Last Thursday I taught an anti-terrorism class to my shop, with one of my major highlights being domestic terrorism groups–such as the National Socialist Movement (or “America’s Nazi Party”) mentioned below. My key point during that portion of the curriculum was terrorism isn’t just about young Middle Eastern males, but can also be home grown (and the image most folks have about international terrorism is also far more complex, but that’s an article for another time).
I first discussed the well-knowns such as the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations and World Church of the Creator–names most of the class could grasp. Then I threw in the Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam, and the 5 Percenters–all now
or once-labeled Black hate groups. Talk about a storm of controversy; the class could’ve talked for hours about racial hate issues! But that wasn’t the point: all the groups listed, regardless of race, religion or creed, fall (or once fell) under thee FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism:
“Activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”
To further break down the category, domestic terrorists are divided into 3 groups:
Right Wing – Terrorism motivated by opposition to federal regulation, the United Nations and other international organizations, the U.S. government itself, and hatred of racial and religious minorities. Think the KKK or Christian Patriot Movement.
Left Wing – Terrorist activity by anti-capitalist revolutionary groups. The most notable but now mostly defunct Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army, and Armed Forces for Puerto Rican National Liberation (FALN) were the most notorious of these groups (the FALN is the only group of the three still active, albeit much scaled back). Depending on who you talk to, the various state militia groups (Republic of Texas, Montana Freemen…) belong in this category as well, although I think you could make a strong argument for classifying them as Right Wing.
Special Interest - In short, “eco-terrorists,” i.e. the Earth Liberation Front or Anti-Vivisection Society. Not exactly a bunch of killers, but groups such as ELF has caused millions of dollars in infrastructure damage throughout the US.
Of course, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter; indeed, although I can be very easily repulsed by the KKK, it can see myself rooting for the ELF operative who burns down an eyesore of a mansion built on pristine Colorado land. But I still must rationally consider that, no matter my support for or anger against a given group, such groups are tracked by domestic law enforcement because they’ve killed or maimed people and/or destroyed property to further their political aims.
In addition, such groups often don’t have to do anything overtly violent to get their message on media outlets. Just look at the National Socialist Movement: all they had to do was show up. Yes, they may have earned a blurb on FOX just for marching, but the riot really got the NSM some press. Detractors such as myself will look at them as rabblerousers, while closet supports will point to how. “the blacks caused all the violence.” As sad argument, to be sure–but still a potential recruitment tactic.
The final point we discussed, then, is where do you draw the line between domestic terrorism and criminality? Simple: the FBI considers domestic terrorism to be domestic criminal acts. Where it gets vague, though, is when an analyst has to make the connection of an act to an existing group, new group, or just a bunch of ne’er-do-wells with no group agenda and just involved in petty vandalism (although not petty through the eyes of the victim, I’m sure).
Lots of questions to ask, indeed–and how ironic this march happened mere days after my course. I’ll leave you with one final point to drive the topic home–according to the FBI Christian right wing groups pose the most serious domestic threat.
JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer
The city was calm Monday after weekend violence triggered by a white supremacist group’s march along the sidewalks of a racially mixed neighborhood. A melee broke out Saturday when protesters confronted members of the National Socialist Movement who had gathered at a city park. “They do have a right to walk on the Toledo sidewalks,” Mayor Jack Ford said Sunday. An angry mob, some of them gang members, threw baseball-sized rocks at police, vandalized vehicles and stores, and set fire to a bar. More than 100 people were arrested and one officer was seriously injured. The march was called off after the rioting started.
Police Chief Mike Navarre said Monday there had been no trouble since Saturday. “After the four-hour disturbance ended, we have not had a problem in the neighborhood since,” Navarre said on CBS’s “The Early Show.” Much of the anger erupted because residents were upset that city leaders allowed about a dozen white supremacists to walk through the neighborhood and shout insults. “They don’t have the right to bring hate to my front yard,” said Terrance Anderson, who lives near the bar that was destroyed. Three other businesses were looted or damaged. Others joined the mayor in saying the neo-Nazis had the right to march. “Too bad the people couldn’t ignore them,” said Dee Huntley.
The disturbances were confined to a 1-square-mile area, police said. At one point, the crowd grew to about 600 people. Nearly all of the violence ended by late afternoon Saturday, and police set an evening curfew for the city through Monday morning. The neighborhood northwest of downtown once was a thriving Polish community. Now it’s a mix of Hispanic, Polish and black residents, many of them poor living in modest homes. Police began hearing at the middle of last week from officers on the street that gangs planned to descend on the neighborhood, the police chief said. “We knew during the preparation that it was going to be a tremendous challenge,” Navarre said. “Anyone who would accuse us of being underprepared I would take exception with that.” However, he said the protest lasted longer and was more intense than expected.
Authorities delayed releasing the route of the march so protesters wouldn’t have advance notice of where the demonstration would take place. Community leaders organized an “Erase the Hate” rally to draw people away from the march. And the mayor spoke to 2,000 people at a Baptist church Friday night, urging them to ignore the neo-Nazis. A spokesman for the National Socialist Movement accused police of losing control of the situation. The neo-Nazi group came to the city, which relies heavily on the auto industry and has high unemployment in minority neighborhoods, because of a dispute between neighbors, one white and the other black. “This is not a police problem,” Navarre said. “This is a social problem.”