The Anti-Defamation League has retracted recommendations that police infiltrate and film antifa protests, saying they had been “posted in error.”
The group deleted the advice from a primer for law enforcement on antifa, the anti-fascist protest movement that has grown in profile since the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville in mid-August.
ADL has received millions of dollars in donations in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia, riots. Many Charlottesville counter-protesters opposing the white supremacist and neo-Nazis there identified as part of the antifa movement.
The deletion appears to have been made shortly after the Forward published a story about the recommendations to film and infiltrate antifa protests.
In a statement Wednesday night, ADL said that it had deleted the recommendations from its website and that it would “defer to law enforcement authorities to make their own decisions on best practices for handling protests that turn violent.”
Asked Thursday morning why the recommendations were removed, ADL reiterated its earlier statement.
In the original version of the primer, ADL suggested that police at antifa protests “capture as much as possible of the event on video, for use in any future arrests or prosecutions.”
ADL also advised that “some departments also place undercover officers in the crowds, to spot suspects and/or to be in a position to assist if a fight breaks out.”
Other deleted recommendations included a suggestion that police search antifa protesters for weapons before allowing them into a designated “assembly zone.”
ADL appears to have removed only its recommendations from the primer, leaving up its information for law enforcement on the history, background and tactics of the antifa movement.
In a portion of the primer that remains online, ADL writes that “most established civil rights organizations criticize antifa tactics as dangerous and counterproductive.”
ADL also says in the primer that there is not an equivalency between antifa and white supremacists. “The antifa reject racism but use unacceptable tactics,” he primer reads. “White supremacists use even more extreme violence to spread their ideologies of hate, to intimidate ethnic minorities, and undermine democratic norms.”
ADL’s critique of antifa comes amid a wave of liberal Jewish writers taking on the movement. In widely cited columns in The New York Times and The Atlantic, Todd Gitlin and Peter Beinart separately charged that antifa’s use of violence is counterproductive.
ADL leader Jonathan Greenblatt has joined in that criticism on social media. “Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence,” Greenblatt tweeted on the day of the Charlottesville riots, hours before a white supremacist murdered a counter-protester in a car ramming attack.
Antifa supporters counter that their organizing has been uniquely effective in countering white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
ADL’s withdrawn recommendation that police surveil and infiltrate antifa protesters ran counter to the traditional position of civil liberties groups, which generally oppose police infiltration and surveillance of protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union regularly denouncespolice infiltration of activists, arguing that it impedes First Amendment rights.
“United States law enforcement agencies, from the FBI to local police, have a long history of spying on American citizens and infiltrating or otherwise obstructing political activist groups,” the ACLU wrote in 2010. “Unfortunately, it appears that these old tendencies have once again come to the fore.”
Update: This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. on August 31 with additional background and context.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.