The nation faces a gut-check moment in the aftermath of Saturday’s terror attack in Charlottesville.
The neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended upon the Virginia town aren’t a tiny faction of lingering relics holding onto hateful ideologies of the past. Homegrown domestic terrorists are a present-day threat. They’ve been allowed to foment hate in the shadows with relatively little government scrutiny.
And while it would be easy to dismiss the race-fueled fracas in Charlottesville as an isolated, far-off event, hate groups are a menace across the country and close to home. The Kansas City Star warned of burgeoning domestic terrorism two years ago in a comprehensive investigation, “Ignoring the Terror Within.”
Afterward, federal investigators admitted that they had grown complacent following 9/11. The intensifying focus on foreign-born, radical terrorists who twist the religion of Islam overshadowed efforts to track the anti-government, racist and anti-Semitic groups that were re-emerging in the U.S.
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Nearly two years ago, the Department of Justice announced the creation of the Domestic Terrorism Counsel, but since then, little has been heard from the office tasked with battling homegrown threats. The silence doesn’t mean that hate and racism have subsided.
In May, a joint intelligence bulletin by the FBI and Homeland Security reported that white supremacist extremists were responsible for 49 U.S. homicides in 26 attacks between 2000 and 2016.
And yet, President Donald Trump’s administration has delivered a muted response, lacking urgency or a clear acknowledgment of the growing threats at home. Trump has suggested he wants to focus on Islamic extremism to the exclusion of domestic terrorists.
A program called Countering Violent Extremism, which works with community groups, was to be rebranded as Countering Radical Islamic Extremism, according to reporting from Reuters.
Sadly, our president appears poised to undercut efforts that will keep America safe. Inexplicably, Trump has courted, coddled and all but condoned violent extremists, reacting reluctantly and halfheartedly to domestic terror.
And now we have Charlottesville, the largest gathering of white supremacists in decades.
Government and law enforcement officials must recommit to stopping domestic terrorists with well-organized and funded efforts.
If our president will not lead the way, then Americans must demand such action.
Racism, embodied by domestic extremist hate groups, remains a clear and present danger in our country.