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Sen. Cruz: ‘Peaceful Protests Must Be Protected, Riots Must Be Stopped’

Chairs subcommittee hearing examining anarchists’ role in violence and riots across the country and the response from federal law enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on The Constitution, today chaired a hearing focused on how Antifa and other anti-American anarchists engage in riots and violence across the country. Watch Sen. Cruz’s remarks and full line of questioning here. Excerpts from this hearing are included below.

On Democrats failure to condemn violence, Sen. Cruz said:

“All 100 senators ought to come together and say, ‘Don’t murder your fellow citizens. Don’t attack police officers. Protect each other’s rights.’ Instead of seeing leaders united, we’re seeing too many local officials, mayors and governors, who have made a cynical decision that it’s in their partisan interest to turn a blind eye to this violence. To turn a blind eye to the law enforcement officers being attacked on a nightly basis. And even worse than that, to demonize the police officers. To throw out terms like ‘storm troopers’ and ‘gestapo’ to describe federal law enforcement officers doing their jobs.”

On holding officials who fail to protect their citizens accountable, Sen. Cruz added:

“It’s for that reason I’ve introduced legislation called the RECLAIM Act. The RECLAIM Act provides that if you as an American, if you are injured, if your property is damaged, if your home is burned to the ground, if your business is destroyed during a riot, as a result of a decision of political leaders to deny you police protection, that you have a federal cause of action to sue the municipality or the city that has denied you police protection and has willfully looked away while your life was in danger, while your home or business was burned to the ground. Denying fair protection of law enforcement is a civil rights violation for any American who is denied.” 

Sen. Cruz pressed Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli on Democrats’ dangerous rhetoric towards law enforcement. Sen. Cruz asked:

“Mr. Cuccinelli, Speaker Pelosi and another senior House Democrat, have referred to federal law enforcement officers working for the Department of Homeland Security as stormtroopers and Gestapo. Are there any storm troopers or Gestapo working for DHS right now?” 

In response to Sen. Cruz, Mr. Cuccinelli said:

“No, Mr. Chairman, they’re not. And it's an extremely negative and hyperbolic libel by those individuals on people who are doing their duty as professionally as they can. Not just in Portland, but around the country, protecting including those of us in this building. It’s very sad to see, I’m a former Attorney General, I know there are a number of them on this committee. We’ve all worked with law enforcement on an intimate basis. And to see that kind of characterization of people who every day get up, they’re the only people in America who get up, go to work, and we ask them to put a gun on and stand between us and evil every day. And these folks do it. They do it dutifully and they do it professionally. And that includes in Portland, Mr. Chairman.”

On violent attacks against law enforcement officers, Mr. Cuccinelli said:

“Well, as I said, rioters are not protesters. Protesters are not rioters. It is the violent among them who often hide behind the peaceful and use them for a form of protection while launched using slingshots, using lasers. We’ve had more eye injuries. And I brought one with me. This is commercially available laser that you see. And you’re seeing them used now in Portland to a degree that we have never seen before. Now, if I hold my hand in front of that laser, it's hot by that point time. This is just this just a pointer you buy off Amazon and we're seeing more different kinds of weapons. We're seeing some of the old-fashioned Iraq oldest weapon known to man along with new items like this that we've never seen used in such an organized fashion against our officers, their eyes. And as I said, we've had more eye injuries than I can ever remember in another incident.”

On the damage to communities these riots represented, Sen. Cruz said:

“By early June, rioters had injured more than 700 law enforcement officers across the country, and had murdered David Dorn, a retired officer who served St. Louis with honor for many years. They also damaged or destroyed countless buildings and businesses. In Minneapolis alone, rioters burned affordable housing and damaged over 400 businesses—many of them owned by African Americans—at a cost of well over $500 million in damages.”

On Antifa’s infiltration of peaceful protests, journalist Andy Ngo said:

“For example, Antifa, by their own admission, depend on mass numbers of peaceful protesters to act as human shields. Those privy to the organizational workings are divided into units. One to monitor police movement, one for street medics, one for vandals and arsonists and so on. They coordinate on encrypted chat applications like signal because they are extremely difficult for law enforcement to monitor. Antifa has mastered the art of making its violence appear innocuous.”

Regarding Antifa’s organization and structure, Director and Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy Kyle Shideler added:

“The reality is that Antifa demonstrates an elaborate but nonhierarchical structure. The most basic structure of Antifa is the affinity group, which is described by the pro-Antifa website ‘Crime Think’ as the essential building block of anarchist organization. It’s a small cell of individuals who are known to one another, who agree to come together to participate in direct actions. Those include sabotage, vandalism and premeditated assault. Affinity groups then come together to form clusters, and a large cluster may organize actions using what are called spokes councils. Antifa chapters form at the city level and join regional networks such as Torch Antifa, the largest Antifa network in the United States, as well as national and international networks. Antifa web sites describe in detail how to organize affinity groups and chapters, how to vet potential members, prevent infiltration and securely communicate. Such web sites play a key role in spreading propaganda, distributing new tactics, techniques and procedures, and raising calls to action.”

On the importance of protecting free speech, Sen. Cruz said:

“The right of the people peaceably to assemble and to demand changes, to petition their government for grievances, is in the best tradition of America. No history of the United States—no recounting of the unending struggle to live up to our founding promises—would be complete without recognition of the peaceful movements that have pushed this nation forward. From the abolitionists, to the suffragettes, to the countless brave and heroic souls who marched in support of the Civil Rights Movement, peaceable assemblies have moved mountains in this country.” 

On Antifa’s threat to free speech, George Washington University Law Professor Johnathan Turley, added:

“We’re losing the opportunity to reach consensus because of rising violence and intolerance for opposing views. If we are to come together as a nation, we have to be able to speak to one another freely and without fear. I welcome this hearing because I fear that we are at a crossroads in this country on free speech. We’re witnessing unprecedented erosion of this defining right in our democracy. The protests around this country involve a wide array of groups on the political spectrum from both the far right and the far left. I discussed that in my written testimony, however, Antifa is arguably the most successful anti-speech movement in this generation, using physical threats and intimidation to silence those with dissenting views. It is all part of achieving what Antifa calls no platforming or denying people with opposing views the ability to be heard. Recently, the alleged Antifa ring leader who led efforts to topple statues in Washington, D.C., proclaimed the movement is winning. He's right. They are winning. They're winning because universities are now effectively blocking conservative and opposing speakers.”

Sen. Cruz’s opening remarks from this hearing can be viewed here.

WATCH: Americans Have a Right to Peaceably Protest, Not Engage in Violence & Anarchy

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on The Constitution, Sen. Cruz is leading the fight to hold Antifa accountable for the violence and destruction that has torn apart major U.S. cities. Sen. Cruz recently introduced a bill to hold local officials liable for allowing violent “autonomous zones” in their cities. 

WATCH: We Will Defend America Against Violent Anarchists 

Learn more about Sen. Cruz’s opposition to violent radicals here.