WASHINGTON – As protests over the death of George Floyd grow in cities across the U.S., government officials have been warning of the “outsiders” – groups of organized rioters they say are flooding into major cities not to call for justice but to cause destruction.
But the state and federal officials have offered differing assessments of who the outsiders are. They've blamed left-wing extremists, far-right white nationalists and even suggested the involvement of drug cartels. These leaders have offered little evidence to back up those claims, and the chaos of the protests makes verifying identities and motives exceedingly difficult.
Police officers across the country were gearing up Saturday for another night of potentially violent clashes in major cities. Some states had even called in the National Guard to aid overwhelmed police.
The finger pointing on both sides of the political spectrum is likely to deepen the political divide in the U.S., allowing politicians to advance the theory that aligns with their political view and distract from the underlying frustrations that triggered the protests.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Saturday told reporters he'd heard unconfirmed reports that white supremacists were coming from elsewhere to stoke the violence and that even drug cartels “are trying to take advantage of the chaos.”
But federal officials later pointed “far-left extremist groups.” President Donald Trump alleged the violence was “being led by Antifa and other radical groups.” Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.