James Alex Fields Jr. And Charlottesville, Virginia Are What Terrorism Looks Like In America

by Hannah Rose

What does terrorism look like in America? Well, despite Donald Trump’s rampage against Islam, statistics show that right-wing extremists pose the biggest threat. According to a new report from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and The Center for Investigative Reporting, there were twice as many terrorist incidents by right-wing extremists as by Islamist extremists in the U.S. from 2008 to 2016. Add to that list Saturday’s attack in Charlottesville, VA.

Sparked by the city’s decision to remove of a statue of Confederate icon Robert E. Lee, white nationalists gathered together to protest the erasure of this symbol of slavery while counter-protestors also showed up to fight for social justice. Unsurprisingly, the rally resulted in yelling matches-turned-brawls that caused the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join the police in clearing the area. After the white nationalists cleared the area, a group of counter-protestors were marching in victory when a grey sports car accelerated into a line of cars that hurled into the counter-protestors, killing one 32-year-old woman, Heather D. Heyer of Charlottesville, and injuring at least 19 other people. 

The driver has been identified as James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio, who has a history of endorsing white supremacy, writing a report in high school that “was very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement,” said one of his high school teachers. He’s been arrested for second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death. And James Alex Fields Jr. fits right into the profile of domestic terrorists in America – lead reporter David Neiwert told HuffPost that extremist groups listed in the domestic terrorist database “are all gradations of white supremacy, variations on the same thing” and that when it comes to right-wing extremism, attackers are also “mostly men” and “almost purely white.” 

But these right-wing extremists are the same group that helped put Donald Trump into office, aligning with his discriminatory, socially regressive agenda.
According to The New York Times, David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, told reporters on Saturday that the protesters were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.” So it’s no wonder why we’ve seen Donald Trump focus his agenda almost entirely on countering Islamist extremism while skirting around white supremacist extremism.

HuffPost also reported that “after Islamist extremists attacked London on June 3, for instance, Trump condemned the violence on Twitter the same day ― but after an attack in Portland, Oregon, by a white supremacist on May 26, Trump waited more than two days before tweeting about it. After the London attack, Trump also called on the courts to reinstate his travel ban on certain Muslim-majority countries ― which was roundly criticized. After the Portland attack, Trump made no calls to change policy to prevent future attacks.” And, as The New York Times reported, on Saturday following the attack by Fields Jr., “President Trump, speaking at the start of a veterans’ event at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., addressed what he described as ‘the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.’ In his comments, President Trump condemned the bloody protests, but he did not specifically criticize the white nationalist rally and its neo-Nazi slogans, blaming ‘hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.'”

On many sides? Uhhh, pretty sure the terrorist attack yesterday was from one side – the alt-right – just like 115 of the 201 attacks from 2008-2016 accounted for in the database were from the alt-right, compared to 63 cases by Islamist extremists and 19 from left-wing extremists. Seems like an attempt to make a necessary statement about the Saturday’s events without alienating his right-wing supporters. But Trump isn’t responsible for the entirety of right-wing terrorism.

Government resources have been disproportionately dedicated to tackling Islamist extremism over right-wing extremism. As HuffPost points out, “The government succeeded in interrupting the vast majority of Islamist extremist terror cases since 2008, for instance: 76 percent of incidents tracked were ‘foiled plots,’ which the group noted showed ‘a significant investment of law enforcement resources.’ When it came to right-wing extremism, only about a third of incidents were interrupted ― 35 percent ― and the majority of the cases included acts of violence that led to deaths, injuries or damaged property.”

It’s only when we recognize and address the bigger issue that we can begin to stop it, but when it comes to the Trump administration’s role in preventing domestic terrorism by the alt-right, we’re not very optimistic. The Trump administration reportedly recently dropped funding for nonprofit Life After Hate, a group that helps people leave the white supremacist movement. Way to go, fools. 

Photo: Mugshot of James Alex Fields Jr., released by the Charlottesville, VA police department. 

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