The Southern Poverty Law Center has long played the role of ideological enforcer, branding conservative critics of the Left’s ideology “haters” on the level of the Ku Klux Klan. But recently, the SPLC increasingly appears to also have boots on the ground at leftist protests that skirt the boundaries of the law.
The SPLC has a long history of carrying water for Antifa rioters, but this year, one of the organization’s own lawyers got arrested for domestic terrorism at an Antifa riot in Atlanta. Now, it seems another SPLC lawyer may have helped organize the arguably anti-Israel protest on Wednesday that occupied the rotunda of one of the buildings on Capitol Hill that houses offices of members of Congress, the Cannon House Office Building.
Large crowds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered to demand a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that runs the government in the Gaza Strip. Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people—including civilians and even babies—and taking nearly 200 hostages. Israel declared war and has urged people in Gaza to evacuate to enable Israel to wipe out Hamas while minimizing civilian casualties.
The protesters took over the Cannon rotunda, demanding a cease-fire. Police had erected fencing around the U.S. Capitol complex but protesters worked their way into the Cannon building. They sat down, holding banners reading, “Ceasefire,” “Let Gaza live,” and “Mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
A cease-fire sounds noble, but the calls for cease-fire come in the wake of Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack, when Israel is still recovering and identifying mutilated bodies, and when Hamas continues to hold between 200 and 250 hostages. Would these protesters demand a cease-fire on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor?
On Wednesday, U.S. Capitol Police confirmed to The Daily Signal that they had arrested 308 people at the protest. They arrested 305 for illegally demonstrating inside a congressional building and three for assault against a police officer. The Capitol Police have not responded to requests for comment about the SPLC lawyer’s involvement.
Amid the chaos, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., shared a photo of a protester’s phone. That photo shows a chat entitled “Global Intifada.” Intifada means “rebellion” or “uprising,” and in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it refers to two Palestinian uprisings, in 1987-1993 and 2000-2005.
Townhall reporter John Hasson identified one of the people in the chat, Katrina Bleckley. According to her LinkedIn profile, Bleckley is “lead attorney” at the SPLC. Her X (formerly Twitter) account, which has since been made private, describes her as a “migrant liberator,” includes “she/her” gender pronouns, and features the hashtag “#FreePalestine.”
The SPLC has not responded to multiple requests for comment about Bleckley’s involvement in the protest. Bleckley did not respond to a request for comment.
Greene formally requested that the police “preserve all video surveillance footage, photographic evidence, police reports, and arrest records” from the incident, which she referred to as an “insurrection,” despite the apparent lack of violence (except for the three protesters who allegedly assaulted police).
“The group that organized the insurrection, Jewish Voice for Peace, is a pro-Islamic, anti-Semitic group that seeks the destruction of the state of Israel, according to the Anti-Defamation League,” the congresswoman added.
“By launching an insurrection in the Capitol complex, these actors caused elevators to be shut down, staircases and hallways to be blocked, exits to be made inaccessible, and official legislative business to be obstructed, putting Members of Congress, their staffs, and Capitol visitors at risk,” she added.
The Committee on House Administration contacted the House Sergeant at Arms and confirmed that evidence is being preserved, a spokesperson told The Daily Signal. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., “believes that those who break the law must be held accountable,” the spokesperson said.
The Anti-Defamation League describes Jewish Voice for Peace as “a radical anti-Israel activist group that advocates for a complete economic, cultural, and academic boycott of the state of Israel.”
“JVP considers supporters of Israel, or even critics of Israel who do not hew to JVP’s own extreme views, to be complicit in Israel’s purported acts of racist oppression of Palestinians,” the ADL adds. It warns that the organization has “created a hostile environment for many progressive Jews,” extending “its boycott agenda to include not just Israel but its American supporters as well.”
This guilt-by-association style echoes the SPLC.
As I explain in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it had used to bankrupt organizations associated with the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized it against conservative groups, partially to scare its donors into ponying up cash and partially to silence ideological opponents. It uses guilt-by-association and cherry-picked quotes to suggest that conservative nonprofits represent a potential terror threat.
In 2019, amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal that led the SPLC to fire its co-founder, a former employee came forward to call the organization’s “hate” accusations a “highly profitable scam.”
While the SPLC claims to monitor “hate” and “extremism,” including antisemitism, it has not issued a peep about the Hamas attack on Israel or the American protesters who seem to have endorsed that horrific terrorist attack. The SPLC has not weighed in despite the Anti-Defamation League’s warning that pro-Palestine events organized by the group Students for Justice in Palestine may create “a hostile environment for Jewish students” and lead to “acts of harassment or vandalism targeting Jewish students and organizations.”
If Bleckley was an active participant in the protest and even helped organize it, that would suggest that the SPLC is not just turning a blind eye to the antisemitism of celebrating the Hamas attacks—but that some in the organization embrace it.
It would also suggest that the SPLC has moved beyond ideological enforcer and started rallying left-wing protesters on the ground.
In March, police arrested Thomas Webb Jurgens, another SPLC lawyer, at an Antifa riot in Atlanta. While the SPLC and the National Lawyers Guild identified Jurgens as a legal observer, neither organization condemned the violence of throwing Molotov cocktails at police and construction equipment, an incident in which Jurgens allegedly played a role.
Police say they only arrested and charged protesters at the event who had changed into black bloc gear and engaged in the violence, which Jurgens would not have done had he been merely an observer.
While the SPLC has long branded the Proud Boys—a right-leaning agitation group that often engages in violent scuffles with Antifa—a “hate group,” it has long refused to apply the same brand to Antifa.
In June 2020, the SPLC attacked then-President Donald Trump for announcing his intention to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization as “unprecedented and alarming” and a threat to “the civil liberties of U.S. citizens, particularly those of color, who are already disproportionately policed.”
The SPLC has other employees seemingly sympathetic to Antifa. For example, activist researcher Megan Squire long fed information to the SPLC about Antifa’s work. The magazine Wired profiled Squire as Antifa’s “secret weapon,” noting that although she doesn’t identify as Antifa, she refuses to condemn the group’s use of violence. Eventually, Squire joined the SPLC as deputy director for data analytics and open-source intelligence and spoke at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit held in September 2022 in Pittsburgh.
Extremism researcher Eoin Lenihan mapped the Twitter interactions of Antifa activists, finding strong connections to SPLC reporter Michael Hayden.
Critics have attacked Lenihan’s credibility because of his previous activity running a parody hard-right social media account. However, writer and editor Cathy Young independently verified that Hayden’s stories for Newsweek in 2017 and 2018 “do, in fact, closely fit Lenihan’s description of the work of journalists he labels pro-Antifa: ‘downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases, quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts.’”
Laird Wilcox, a longtime extremism researcher, attributed the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, to the presence of Antifa.
In remarks first published in “Making Hate Pay,” Wilcox said Antifa and the SPLC work together “in an informal basis,” with Antifa “using information provided by the SPLC.” Yet he warned that there likely will not be any “easily documented cases of cooperation,” in part because Antifa “is remarkably decentralized in order to avoid liability.”
It remains unclear exactly how involved the SPLC was in the anti-Israel protest this week, but if Bleckley wasn’t involved, the organization would have little to lose in saying so.
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