare the loosely affiliated anarchist group, Antifa, as a “domestic terrorist” organization, but details of that declaration are not yet clear.
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