Domestic terror, standing by

White supremacy and domestic terror are on the rise

Two recent reports assert the threat of domestic terrorism informed by white supremacy and fascism is on the rise, despite the Trump administration’s assertions that far-left organizations represent the largest threat of political violence in the United States. 

The Department of Homeland Security recently published a Threat Assessment Report, which was presented by the acting director of DHS Chad Wolf, who stated he is “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years.” 

Trump has been criticized for not actively disavowing white supremacist groups that have ties to Nazi-sympathetic ideologies. He has expressed he believes the far-left group antifa is more dangerous than far-right groups. However, contrary to Trump’s claims, the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not designate antifa as a terrorist group, and according to Chris Whey, the head of the FBI, “Antifa is an ideology, not an organization.”

At a recent presidential debate, Trump said the Proud Boys, a right-wing activist group, should “stand back and stand by,” when asked if he would condemn the group.

Another study on the rise of white supremacy in the U.S. is the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which stated, “militia groups and other armed non-state actors pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters…these groups have become more assertive, with activities ranging from intervening in protests to organizing kidnapping plots targeting elected officials. Both the [DHS] and the [FBI] have specifically identified extreme far right-wing and racist movements as a primary risk factor heading into November.”

Several states with active protests have been issued a warning by ACLED regarding possible violence from right-wing activist groups following the Nov. 3 election. According to ACLED, “this report finds that capitals and peripheral towns, as well as medium-population cities and suburban areas with centralized zones, in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon are at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period, while North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California, and New Mexico are at moderate risk.”  

Several heads of state received kidnapping threats by right-wing groups prior to the election, specifically in Michigan and Virginia, as well as in Wichita, Kansas. Trump recently encouraged his followers to chant “lock her up,” referencing the governor of Michigan at one of his rallies. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, has been an outspoken critic of the president regarding his response to his COVID-19 pandemic response.

The Nov. 3 election, one of the most contentious in recent memory, is over. However, if global threat and crisis management organizations are correct, the danger that America faces as a nation is far from over. 

The International Crisis Group is an “independent organization working to prevent wars and shape policies that will build a more peaceful world,” according to its website. It recently published a report entitled “The U.S. Presidential Election: Managing the Risks of Violence,” which states that “the U.S. has seen slavery, civil war, lynching, labor strife and the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples. The wounds of those legacies have never fully healed. The country is awash in firearms, has gun homicide levels unmatched by any other high-income country, and is home to a white supremacy movement that…is growing in virulence.”

Stephen Pomper, the Senior Director of Policy at the ICG and former Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama, echoed these sentiments in a recent statement on behalf of the aforementioned report, which he primarily authored. He stated “the U.S. is a mature democracy…and hasn’t faced the kind of risks around elections that other countries around the world have faced…but then things changed.” 

He concluded “when we look at those factors [from the report] we would come to the conclusion that a serious threat is looming…America doesn’t get a free pass when it comes to political unrest.”

The looming threat of domestic terror and political strife will not simply vanish with the election of a new president. In fact, the opposite may be true. These reports shed light on the potential dangers of domestic terrorism. It remains to be seen whether or not the American government and its people will heed their warnings.