Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., speaking at a press conference Wednesday, again blamed “outside forces” for instigating violence in Little Rock. Pressed to identify the outsiders, Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey said his department had received confirmed intelligence that members of antifa are in Little Rock.
Antifa has become a popular boogeyman of the right, and that includes President Trump, who wants to declare it a domestic terror group. Antifa, short for anti-fascist, is more of a movement than a defined group. People identifying as antifa have engaged in militant protests in opposition to racist and authoritarian policies.
Social media in recent days have been full of unfounded rumors of planned antifa attacks on the Heights, the Promenade at Chenal, the Outlets of Little Rock, downtown Little Rock and elsewhere. Is that police intelligence?
“We know that a lot of the chatter on Facebook may not be accurate,” Humphrey said. “But unfortunately in this line of work, we have to take every situation seriously. When they come in, we do have to vet those. … That’s part of that unified command because we have federal, state, local and county agencies working together and pulling all their intelligence. A lot of times we get the same intelligence, but sometimes we get different intelligence, and we have to pull all that together.”
Humphrey said that the intelligence on antifa had come from U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland’s office as well as from the LRPD. “We know for a fact that we have members of antifa who are here participating in these events,” Humphrey said. He also said there were other unnamed groups in Little Rock.
Seventy-nine people were arrested last night and charged with obstructing governmental operations, Humphrey said. The Arkansas State Police made 44 arrests; the LRPD made 14; and other law enforcement agencies accounted for the other 21. As far as he knew, all of those arrested were from Arkansas, Humphrey said. How does that square with outside forces being to blame for violence?
“[The outsiders] are so well organized and they know how to stay out of the way,” he said.
How do you confirm someone is with antifa?
“Intelligence,” Humphrey said. “And information we receive from other agencies. Also, there are individuals who may have vacated their positions or talk about it proudly. … Sometimes word of mouth that has to be vetted.”
Scott stressed that despite Governor Hutchinson’s declaration of an emergency and executive order installing a unified command structure that puts Arkansas State Police atop the chain of command that Humphrey remained in complete control of the LRPD. He and Humphrey said they welcomed the partnership with other law enforcement agencies.
Scott again praised peaceful protestors and acknowledged their civil disobedience. “A protest is not meant to be convenient,” he said. “It’s meant to create some type of inconvenience.” He said he believed that protestors understood they were risking arrest. Both he and Humphrey expressed sympathy for peaceful protestors who were arrested last night, but said it was difficult to distinguish between peaceful and violent protestors.
While businesses, including restaurants can remain open past the city’s 8 p.m. curfew, Scott said patrons would be in violation of the curfew, though he and Humphrey said the LRPD would be issuing warnings first for anyone stopped.