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April 20, 2016 15

White Supremacists Up in Arms over Tubman on $20 Bill

Harriet Tubman. Photo Credit: Ohio History Connection (OHC) via U.S. Treasury Department, dated circa 1887 by H.G. Smith, Studio Building, Boston.

Har­riet Tub­man. Photo Credit: Ohio His­tory Con­nec­tion (OHC) via U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment, dated circa 1887 by H.G. Smith, Stu­dio Build­ing, Boston.

On April 20, the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment announced that famous abo­li­tion­ist and res­cuer of slaves Har­riet Tub­man will be the new face of the $20 bill, replac­ing Andrew Jack­son (who moves to the bill’s back). The move is intended to answer a long-standing call for more diver­sity on America’s paper cur­rency. Tub­man, a for­mer slave her­self, helped hun­dreds of other slaves escape into freedom.

Ini­tial reac­tions were largely positive—but not among racists and white suprema­cists, who wasted no time react­ing to the news with ferocious–and unsurprising–venom. “Talk­ing mon­key Har­riet Tub­man to replace Indian killer Jack­son on $20 bill,” Andrew Anglin, edi­tor and founder of the white suprema­cist Daily Stormer web­site, announced on his blog.  A forum mem­ber on the white suprema­cist mes­sage board Storm­front warned, “Just make very sure you don’t ‘inte­grate’ this new $20 bill into your wal­let. You’ll likely find the rest of your money miss­ing in no time.”

Other Storm­front con­trib­u­tors posited the idea of “hav­ing fun” with the new bill by defac­ing it. One sug­gested he would make a stamp with a “white nation­al­ist cross” and the words “White Pride World Wide” to embla­zon on every $20 bill he encoun­ters. Yet another pledged never to use the new $20 bill, to demand to be given other bills instead.

On Face­book, racist com­ments also sur­faced quickly. Some­one post­ing as “Pete Lam­bro” wrote, “Who the hell is har­riet tub­man [sic]…if Obama want to put an african amer­i­cans [sic] Pic­ture [sic] on some­thing how about food stamps or ebt cards.”  In another Face­book post­ing,  a “Nick Fran­cis” com­plained that “now we have to stare at a mon­key every time we get paid.”

Oth­ers were quick to intro­duce anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, alleg­ing that the Trea­sury Depart­ment announce­ment was the brain­child of the Jews.  One anti-Semite posted to his Face­book page the com­ment “More Zion­ist Jack Jew,” refer­ring to Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew.  A Storm­front poster using the screen­name Proud_White_Chap asked, “Who cares who Jews put on their fake paper? Andrew Jack­son fought against them and they besmirched his mem­ory by plac­ing him on the 20 dol­lar bill.” This seems to be a ref­er­ence to the anti-Semitic belief that Jews con­trol the bank­ing sys­tem and to the fact that Jack­son dis­man­tled the U.S.’s national bank.

A Trea­sury spokesper­son said the design for the new bills will be made pub­lic in 2020, the cen­ten­nial of women win­ning the right to vote. The actual cur­rency, how­ever, won’t be in cir­cu­la­tion until 2030, giv­ing white suprema­cists plenty of time to gnash their teeth and accu­mu­late other denominations.

White suprema­cists will prob­a­bly be no hap­pier with the new $5 and $10 bills, how­ever, which are to fea­ture five women’s suf­frage activists, Eleanor Roo­sevelt, and African-Americans Mar­ian Ander­son and Mar­tin Luther King, Jr., on the reverse sides.

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April 13, 2016 3

Firearms Increasingly Weapon of Choice in Extremist-Related Killings

extremistkillingswithfirearms1970-2015In the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion, the bomb is the weapon typ­i­cally asso­ci­ated with ter­ror­ists or extremists—but in the U.S. extrem­ists seem to be killing more peo­ple with firearms than with any other weapon, and that use may be increasing.

It is cer­tainly true that many of the high-profile ter­ror­ist attacks in the United States over the past cen­tury have been bomb­ings, includ­ing the 1919 anar­chist bomb­ing cam­paign, the 1963 16th Street Bap­tist Church bomb­ing, the 1995 bomb­ing of the Mur­rah Fed­eral Build­ing in Okla­homa City, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bomb­ing, among many oth­ers. Extrem­ist ser­ial bombers such as the Weather Under­ground, “Unabomber” Ted Kaczyn­ski, and Eric Rudolph have all got­ten their share of headlines.

How­ever, extrem­ists use a wide vari­ety of deadly imple­ments to com­mit their crimes, terrorist-related or oth­er­wise, from fists and boots to air­planes. The most com­mon tool of vio­lence seems to be the sim­ple firearm, a weapon that extrem­ists can use when com­mit­ting ter­ror­ist acts, hate crimes, assas­si­na­tions, armed rob­beries, and all man­ner of tra­di­tional crime. In the United States, firearms are easy to obtain and easy to use. Amer­i­can extrem­ists of all pos­si­ble types, from the far left to the far right, as well as reli­gious extrem­ists, have used firearms to com­mit deadly acts.

How com­mon is such firearms use in the United States? The Anti-Defamation League’s Cen­ter on Extrem­ism exam­ined 890 mur­ders com­mit­ted by domes­tic extrem­ists in the United States from 1970 through 2015—both ide­o­log­i­cal and non-ideological killings by extrem­ist perpetrators—and dis­cov­ered that around 55% of these killings involved use of a firearm; all other weapons com­bined made up the other 45%.

This fig­ure sig­ni­fies both the pop­u­lar­ity of firearms among extrem­ist move­ments in the United States, espe­cially right-wing extrem­ists, as well as the fact that attacks with other types of weapons may be less likely to end in death. Attacks using knives or fists, for exam­ple, may pos­si­bly result in non-fatal injuries more often than firearms. On the other end of the scale, bomb­ings are more dif­fi­cult to carry out—with many extrem­ist bomb­ing plots detected and pre­vented by law enforce­ment from ever being executed.

When one breaks down the num­bers by decade, it appears that, after a dip in the 1980s and 1990s, firearms are becom­ing more pop­u­lar than ever as the deadly weapons of choice for Amer­i­can extrem­ists. Not only have the num­bers of domestic-extremist related killings in the U.S. increased over the past 20 years, but so too has the fre­quency of firearms as the weapons in such killings.

In the 1970s, extremists—primarily com­ing from the far left—used firearms in 61% of domes­tic extremist-related killings in the United States. Many of these inci­dents involved mem­bers of left-wing extrem­ist groups such as the Black Pan­thers and the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army attack­ing police officers.

The per­cent­age of firearms use in extremist-related killings dipped in the 1980s, to only 46%, then dropped dras­ti­cally in the 1990s, down to 20%. This lat­ter fig­ure is greatly dis­torted by the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, which itself resulted in 168 deaths, but even if the bomb­ing were left out of the cal­cu­la­tions, the new num­ber would only be 42%. There are sev­eral rea­sons that seem to account for these lower fig­ures, includ­ing the rise of white suprema­cist prison gangs com­mit­ting mur­ders behind bars and the growth of the racist skin­head sub­cul­ture in the United States, whose adher­ents often eschewed firearms for beat­ing and stab­bing attacks.

How­ever, in the 2000s, firearms once more were the deadly weapons in the major­ity of killings, with 62% of the killings between 2001 and 2010 involv­ing one or more firearms. So far in the cur­rent decade, the per­cent­ages are even higher, with 72% of the domestic-extremist related deaths from 2011 through 2015 involv­ing firearms.

What accounts for this increase? Sev­eral fac­tors seem to have played a role. One is the increased use of firearms by sev­eral extrem­ist move­ments. Racist skin­heads seem to use firearms with greater fre­quency in the 2000s than they did in ear­lier decades, while the growth of white suprema­cist prison gang activ­ity on the streets—as opposed to behind bars—has allowed their mem­bers much greater access to and use of firearms.

Even more con­cern­ing is the appar­ent grav­i­ta­tion of domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists towards firearms as a weapon of choice. In the early years of this move­ment, fol­low­ing the 2003 U.S. inva­sion of Iraq, much of the energy of those extrem­ists with vio­lent impulses were directed at elab­o­rate plots involv­ing bombs or even mil­i­tary weapons—plots typ­i­cally stopped by law enforce­ment before they could ever be car­ried out.

Since 2009, how­ever, there have been a num­ber of high-profile inci­dents in which Islamic extrem­ists have used firearms to con­duct shoot­ings (and one instance, the Boston Marathon bomb­ing, where the per­pe­tra­tors used both bombs and firearms), includ­ing shoot­ings at Ft. Hood, Texas; Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas; Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee; and San Bernardino, California.

The rise of ISIS in the past sev­eral years may have con­tributed to the increase in attempted small arms attacks; Al Qaeda gen­er­ally favored high-spectacle and sym­bolic attacks, whereas ISIS has been more prac­ti­cal, urg­ing adher­ents to com­mit any attack they think they can pull off.

Most of the Islamic-related shoot­ings were mass shoot­ings, which may be the final piece of the puz­zle. Though most extrem­ist killings con­tinue to take one vic­tim at a time, the num­ber of mul­ti­ple vic­tims in deadly extremist-related inci­dents (both ide­o­log­i­cal and non-ideological) has cer­tainly grown. Since 2001, there have been 24 domes­tic extrem­ist inci­dents in which at least three peo­ple were killed—and firearms were the weapons used in the vast major­ity of these cases, includ­ing such deadly shoot­ing sprees as the 2012 Wis­con­sin Sikh tem­ple shoot­ing and the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

The increased num­ber of mul­ti­ple vic­tim inci­dents by extrem­ists is also one of the rea­sons why the death toll has been ris­ing. From extrem­ists on the right such as white suprema­cists and anti-government extrem­ists to reli­gious extrem­ists such as domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, gun vio­lence seems more likely to increase than decrease in the com­ing months and years

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March 8, 2016 0

Shooting Investigation Vindicates Troopers, Raises Questions About FBI Actions

lavoyfinicumshootingOre­gon author­i­ties revealed today the results of their inves­ti­ga­tion into the fatal shoot­ing of anti-government extrem­ist Robert “LaVoy” Finicum by Ore­gon state troop­ers dur­ing an attempt by state and fed­eral author­i­ties to arrest many of the ring­lead­ers of the Jan­u­ary 2 armed occu­pa­tion of the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.

The inves­ti­ga­tion vin­di­cated the actions of the state troop­ers who shot Finicum, but revealed that there is a sep­a­rate mis­con­duct inves­ti­ga­tion ongo­ing into some of the FBI agents’ actions at the scene.

On Jan­u­ary 26, sev­eral weeks into the refuge stand­off, Ore­gon state troop­ers and agents from the FBI’s Hostage Res­cue Team attempted to con­duct a planned traf­fic stop of two vehi­cles filled with occu­piers on their way to a meet­ing, so that they could arrest sev­eral of the extrem­ists.  Both vehi­cles ini­tially stopped but the one dri­ven by Finicum sub­se­quently sped off down the road until it crashed into a snow­bank after nar­rowly avoid­ing run­ning into a law enforce­ment roadblock.

As cap­tured on video taken by a police heli­copter cir­cu­lat­ing over­head, Finicum almost imme­di­ately jumped out of the vehi­cle.  As Ore­gon state troop­ers approached from two direc­tions, Finicum twice reached towards his jacket, as if to pull out a weapon (he did have a weapon there, it was deter­mined). At the sec­ond reach, the troop­ers opened fire on Finicum, fatally wound­ing him.

After any officer-involved shoot­ing, there is an inves­ti­ga­tion. In this case, the inves­ti­ga­tion took on added impor­tance because of the sen­si­tive nature of the sit­u­a­tion: anti-government extrem­ists believe that Finicum was delib­er­ately mur­dered and since his death have ener­get­i­cally tried to turn him into a mar­tyr for the “Patriot” move­ment cause, cre­at­ing a risk of future vio­lence.  Indeed, on the week­end before the inves­ti­ga­tion results were released, anti-government activists staged nearly 50 ral­lies across the coun­try to protest his death.

The Ore­gon inves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded that the two troop­ers who had fired shots at Finicum were jus­ti­fied in so doing, because the troop­ers believed Finicum was about to injure or kill some­one.  Another trooper, who had fired three shots at Finicum’s truck as it was about to hit the road­block, was also vindicated.

How­ever, in a sur­pris­ing rev­e­la­tion, author­i­ties announced that the Jus­tice Depart­ment is con­duct­ing a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into the actions of five FBI agents present at the scene of the shoot­ing.  The state inves­ti­ga­tion uncov­ered that one FBI agent allegedly fired two shots dur­ing the inci­dent, then allegedly sub­se­quently denied to inves­ti­ga­tors that he had fired his weapon.  Nei­ther shot hit Finicum. The other agents under inves­ti­ga­tion report­edly may have helped cover for the first agent. It is not clear when this sec­ond inves­ti­ga­tion will be complete.

The FBI’s Hostage Res­cue Team was heav­ily crit­i­cized in the 1990s for actions and deci­sions its agents had taken at armed stand­offs in Idaho and Texas involv­ing extrem­ists or fringe groups, but it has not had any con­tro­ver­sies in recent years.

The admis­sion of pos­si­ble FBI mis­con­duct will unfor­tu­nately pro­vide more ammu­ni­tion for anti-government extrem­ists attempt­ing to use Finicum’s death to stoke anti-government anger.  This in turn may increase the risk that right-wing extrem­ists may engage in acts of vio­lence out of some sort of desire for ret­ri­bu­tion. Thus the news of pos­si­ble FBI misconduct—never wel­come under any circumstances—was par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing in this context.

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