Since national protests began in cities and towns across the United States in response to the murder of George Floyd, the country has been on edge racially.
Protestors’ demands, for the end of the over-policing of Black neighborhoods, police brutality and the state-sanctioned murders of primarily unarmed Black men, women and children, has triggered strident calls for accountability, transparency and an end to the brutal way that law enforcement treats Black people.
As expected, there’s been a fierce White backlash from the Trump White House spreading to Trump supporters, fanning out to armed far-right militant groups and individuals across the country.
This anger is reflected in the naked racist rhetoric from President Donald Trump and an accompanying upsurge in violence on the streets.
Experts who monitor White nationalist extremist groups have watched with increasing alarm at the rash of violent clashes, the shootings, use of vehicles to injure protestors and brawls that have broken out between the Proud Boys and other far-right, neo-fascist, armed and unarmed militia groups.
Yet, to the consternation of many, President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been spending their time and effort targeting Black Lives Matter activists, the broad coalition of multiracial social justice advocates involved in protests and members of Antifa, all while ignoring the real threat that confronts this country.
“This administration is not unique for not prosecuting right-wing violence. The fact that the murderers involved in the Greensboro massacre in 1979 were never caught illustrates that,” said D.C.-based talk show co-host and longtime social justice activist Jacqui Luqman. “The Klan was openly communing with law enforcement. The danger now is the danger that has always been allowed to exist. We’ve already seen it.”
“There is a long history of violence these groups have waged against Black people and their allies who have shown up to confront this anti-Black racism. Recently, they have attacked people with cars and other vehicles and there have been several shootings with one person killed.”
Ms. Luqman cited the case of Albuquerque where far-right counter-protestors killed an attendee at a prayer vigil organized by indigenous residents.
“There have been assaults of protestors committed by far-right wing people armed with baseball bats and other weapons,” she said. “They have shown their willingness to commit violence because time- and-time again, the police has not stopped them. Officers are very slow to apprehend them if they have done so at all. They know they can be violent because the police are on their side and Donald Trump and Barr have sanctioned what they’re doing.”
Veteran labor organizer and activist Bill Fletcher, Jr., recalled the furor created after the Obama administration released the 2009 DHS report that detailed the pervasive and corrosive nature of White nationalist groups and individuals.
“During the Obama administration, DHS came out with similar report about right wing, far-right domestic terrorism and Republicans went nuts,” he said. “(Former House Speaker John) Boehner went ballistic, called it a slur on conservatives. The essence of that report is the same and this report is consistent. The report is very credible. It’s important for people to keep that in mind. When Donald Trump and Barr talked about Antifa, it was completely disingenuous.”
Mr. Fletcher said there’s no reason to doubt allegations that the report was suppressed.
“When Donald Trump and Barr would be asked about the danger of right-wing terrorists, they would punt or speak in tongues,” he said.
The DHS report is back in the news because an official at the Department of Homeland Security filed a whistleblower complaint with the DHS Inspector General alleging that two top officials tried to coerce him to tone down the threat posed by White supremacists and instead add comments to bolster previous comments of President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr who assert that the unrest is being caused by violent left-wing groups like Antifa and so-called anarchist groups. Brian Murphy refused to alter the intelligence assessment and said in the formal complaint that he was demoted from his position of undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in retaliation.
In response to massive social justice protests, Mr. Trump and top officials such as Attorney General William Barr, have emphasized the threat posed by leftist groups like Antifa, but rarely mentioned or blamed far-right groups involved in the majority of the violence. Mr. Trump himself has regularly downplayed the threat of White supremacist violence during his presidency and has recently described Black Lives Matter as “a symbol of hate.”
As an FBI agent in the 1990s, Mike German went undercover and infiltrated White supremacist and right-wing militant groups. And as a fellow at the Brennan Center’s National Security Program, he continues to monitor and study these groups.
“My greatest fear is what’s different now than when I was working these cases in 1990s,” said Mr. German, a writer, author and scholar. “There was no rhetoric coming from the White House supporting White supremacy and law enforcement is failing to properly react to that violence that occurs. This makes these groups and individuals feel that they have greenlight.”
Mr. German said he’s very concerned about the increase in violence far-right individuals and groups for the past three years. Of equal concern is that they have been allowed to operate with very little response from law enforcement and with the sympathy of the White House.
“Police and the government support the militancy. Criminals have a hard time if police are watching,” he said. “They have to increase secrecy and operate underground. But if you’re allowed to operate in the open, you can organize and recruit. These far-right groups have been able to test their tactics. If police crackdown, they’ll have to go back underground which would make them more dangerous.”
Mr. German said a leaked 2015 counter-terrorism policy guide made the case more directly, warning FBI agents that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers.”
The FBI regards these entities as the most lethal domestic terror threat with good reason, Mr. German said. The numbers bear that out. White supremacists and far-right militants have committed far more attacks and killed more people in the U.S. over the last 10 years than any foreign terrorist movement.
According to the FBI, hate crimes have also been on the rise in the U.S. in recent years. And The New York Times reports that violence connected to hate crimes in 2018 was the highest it had been in 16 years, though the numbers reported were estimated to be half or less than the total number of incidents that actually occurred.
Meanwhile, in recent years, Mr. German said, White supremacists have engaged in deadly incidents in Charleston, S.C., Pittsburgh and El Paso, Texas. More ominously, neo-Nazis obtained radiological materials to manufacture “dirty” bombs in separate cases in Maine in 2009 and Florida in 2009 and Florida in 2017, which were only avoided through chance. But that hasn’t stopped the FBI from producing a report in 2017 which identified “Black Identity Extremists” as a threat to law enforcement, specifically those racial justice protestors marching against police brutality against Blacks.
Mr. Trump has made his disdain clear about the reasons why protestors are on the streets and he has little patience with those who oppose him and his policies. Reports surfaced Sept. 17 that Attorney General Barr was seeking to use little used federal sedition charges against protesters in Portland and seeking to prosecute demonstrators accused of wrongdoing while federal agents were protecting federal buildings and local lawmakers for failures to act properly.
Administration critics see the FBI designations as a way for the government to criminalize broad-based grassroots movements and organizations seeking fairness and justice for Blacks and the civil rights and liberties supposedly guaranteed to Americans.
Dr. Wilmer Leon, III told The Final Call he wishes he was surprised by what Mr. Trump and other administration officials did but he wasn’t, “because this is what White supremacists do.”
“They’re trying to find the best way to present the obvious and very well known in a manner that is palatable to mainstream America. I’ll say that most mainstream Americans don’t realize it (the rise and danger of far-right militants),” said Dr. Leon, a political commentator, talk show host and author. “There’s a difference between knowing something and realizing it. There are a lot of White people who know about White supremacy and White privilege in their lives, but (what White extremists are doing) is not blatantly in front of them. That’s what made George Floyd’s murder so impactful.”
“This is what happened when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. moved kids to frontlines and people up North and out West saw the heinous behavior of Bull Connor (Birmingham, Ala., commissioner of public safety) and (Sheriff) Jim Clarke … which led to the protests.”
The broader American public watched cops kill Mr. Floyd and that has triggered a racial reckoning, a summer of sustained protests and a realization among White people that the current racial paradigm is untenable and unsustainable, said Dr. Leon.
But while that has led to marches, protests and demonstrations by a multiracial coalition of Americans, there has been a right-wing conservative backlash politically, socially in some quarters, and on the streets.
Mr. Fletcher said White extremist violence is being driven by White men who feel marginalized in the country they regard as their own. Mr. Trump, he said, is the national White nationalist cheerleader used by right-wing forces to move their long-term agenda which is to ensure that power in America remains in the hands of a White minority. The fear and apprehension White people feel has intensified and the violence being perpetrated by far-right militias and gangs illustrates that desperation.
“This hardened right-wing party is very aware of the coming environmental catastrophe and economic fragility and they are trying to secure power before the catastrophe. They are less concerned with the pretense of democracy,” said Mr. Fletcher, a talk show host, racial justice, labor and international activist and author. “People need to understand something very fundamental about this administration: They don’t give a damn what you and I think. They only care about base.”
“Their attitude is they’re trying to put in place a neo-apartheid regime. They’re quite comfortable to have core of the base and supporters who make up the rest. So when people read stuff like this, or the latest in terms of Trump having known about extent of Covid-19 and lied, or his attack on veterans, he doesn’t give a damn about our outrage. His greatest concern is how does it play on Fox? And who did it play with his base? His supporters are all he cares about.”
“The first thing is vote like hell in November and vote him out,” Mr. Fletcher argued.
In addition to the concerns about the rise and proliferation of White extremist groups, Mr. German and others said, is the presence of these people in law enforcement.
In a recent column and in speaking to The Final Call, Mr. German said one of his enduring concerns is that in looking at the police response to nationwide protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, there are a number of law enforcement officers across the country flaunting their affiliation with far-right militant groups.
“This reality of law enforcement officials actively affiliating with White supremacist and far-right militant groups pose a serious threat to people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ people and anti-racist activists,” Mr. German said.
“Operating under color of law,” he wrote in a column, “racist officers put the lives and liberty of people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and anti-racist activists at extreme risk, both through the violence they can mete out directly and by their failure to properly respond when these communities are victimized by other racist violent crime. Biased policing also tears at the fabric of American society by undermining public trust in equal justice and the rule of law.”
“(The) thing we need to do is organize, organize for peace as much as those who organize for the opposite,” Ms. Luqman said. “They spend a lot of their free time to bring about White nationalist, racist state. That’s why we have to work harder and organize around the principle of justice and people, organize around humanity first, as opposed to property and profit first.”
Ms. Luqman said it’s important for activists and organizers to reach out to and explain the political positions agenda to like-minded people.
“And yes, we do need to train to defend ourselves to preserve humanity and promote peace and justice,” she said. “They believe in the state of Rhodesia and think they can bring it to U.S. Being linked internationally is extremely important in this struggle. We can’t say what happens to other Africans around the world doesn’t matter to us. We can’t disconnect from our international family. That’s not the way our enemies think. We have to link with anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist elements around the world.”
“They are linked to the struggle of White identity in South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. They believe they are being usurped by marauding hordes. They don’t believe in isolationism. Theirs is an international struggle to maintain European identity around the world.”
Mr. Fletcher agrees with Ms. Luqman on the desire of Mr. Trump and those who think like him to create an American version of South Africa’s now-defunct White minority government.
Over the last decade, experts and critics note, the overwhelming majority of murders linked to domestic terrorism have been committed by White nationalists or White supremacists linked to The Proud Boys, Three Percenters, the Hell Shaking Street Preachers, Boogaloo Boys, Patriot Prayer and others.
Mr. Fletcher said the only way to deal with White terrorists is firmly and ruthlessly.
“There are a few things that have to be factored in, such as self-defense,” he said, echoing Ms. Luqman. “Whenever they attack, you have to smash them. There should be no tolerance for right-wing populists. They’re encouraging violence and they have to be stopped,” Mr. Fletcher concluded.