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Did Merrick Garland Deny Antifa Attacks Were Domestic Terrorism Because They Happened at Night?
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Did Merrick Garland Deny Antifa Attacks Were Domestic Terrorism Because They Happened at Night?

The attorney general nominee drew a distinction between events that disrupt democratic processes and those that entail property damage.

Following the Senate confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Merrick Garland,  viral posts on social media claimed that he said Antifa attacks on federal property were not domestic terrorism because they occured at night.

During the hearing, Garland highlighted the Department of Justice’s responsibility to “battl[e] extremist attacks on our democratic institutions” and described the January 6 attack on the Capitol as “the most heinous attack on the democratic process” he’d ever seen. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) asked Garland, “Do you regard assaults on federal courthouses or other federal property as attacks of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism?” Hawley referred specifically to Portland and Seattle, pointing to the attacks on the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and the William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse that occurred during left-wing protests. 

Garland responded:

“Well senator, my own definition, which is about the same as the statutory definition, is the use of violence or threats of violence in an attempt to disrupt the democratic processes. So an attack on a courthouse while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism. An attack simply on a government property at night or any other circumstances is a clear crime and a serious one and should be punished. I don’t know enough about the facts of the example you’re talking about, but that’s where I draw the line. One is—both are criminal, one is a core attack on our democratic institutions.”

Many of these posts actually included video of Garland’s remarks, though the accompanying captions still misleadingly left out his distinction between interrupting the democratic process and attacking an empty building, suggesting that he said it was the time of day that mattered instead. 

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Alec Dent is a former culture editor and staff writer for The Dispatch.