Watchdogs Alarmed by Extremist Activity Ahead of July 4th
Friday, July 2, 2021
SEATTLE -- Far-right groups could be active over the Independence Day weekend. That's prompted the Department of Homeland Security to release a bulletin warning of the possibility of "extremist violence," according to a document obtained by ABC News.
Lindsay Schubiner, momentum program director at the Western States Center, which monitors far-right activity, said the groups are organized in Washington state and believes they pose a direct threat to democracy.
"We've seen these movements, both historically and currently, using the implicit or explicit threat of violence to chill democratic practice," Schubiner noted. "That's something that we need our elected leaders and community leaders to really clearly speak out against."
A number of groups that have been holding weekly events will be out this weekend in the state. Schubiner noted the Northwest has a long history of being targeted by extremist groups, especially white nationalists, but also has a history of communities pushing back.
A major concern about the groups is their appeal to veterans. On July 4, a military-led group is holding what it calls a "Coalition to Defend America" rally in Florida.
Dan Barkhuff, a former Navy SEAL, leads Veterans for Responsible Leadership, a super PAC.
He said they want to counteract the draw of far-right groups to veterans who come home from service.
"These extremist organizations are providing something to these veterans, which is number one, a sense of belonging, and number two, kind of this camaraderie," Barkhuff explained. "So, our goal is to redefine patriotism and to compete with these organizations in their own communities."
George Black is a researcher who reports on the connections between the conspiracy theories that fueled the Capitol insurrection in January, and the grievances of right-wing military officers after the Vietnam War.
He said the events at the Capitol are just one part of a longer-term effort by far-right, anti-government groups to gain political power.
"It's part and parcel with the movement to suppress voting rights in Republican-led states," Black observed. "It's about replacing local officials who are in a position to certify or decertify future elections. It's very much with an eye on 2022 and taking Congress back."
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