We cannot afford to keep ignoring far-right radicalization at home

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

The truly violent nature of the Jan. 6 attack on our nation’s Capitol and legislative branch — as well as just how close we came to seeing our elected officials murdered by an angry mob — is just beginning to come to light. 

Not only did the pro-Trump mob that descended on Washington D.C. last week, all of whom were hopped up on the president’s lies about a “rigged” election, egged on by his violent rhetoric — “You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore. Trump told the crowd after urging them to go to the Capitol, “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore” — and looking to overthrow a legitimate American election, come ready for a fight — armed with guns, brass knuckles, homemade napalm, knives, pipe bombs, plastic handcuffs and material to build a gallows outside the Capitol. Some wore shirts with “MAGA Civil War, January 6, 2021” printed on them. 

As the crowd pressed toward the Capitol building, they trampled one of their own, a 34-year-old, die-hard Trump supporter; shouted “Hang Mike Pence;” fought Capitol police officers, pulling some officers down a flight of stairs before kicking, punching and beating them with American flags and throwing fire extinguishers at officers’ heads, eventually leading to the death of officer Brian Sicknick. 

Having believed the president’s lies about the media for more than four years, this mob also attacked journalists trying to do their jobs — scrawling “Murder the Media” on the Capitol building, destroying expensive camera equipment, chasing journalists away from the siege on the Capitol with threats of violence and even throwing one Associated Press photojournalist over a wall while chasing him and accusing him of “being antifa.” 

Once inside the building, the mob rampaged even more, nearly crushing one Capitol police officer to death; chasing a heroic Black officer who is now being praised for leading the violent mob away from the senate chambers, where senators were still evacuating to safer areas, despite having zero backup; breaking into legislators’ offices; looting; smashing windows and doors; trying to get to the legislators hiding inside the building, possibly to take hostages as the FBI is now investigating; and even defecating and smearing their own feces throughout the Capitol building.

This was not some spur-of-the-moment protest gone wrong. These far-right rioters who took part in a terror plot against our government told the world about their plans on public social media sites for weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol. The day before the attack, the FBI warned far-right extremists were coming to our nation’s capital to commit violent acts and start a “war” at the Capitol building. And this was not, no matter how many times pro-Trump supporters spin the lie, the work of far-left activists or “Antifa.”

This mob included well-known members of white supremacist hate groups, but it also included police officers, military members, veterans and a retired firefighter from Pennsylvania who was arrested this week for hurling a fire extinguisher at police officers’ heads. The group that stormed the Capitol included doctors, lawyers, CEOs, bartenders and members of the QAnon cult, one of whom is upset because he can’t eat organic food in jail. The mob even included at least one current lawmaker.

We firmly believe all of the people who had a hand in the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, as well as those who may be plotting to attack our nation’s elected leaders again later this month, should be punished and held accountable for their actions. 

It is commendable that Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was one of 10 House Republicans who broke with their party this week to vote for the second impeachment of Donald Trump over his incitement of the violence at the Capitol building.  

“The President of the United States incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next,” Herrera Beutler stated this week. “People everywhere watched in disbelief as the center of American democracy was assaulted. The violent mob bludgeoned to death a Capitol police officer as they defaced symbols of our freedom. These terrorists roamed the Capitol, hunting the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.” 

“Hours went by before the President did anything meaningful to stop the attack,” Herrera Beutler added. “Instead, he and his lawyer were busy making calls to senators who were still in lockdown, seeking their support to further delay the Electoral College certification … Finally, the President released a pathetic denouncement of the violence that also served as a wink and nod to those who perpetuated it: ‘I love you,’ he said to them, ‘you are special.’”

“I believe in our Constitution, individual liberty, free markets, charity, life, justice, peace and this exceptional country,” Herrera Beutler said. “I see that my own party will be best served when those among us choose truth.” 

It is notable and commendable that Herrera Beutler, who had previously said she supported the president’s “right to press his claims” of a fraudulent election, would come out with such a strong condemnation of the president and his violent supporters. 

We need more Republicans to turn away from the lies, reject the violent rhetoric and hold their far-right colleagues and supporters accountable when they advocate for violent insurrection — especially now that we know far-right Trump supporters are planning more armed protests in Washington D.C. and at state capitols later this month.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security noted that far-right, white supremacists pose “the gravest terror threat” to our country. Unfortunately, as the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica wrote this week, while domestic terrorism may be a greater and more urgent threat to our nation than international terrorism, the laws we have to fight this type of “homegrown” terror are weak and often inefficient at preventing violence. 

The only way this far-right extremist violence will end, the only way our nation can begin to “heal,” is if we all agree to hold our neighbors, coworkers, elected officials, family members and friends accountable for furthering and promoting the type far-right propaganda that led to a near-massacre in the Capitol building last week. 

If we continue to let this far-right radicalization slide in our own communities, continue to underestimate it, fail to address the white supremacy driving it, there is little chance of uniting or stopping further violence

The following resources shed light on how far-right propaganda works and how we might begin to help our loved ones who have been, or who are in danger of being, radicalized: