|White supremacists on the University of Virginia grounds in August, 2017.|
If one were to believe the Trump/Pence regime and Republicans eager to give Trump politico fellatio, all violent, extremist motivated crimes in the USA are committed by Islamic extremists and undocumented Hispanics. Truth be told, these allegations are all lies - like almost everything that comes out of Trump's mouth - inasmuch as the vast majority of ideologically/religiously based murders are committed by white supremacists and other far right groups. An op-ed in the New York Times authored by Thomas T. Cullen, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, looks at this reality and the need for both law enforcement and the media to face this reality. In addition, it stresses the need for new legislation to enable law enforcement to address this growing threat of domestic terror. Here are op-ed excerpts:
Last week, federal agents in Maryland arrested a United States Coast Guard officer and said he was plotting to assassinate Democratic members of Congress, prominent television journalists and others. The officer, Lt. Christopher Hasson, apparently was inspired by a right-wing Norwegian terrorist who slaughtered 77 people in 2011, stockpiled firearms and ammunition and researched locations around Washington to launch his attacks, according to investigators. Fortunately, the F.B.I. arrested him before he could act.
This frightening case is just one of several recent reminders that white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.
Regrettably, over the past 25 years, law enforcement, at both the federal and state levels, has been slow to respond. . . . But there are steps that can be taken to help the police and prosecutors address this growing threat — including, on the federal level, a domestic terrorism law.
In 2017, hate crimes, generally defined as criminal acts motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, increased by about 17 percent nationally, to 7,175 from 6,121 (the number of police agencies reporting crimes also rose, by about 6 percent); in my state, Virginia, they were up by nearly 50 percent, to 202 from 137.
Killings committed by individuals and groups associated with far-right extremist groups have risen significantly. Seventy-one percent of the 387 “extremist related fatalities in the United States” from 2008 to 2017 were committed by members of far-right and white-supremacist groups . . . Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent.
Virginia, too, has experienced extremist violence. In August 2017, several hundred people — mainly young white men heavily influenced by white-nationalist propaganda — converged on Charlottesville, ostensibly to protest the possible removal of Confederate monuments from public parks. Among other odious acts, these “Unite the Right” protesters marched with lighted torches on the campus of the University of Virginia. They chanted “Jews will not replace us!” before attacking a small group of students and counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
The following day, some of these Unite the Right enthusiasts attacked and injured counterprotesters in Charlottesville. Their violence culminated when a white supremacist from Ohio drove his car into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring about 30 others.
In 2009, Congress took an important step in arming federal investigators to deal with hate crimes by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This law makes it possible to prosecute as hate crimes violent acts committed against victims because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity or disability.
But the hate crime law has its limitations. First, it requires proof that an individual acted because of a specific proscribed animus enumerated in the statute. That means investigators must uncover concrete evidence that the defendant was primarily motivated by, for example, racist or anti-Semitic views. Although this evidence exists in many hate crimes, it proves elusive in others.
Second, because it is a federal statute, prosecutors must prove a “jurisdictional” element, such as travel by the defendant across state lines. For those hate crimes that do not involve interstate travel or communication, the law can’t be invoked.
State officials can update and strengthen existing hate-crime laws, many of which do not include protections for some of the categories of people listed in the federal hate crimes law. Although many states have expanded these protections, the Indiana State Senate this week moved to weaken a proposed hate crime bill. In addition, states can authorize localities to place reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on demonstrations that will likely result in widespread violence and other criminal activity, like the rally in Charlottesville.
At both the federal and state levels, immediate steps are required to curtail the alarming rise of hate crimes and extremist violence in this country.
With family members living in Charlottesville, I know how disturbing this growing menace is for even those who are not the direct victims of extremist violence. Sadly, expect Republicans to deny the reality of where the threat truly lies and block much needed legislation.