Archive for the ‘Heidi Beirich’ Category

Why Does the Far Right Hold a Near-Monopoly on Political Violence? – The Nation.

Studies show that most people across the political spectrum abhor it. So what might explain the disparity?

Many Republican candidates have included themselves using firearms in their campaign ads. From left to right, top to bottom: Kay Daly, Joni Ernst, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Eric Greitens, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Will Brooke.

In the wake of the mass shooting in suburban Virginia last week that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others wounded, conservatives have been furiously waving the bloody shirt. With LEFT-WING HATE filling half the screen, Sean Hannity blamed Democrats, saying they dehumanize Republicans and paint them as monsters. Tucker Carlson claimed that some on the hard left support political violence because it could lead to the dissolution of a country they despise. Others have blamed seemingly anything even vaguely identified with liberalism for inciting the violencefrom Madonna to MSNBC to Shakespeare in the Park.1

This is all a truly remarkable example of projection. In the wake of the shooting, Erick Erickson wrote a piece titled, The Violence is Only Getting Started, as if three innocent people hadnt been brutally murdered by white supremacists in two separate incidents in just the past month.2

In the real world, since the end of the Vietnam era, the overwhelming majority of serious political violence not counting vandalism or punches thrown at protests, but violence with lethal intent has come from the fringes of the right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Centers Intelligence Project says that if you go back to the 1960s, you see all kinds of left-wing terrorism, but since then its been exceedingly rare. She notes that eco- and animal-rights extremists caused extensive property damage in the 1990s, but didnt target people.3

Meanwhile, says Beirich, right-wing domestic terrorism has been common throughout that period, going back to groups like to The Order, which assassinated [liberal talk-radio host] Alan Berg [in 1984] right through to today. Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation Leagues Center on Extremism, told NPR that when you look at murders committed by domestic extremists in the United States of all types, right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of those murders. The actual share is higher still, as violence committed by ultra-conservative Islamic supremacists isnt included in tallies of right-wing extremism.4

A 2015 survey of law enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that the police rate anti-government extremists as a greater threat than reactionary Islamists. The authors wrote that right-wing violence appears consistently greater than violence by Muslim extremists in the United States since 9/11, according to multiple definitions in multiple datasets. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Sovereign Citizensfringe anti-governmentalistslaunched 24 violent attacks from 2010 through 2014, mostly against law enforcement. When Robert Dear shot and killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, it became the latest in a series of bloody attacks on abortion providers dating back to Roe v. Wade in 1973. In the 30 years that followed that landmark decision, providers and clinics were targeted in more than 300 acts of violence, including arson, bombings and assassinations, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.5

But while the extreme right has held a near-monopoly on political violence since the 1980s, conservatives and Republicans are no more likely to say that using force to achieve ones political goals is justified than are liberals and Democrats. Thats the conclusion of a study conducted by Nathan Kalmoe, a professor of political communication at the University of Louisiana. In 2010, he asked respondents whether they agreed that various violent tactics were acceptable. Kalmoe found that fewer than 3 percent of the population strongly agreed that sometimes the only way to stop bad government is with physical force, or that some of the problems citizens have with government could be fixed with a few well-aimed bullets. He says that while there were tiny [partisan] variations on these specific items, they werent statistically significant on average.6

Ideology alone isnt a significant risk factor for violence. Theres a much stronger factor of individual personality traits that predispose people to be more aggressive in their everyday lives, Kalmoe says, and we see that playing out with people who engage in political violence. Mass shooters are often found to have had histories of domestic violence, and that was true for James Hodgkinson, the shooter who attacked the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Kalmoe says, we often see that violent individuals have a history of violence in their personal lives. People who are abusive, or who have run afoul of the law in other ways, are more likely to endorse violence.7

Political animosity is similarly bipartisan. According to Pew, roughly the same number of Republicans and Democratsaround halfsay they feel anger and fear toward the opposing party.8

Which raises an important question: If red and blue America fear and loathe one another equally, and a similar number believe that political violence is acceptable, then why is there so much more of it on the fringes of the right?9

Part of the answer lies in a clear difference between right and left: for the past forty years, Republicans, parroting the gun rights movement, have actively promoted the idea that firearms are a vital bulwark against government tyranny.10

13

Call it the Minutemen theory of gun rights. While the Second Amendment was framed to protect government-organized militias at a time when we had a very small standing army, the right has promoted the idea that its Americas first freedom, integral to defending our other rights, since the 1960s.14

Its become ubiquitous, from the militia movement that arose in the 1980s and has seen a resurgence in recent years, to the armed standoffs at the Bundy Ranch and the Malheur National Wildlife refuge. It animated Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, as well as the 2013 Los Angeles airport shooting spree, a 2014 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left two cops and one civilian dead and a number of less dramatic acts of violence.15

The belief that democratic government rests on the Second Amendment has become widespread among Americans; one poll found that about two-thirds believe that their constitutional right to own a gun was intended to ensure their freedom. But Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at SUNY Cortland and the author of several books on the politics of guns, says thats a modern idea. While theres a long tradition of some in America feeling deeply mistrustful of our government and there have been incidents throughout our history where people took up arms against the government the more specific idea that theres a right to rebel, or that somehow you can keep the government under control by taking up weapons, found its first serious expression in a law review article published in 1960. And the idea really took hold among a subset of Americans and a subset of gun owners, who argue to this day that this was part of the purpose of the second amendment. They talk about the Minutemen and the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. The idea really took hold in the 1970s and 1980s when the NRA itself began to use this same kind of rhetoric.16

Its also infused right-wing politics beyond the gun lobby. Watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots is a common theme in Tea Party circles, where the Gadsden flag dont tread on me! and loose talk of revolution blend seamlessly with mainstream anti-tax ideology and disdain for liberals. While a handful of Democrats competing in red states have run ads featuring them firing weapons, its become almost universal in Republican campaigns, where it not only marks a candidates opposition to gun safety legislation, but also signals that he or she is ready to wage war against the Washington establishment.17

War as a metaphor for politics isnt limited to the right, but it has become a constant in conservative discourse. The first shots of the second American civil war have already been fired, said Alex Jones earlier this month; We are in a clear-cut cultural civil war, according to Newt Gingrich; Pat Buchanan offered that were approaching something of a civil war, and said that its time for Trump to burn down the Bastille; You aint got any idea of the war thats raging outside the four walls of the church, religious right activist Dave Daubenmire told a crowd of anti-gay protesterslast weekend. Dont you understand whats going on? Dont you know its a war? Dont you know they want your children? Dont you understand that those same people singing Jesus loves you this I know want to kill us? Then theres the quasi-apocalyptic prepper mentality, which holds that were on the brink of social collapse so youd better buy gold and stock up on ammo for when the shit inevitably hits the fan.18

Nathan Kalmoe says that theres an important distinction to make between people who have more conventional views, versus people who have much more extreme views. He thinks that, whether on the left or the right, those who are at least somewhat close to the mainstream probably have a greater commitment to non-violent approaches to politics and are socialized into non-violent norms of how participation is supposed to work. But on the right, those lines have become blurred in recent years Glenn Becks goldbuggery, the ravings of the alt-right and the Minutemen theory of gun rights have all become features of the larger conservative landscape, even if theyre not quite mainstream.19

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Kalmoe says that rhetoric alone isnt the main cause of political violence, but violent language and vilifying opponents can nudge people in ways that make them think and act more aggressively in politics. He conducted an experiment that first measured subjects aggressive personality traits. Then he exposed them to two imaginary political ads, one that employed mildly violent political rhetoric and one that used neutral language, and he found that those subjects who had already displayed a penchant for aggressive behavior were far more likely to support political violence after being exposed to the violent rhetoric. So its not that violent rhetoric causes real-world violence so much as it can make people who behave aggressively in real-life more likely to endorse violence against political leaders.20

Liberals believe that mature institutions and the separation of powers are what keep tyranny at bay, not an AR-15. If James Hodgkinson looked around himself and saw a president who acts as if hes above the law and a Congress thats working in the dark to strip away health insurance from millions of people to finance tax cuts for the wealthy but is unwilling to perform its oversight duties, and decided that he would stand up to tyranny with an assault rifle, he would have taken a theme thats exceedingly common on the right to its bloody logical conclusion.21

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Why Does the Far Right Hold a Near-Monopoly on Political Violence? – The Nation.

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June 23, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Anti-Sharia group offers donors a private tour and cocktails at Trump hotel – The Providence Journal

Amy Brittain, Abigail Hauslohner / The Washington Post

A controversial group that has held rallies against the spread of Islamic law is seeking to harness the allure of President Donald Trump’s brand as it raises money for its upcoming Washington conference.

For $10,000, sponsors of the ACT for America gathering can enjoy “pre-conference cocktails” and a “private tour of the historic Trump International Hotel” alongside the group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, among other benefits, according to promotional materials published on the group’s website.

The walk through the hotel, located in the stately Old Post Office Pavilion a few blocks from the White House, is scheduled to take place before participants head to Capitol Hill to hold lawmakers’ “feet to the fire” on national security issues, according to plans posted on the group’s website. The organization, which critics have decried as anti-Muslim, has repeatedly claimed that Judeo-Christian culture is under “assault” in America and radical Islam is to blame.

The promotion represents a new twist in the story line of Trump’s luxury hotel, which has sparked several lawsuits and criticism from ethics experts alleging that the president is improperly profiting from foreign governments and other interest groups holding events at the property. Although groups typically pay to book meeting space and food service at the Trump hotel as they would at any event venue, ACT is touting the chance to enjoy access to a signature business owned by the president of the United States.

The October event offers ACT, which has drawn headlines this month for its “March Against Sharia” rallies across the country, a chance to associate itself with a president who campaigned on banning many Muslims from entering the United States and has recently seen his efforts to restrict travel from certain majority-Muslim countries tied up in legal challenges.

Officials from the Trump Organization and ACT declined to answer questions about the event, including whether ACT was paying the hotel for the tour and, if so, how much.

Christine Da Silva, a Trump Organization spokeswoman, pointed to “guest privacy” in declining to discuss the event but said that generally, “private tours about the history of the building are organized periodically.”

An ACT spokesman, David White, did not make Gabriel available for an interview, but in a statement to The Washington Post he defended the group’s work.

“ACT for America embraces the practice of all religions, including Islam,” White said. “We stand opposed to Sharia law, which is not a religion, but a barbaric code that executes LGBTQ people for their orientation, mutilates children, and subjugates individual rights.”

The group has invoked Trump in its efforts to lure donors. Gabriel, who has shared photos of herself at the White House and Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach club, wrote to donors after the election saying that ACT “has a direct line to Donald Trump, and has played a fundamental role in shaping his views.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Gabriel, whose legal name is Brigitte Tudor, describes herself on ACT’s website as “one of the leading terrorism experts in the world.” ACT says it has more than 750,000 members. Its most recent tax filings list about 17,000 volunteers.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks hate organizations, has labeled ACT an extremist group characterized by “wild hate speech demonizing Muslims” and a mission to advance anti-Muslim legislation around the country. Heidi Beirich, who runs SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said that Gabriel’s national prominence has recently surged.

“Her visibility is higher than it’s ever been,” Beirich said.

Last summer ACT announced that retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, who was advising then-candidate Trump on national security issues, had joined its board of advisers. In August, Flynn appeared at an ACT event in Dallas and referred to Islam as a “cancer,” according to a Dallas Morning News account of his speech. A person close to Flynn told The Washington Post that he is not involved with ACT and has no plans to attend the group’s conferences.

Flynn was fired this year as Trump’s national security adviser after reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence on his meetings with Russian officials.

In March, Gabriel shared photos of her visit to the White House, where she was reported to have met with a staffer handling legislative affairs. On April 6, Gabriel posted a photo of a red carpet and said she was heading to dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Trump also dined at his luxury Palm Beach club that evening, around the time that U.S. forces launched a military strike in Syria.

Most of the events for ACT’s 2017 “United Against Terror” conference are scheduled to be held on Capitol Hill and at a hotel in Arlington. Katrina Pierson, who was a national spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, is listed as one of the speakers.

Pierson, when reached by a Post reporter, declined to comment about the Trump hotel promotion or say if she endorses ACT’s beliefs.

“As someone who was targeted in the first ISIS inspired attack in the United States, I don’t feel it’s necessary to comment as to why I would share my story with others when asked in a personal capacity,” she told The Post, referring to her presence at a Muhammed cartoon exhibit in Texas that was attacked by gunmen in 2015.

“Political correctness and cowardness has no place in America,” the group says on promotional materials for the gathering. “We will not be silenced. We will not fail. We will ensure that America remains the brightest star shining on a hill over the world.”

The private tour of the Trump hotel is listed on ACT’s website as part of the “Chairman’s Circle” sponsorship package, which is the top tier available to donors. It also includes four conference registrations, a private lunch with Gabriel, and preferred seating for events.

The Trump International Hotel, which opened last fall, has emerged as one of Washington’s new attractions since Trump won the election.

Although he owns the hotel, he leases the historic building from the federal government. A clock tower remains open to the public through the National Park Service and is available through a separate entrance – giving visitors panoramic views of the city.

A wide array of special interest groups has chosen the hotel for events in the months since Trump has taken office. Prominent bookings have included a conference on U.S. and Turkish relations, a PAC fundraiser for funeral directors featuring former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich and an event highlighting forklift safety issues.

Last week, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit claiming “unprecedented constitutional violations” by Trump, largely centered on allegations that he has refused to create a meaningful divide between his business and his presidency.

Activists and protesters have routinely made their presence known on the property. In May, a protester projected words in bright blue lights that read “Pay Trump Bribes Here” and pointed an arrow to the front door of the hotel. Last month, a Pennsylvania man was arrested for bring an AR-15 rifle, handgun and ammunition onto hotel grounds.

It is unclear what parts of the Trump International Hotel would be included on ACT’s advertised private tour. Throughout the hotel, there are signs that restrict guest access to certain hallways.

Secret Service spokesman Joseph Casey told The Post that the Trump Organization is generally responsible for securing the property. Casey said the Secret Service has a security presence there only if one of the agency’s protected people, such as Trump, Pence or their family members, visit the hotel.

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June 21, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Copy of Nooses showing up more in hate incidents around country – KIRO Seattle

by: JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Updated: Jun 17, 2017 – 6:41 PM

“We’ve seen a spike in the use of symbols of hate lately, and the noose is one more example,” said Denison University professor Jack Shuler, who has studied lynching and noose imagery in the U.S.

Two nooses were found at Smithsonian museums in the past week, one outside the Hirshhorn Museum last Friday and one inside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesday.

Bananas tied to nooses were discovered at American University in Washington last month, while a noose was found at the nearby University of Maryland and a suburban middle school in Crofton, Maryland.

Two 19-year-old white men were arrested and charged with hate crimes for allegedly hanging the noose at the Crofton school. No arrests have been made in the other cases.

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This comes as other episodes of bigotry have shaken the country, including the spray-painting of a racial slur on the gate of basketball superstar LeBron James’ mansion in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

In Portland, Oregon, two white people were stabbed to death last Friday after they tried to stop a white man from shouting anti-Muslim slurs at two young women. One of the women was wearing a Muslim head covering, and both were black.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks bigotry, said it has seen an increase in hate incidents in the U.S. since the election of President Donald Trump. Between Election Day and Feb. 1, the SPLC said, it collected information on about 1,800 hate-related episodes from almost every state.

“In the past, it would be a couple hundred at most, and that would be high,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Loops of rope have long been used to intimidate African-Americans because they evoke lynchings. The nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative said there were 4,075 lynchings of blacks in the South to spread racial terror between 1877 and 1950.

For blacks, the noose is “comparable in the emotions that it evokes to that of the swastika for Jews,” the Anti-Defamation League said.

“I’ve seen in the last couple of months more instances of nooses being used to intimidate people,” said Shuler, author of “The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose.” ”I think we’re in a situation right now where people who express hateful opinions are being allowed to speak freely and it’s become OK again.”

Beirich blames the rhetoric from Trump’s presidential campaign, during which he pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border and ban Muslim immigrants. Trump also claimed for a long time that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

“Putting those sentiments in public from a presidential campaign has sanctioned a lot of people,” Beirich said. “Things they might have kept inside themselves, that they have kept quiet about, have burst out.”

The noose didn’t stop some visitors to the black history museum.

Stephen Middleton, who brought his extended family to the museum Thursday from Georgia and Maryland, said he wasn’t surprised someone targeted the museum. But “we’re not going to be deterred, we’re not going to be wavered and not going to be intimidated,” he said.

___

Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press in Washington. Contact him at jholland@ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland

2017 Cox Media Group.

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June 17, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Feds: Neo-Nazi plot targeted civilians, nukes and synagogues – News Talk Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Federal prosecutors say a neo-Nazi arrested after agents found bomb-making materials in his Florida apartment while investigating the slayings of his two roommates planned to use the explosives to harm civilians, nuclear facilities and synagogues.

Court documents filed Monday say a third roommate arrested in the killings told authorities that 21-year-old Brandon Russell had been targeting the sites.

The murder suspect, Devon Arthurs, was arrested last month after telling police he fatally shot 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk because they were neo-Nazis who disrespected his recent conversion to Islam.

Arthurs told police Russell was not involved in the shootings, but that he was planning a bombing.

The documents also state that police found two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a skull mask in Russells car.

TAMPA (AP) Investigators found white supremacist propaganda, bomb-making materials and a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at a Florida apartment where a teenager killed two roommates who had once shared his neo-Nazi beliefs before he converted to Islam, police and the FBI said.

Devon Arthurs, 18, led police to the two bodies inside his Tampa apartment last Friday, saying he killed them after they showed disrespect for his new faith, according to police and FBI reports released Monday.

A fourth roommate, a member of the Florida National Guard, was arrested on charges related to the alleged discovery of bomb-making materials.

The investigation began unfolding Friday, when Arthurs held two customers and an employee hostage at gunpoint at a Tampa smoke shop, police said.

Arthurs said he converted to Islam and was upset about American bombings in Muslim countries, among other issues, according to a Tampa police report. He is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges, and court records did not list an attorney for him.

Officers talked Arthurs into letting the hostages go and dropping his weapon, and took him into custody, according to officials. Police said Arthurs started talking about killing two people, and then he directed them to a condominium complex where the four roommates shared an apartment.

When they arrived at the apartment the fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, was crying and standing outside the apartments front door in his military uniform. He had just finished duty with the Florida National Guard.

Inside lay the bodies of 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. Both had been shot.

Investigators also found a cooler filled with bomb-making material, two radioactive substances and the Nazi propaganda, according to the FBI. Federal agents arrested Russell, 21, on Saturday on charges related to the explosives.

The FBI said Russell admitted to his neo-Nazi beliefs and said he was a member of a group called Atomwaffen, which is German for atomic weapon.

At first, Russell told agents he kept the explosives from his days in an engineering club at the University of South Florida in 2013, and that he used the substances to boost homemade rockets. The agents wrote that the substance found was too energetic and volatile for these types of uses.

Russell has been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material. Court records did not list an attorney for him.

Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious computer hacker and internet troll, wrote a post about the killings for The Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi website.

Auernheimer, known online as weev, said in Sundays post that he knew the shooting suspect and both of the shooting victims. He said he banned Arthurs from The Daily Stormers Discord server, an online forum, for posting Muslim terrorist propaganda earlier this year.

He came in to convert people to Islam, Auernheimer said during a telephone interview Monday. It didnt work out very well for him.

Auernheimer described Himmelman and Oneschuk as friends of friends and said they belonged to the Atomwaffen group.

Atomwaffen are a bunch of good dudes. Theyve posted tons of fliers with absolutely killer graphics at tons of universities over the years. They generally have a lot of fun and party, he wrote.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Centers Intelligence Project, said the law center had seen recent news reports on Atomwaffen members posting neo-Nazi fliers on college campuses. But the SPLC hadnt examined the groups membership or the ins and outs of the organization before Fridays shooting.

Once again, we see how violent these people are, she said. In the neo-Nazi movement, weve seen a long string of bombers and murderers.

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Feds: Neo-Nazi plot targeted civilians, nukes and synagogues – News Talk Florida

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June 13, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Pot War, Muslim Travel Ban, Russia Probe: Jeff Sessions In The Middle Of Troubled Trump Issues – Benzinga

Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. senator to endorse President Donald Trumps candidacy, finds himself swept up in virtually every issue that has confounded the administrations efforts to advance any sort of an agenda.

Front and center is his role in whether the Trump team conspired with Russian agents to fix the November election, his subsequent recusal in March from the federal investigation into those ties and whether he broke his own promise to stay out of the affair.

Sessions is supposed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia Tuesday, but the openness of the session is undecided.

Here are a few things to know about Sessions:

As a Republican senator from Alabama, he went out on a limb and endorsed Trump in February of 2016, when few people thought the real estate mogul had chance, and he was rewarded for his loyalty with the AGs job. Its been downhill ever since.

Last week, former FBI Director James Comey, without being specific, said he had information about Sessions related to Russia that he termed problematic to the investigation.

It was a tantalizing clue that there may be other complicating issues connecting the attorney general to the ongoing investigation, Sen. Chris Coons (DDel.) told Politico.

Comey also said he asked Sessions, his boss, not to leave him alone with Trump after an awkward meeting in February, when Comey alleged that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynns visits and meetings with pro-Kremlin Russians.

Sessions had also said under oath during his confirmation hearing that he had not had contact with the Russians during the election campaign, then admitted it in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee when reports surfaced he indeed had meetings. It was then that Sessions recused himself.

Sessions played a key role in Trumps two executive orders seeking to ban Muslims from first seven, then six nations. His comments about Muslims played a part in the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, refusing to enforce the order.

Yellen was subsequently fired by Trump in January. Both the first and second bans were blocked by federal courts, and the Muslim prohibition now appears headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sessions is also strongly opposed to guest worker visas that allow immigrants to work temporarily in the United States.

Sessions was named head of the Trump campaigns national security advisory committee in March 2016 and was pivotal to Trump naming Flynn as national security advisor, even though it was known that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about meeting with the Russians and discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia for the 2014 invasion of neighbor Ukraine.

Sessions was also instrumental in the naming of Pence as Trumps running mate, and Pence subsequently led the Trump presidential transition team.

Sessions has a history of making racially inflammatory remarks, and his nomination to a federal judgeship in 1986 was denied because of the accusations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich told the Washington Post that Sessions has been guilty of using hate speech, and that his presence close to Trump a tragedy for American politics.

Sessions has vowed to wage war on the increasing number of states that have passed marijuana laws allowing it for medicinal and/or recreational use. However, a bipartisan budget committee has rejected Session’s attempts to get money for the effort.

I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store, Sessions said March 15, comparing it to heroin.

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June 12, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

‘Holocaust Revisionist’ Organization Upset At Being Labeled A ‘Hate Group’ – Forward

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A self-described group of Holocaust revisionists has taken issue with being designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Deir Yessin Remembered, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., says that its mission is to spread awareness about a 1948 massacre by Jewish militias that, by some estimates, killed more than 100 Arab villagers. However, the organizations activities have also expanded to include Holocaust denial.

Heidi Beirich, director of SPLCs Intelligence Project, said Deir Yassin Remembered was added to the centers lists of hate groups for 2017 due to the groups support of Holocaust deniers and its questioning of historically accurate facts about the Holocaust, the Michigan news website MLive.com reported on Friday.

Indeed, one blog post on Deir Yessin Remembereds website takes issue with the existence of the Final Solution, the existence of gas chambers, and the number of Jews killed in concentration camps.

The SPLCs annual list of hate groups includes 917 groups across the country this year, 28 of which are in Michigan.

Contact Jesse Bernstein at bernstein@forward.com or on Twitter @__jbernstein.

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June 12, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

March Against Sharia Targets Muslims in US – Newsweek

ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel saysthe Islamic law known as Sharia is taking over the land, eclipsing the U.S. Constitution, with radical clerics turning the nation into a modern-day caliphate.

That isnt even remotely true, but the inconvenient fact is unlikely to stop anti-Islamic zealots who disguise their Islamophobia as a humanistic concern about Sharias infringement on American civic life.

This Saturday, ACT for America is holding March Against ShariaMarch for Human Rightsevents in more than two dozen American cities. We, at ACT for America, are committed to protecting women and children from Sharia Law, says the groups website, and its impact on Muslim women and children, including honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation. We must ensure that every woman and child enjoy the protection afforded by the U.S. Constitution.

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ACT for America

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks radical organizations across the United States, ACT for America is the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America, claiming 280,000 members and over 1,000 chapters. The group was founded in 2007 by Gabriel, who is a Lebanese Christian. The following year,it launched Stop Shariah Now, which would presumably ‘inform and educate the public about what Shariah is, how it is creeping into American society and compromising our constitutional freedom of speech, press, religion and equality.

That campaign and related efforts have resulted in anti-Sharia legislation in several states. Those laws, however, are often supported by Republicans who are themselves far more prone to fundamentalism than the Muslims they fear. In a report called “Manufacturing Bigotry, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that 80 percentof the 102 anti-Sharia bills were sponsored or co-sponsored by an overlap legislator, or legislator who sponsored or co-sponsored a restrictive law targeting undocumented immigrants, women seeking reproductive health options, workers seeking to organize and voter identification.

Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT for America, on Fox News. Fox News

There is no ability under the Constitution to impose Sharia law, says Heidi Beirich, who directs the SPLCs Intelligence Project. The vast majority of religious adherents, regardless of their faith, understand the American ideal of separation between church and state.

Gabriel turned down requests for comment over email and social media. But last year, speaking at an ACT for America conference, she called her group the NRA of national security, an apparent reference to the National Rifle Association. During the talk, she suggested that some Syrian refugees are members of the Islamic State. She also lambasted Chobani, a yogurt company that is a popular target of the far-right because it hires refugees.

For all the fearmongering by ACT for America, Sharia creep remains the stuff of right-wing fantasy. It seizes on reports of criminal behavior by American Muslims, including female genital mutilation and honor killings. Both are troubling yetextremely rare. Nor is there any evidence that mainstream Muslims are attempting to foist those fringe practices on the American population at large.

This is an attempt to make Muslims seem like these insidious, creepy beings whose only role here is to come and steal constitutional rights, says Beirich.

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March Against Sharia Targets Muslims in US – Newsweek

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5 Questions with Heidi Beirich | Aspen Ideas Blog

You oversee the Southern Poverty Law Centers yearly count of the nations hate and hardline anti-government groups. Is the number of these groups growing? And can you give an example of a few that have developed more recently?

These groups have been growing, and for some time. The number of hate groups started rising in 2000 after the Census Bureau, for the first time, announced publicly that in the 2040s there would be no white majority in the US. That obviously was a motivator for white supremacist groups to recruit, and they did aggressively. There were 602 hate groups in 2000 and there are 917 now. Obamas election was also a factor, as well as the economic meltdown in 2008. But the most important factor leading to the growth of these groups is Americas changing demographics.The hate movement is capitalizing on this with those who share racial resentmentsand have built a backlash that comprised part of the electoral coalition behind President Trump, namely the Alt-Right. In the last year, it was organizations such as Daily Stormer or Identity Europa that saw the biggest gains in terms of new chapters. They hitched their messaging to the Trump campaign and as a result, saw great increases in their ranks. Daily Stormer now has 400,000 page views a month and in the last year, moved from an online website to a real world organization with 30 chapters. The way the antigovernment movement, which includes gun extremists and those who think Democrats are out to destroy them, grows is a bit different. It tends to add organizations and chapters when Democratic presidents are in office, which happened under Clinton and Obama. In 2016, their number of chapters fell, likely as they watched the Trump campaign excel and eventually win in November.

Hate crimes spiked in the US following the November election. Whats the status of hate crimes now, six months after the election?

The SPLC documented about 1,800 hate crimes and bias incidents from the day of the election through February. It was an extraordinary number of such events, which typically occur in much smaller numbers during a similar period of time. The most targeted populations immigrants and Muslims were also subject to demonization during the election campaign. As we often say at SPLC, hate speech has real world consequences and they can be terrifying for the groups subject to demonization. Also, many of the crimes were specifically committed in Trumps name. In the first month or so, about twenty percent of the incidents perpetrators referred directly to him.

Whats the goal of collecting data around the problem of hate?

The most important objective is to demonstrate that this is a continuing problem in America that needs to be addressed. Too often, people work under the assumption that all of Americas horrifying racial past is history. But a white supremacist governing structure didnt disappear with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the mid-1960s. And racists, who were backed up in their beliefs by law since the founding of the country, dont just abandon those beliefs overnight. Detoxifying race in this country is a long-term project. Simply documenting that hate crimes are happening matters greatly in dealing with this problem.We should also hold accountable those who demonize populations for political reasons or other ends for the violence their words can unleash.

Hate crimes are brutally undercounted. The DOJ (Department of Justice) has conducted three major statistical studies of survey data compiled annually by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). These analyses make it clear that the number of hate crimes in the US is much larger than other counts, at 250,000 annually. Think about that for a second. The FBI reports about 5500 hate crimes annually, and has for decades. The NCVS data, however, says the number is 30 times that amount. That means the undercounting is serious and the system for collecting data on hate crimes basically broken. If we really documented 250,000 hate crimes a year, this issue would be a national crisis. We, as a country, would be working on it with policies and dedicating resources to it. But due to the undercounting, it simply isn’t a top priority in our political system. The UK, which has millions fewer residents than the US, counted over 50,000 hate crimes last year. It’s possible to do better, if we care about the issue.

Youre speaking in the America I Know track at the Festival. What dont most Americans know or understand that you wish they did?

I wish they better understood the role hate continues to play in our political system and culture. Most Americans dont realize how many of these groups exist, how often ideas from white supremacist circles make it into mainstream media and politics, and how much that impacts our society. Many people dont realize that nearly all domestic terrorist attacks, or attempted attacks, are committed by white supremacists and not radical Islamists. In fact, our domestic terrorism problem is indigenous mostly, meaning it’s motivated by ideas about white superiority that are part of our culture, not some foreign import like radical Islam. Dylann Roof, who was driven by white supremacist ideology to kill black people in a Charleston church, is the norm for terrorists domestically. There is a certain naivet on this point that I wish did not exist because we cant combat these ideas if we dont know about them, dont care about them, or refuse to acknowledge them. We can only fix such problems when we are fully aware they exist.

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Anti-Sharia rallies around the US denounce Islam while stoking concerns among Muslim groups – Los Angeles Times

Speaking out about what they believe are the ills of Islam, anti-Sharia law activists demonstrated nationwide Saturday, but were met by counter-protesters who assailed their rhetoric as insensitive and demeaning.

Members of Act for America, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gathered in parks and plazas across the country, organizing nearly two dozen so-called March Against Sharia rallies, stoking concerns and counter-events by Muslim leaders who say the group is spewing hate.

In Atlanta, an assortment of militia men brandishing assault rifles, supporters of President Trump waving American flags and mens rights activists wearing helmets descended on Piedmont Park, a leafy oasis in the citys affluent, liberal Midtown neighborhood.

In New York, nearly 100 people attended a rally near lower Manhattan. They were outnumbered by counter-protesters, and the two sides hurled insults across two rows of police barricades.

Commies, screamed the anti-Sharia demonstrators.

Fascists, retorted the counter-demonstrators.

Some anti-Sharia marchers in Orlando, Fla., such as Sheryl Tumey, noted the timing of event, two days before the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as a reason to protest. The gunman, who killed 50 people at the gay club, had been inspired by Islamic State extremists.

We live here and that touched us and that was a terrorist, said Tumey, 50. We are here and they want to bring in a religion of hate and oppression.

And so it went around the country in Chicago, Denver, Seattle, San Bernardino and elsewhere, where anti-Sharia marchers took to the streets and were met by their foes.

The demonstrators were protesting a set of religious and legal codes that have never been part of American jurisprudence and seem extremely unlikely to take root in the foreseeable future. Legal experts have said there is no mechanism by which any foreign criminal or civil code can trump U.S. laws, and laws mandating religious practices would be a clear violation of the Constitutions separation of church and state.

Nevertheless, joggers took out their earbuds and cyclists stopped pedaling, aghast as the small Atlanta crowd chanted, USA! USA! and spoke fervently of terrorism, female genital mutilation and beheadings. A small gaggle of counter-protesters held up placards and shouted, No Hate! No Fear! Muslims Are Welcome Here.

We have to protect America, our citizens and our way of life, said Lila Mercer, 49, an assistant manager for a big rig dealership who had traveled 40 miles from Auburn, Ga., for her first protest.

Sharia law does not belong in America, she said as she waved a homemade placard that said GOD BLESS USA.

Behind her, Michael Williams, a two-term Republican state senator who is running for governor, waved a tiny U.S. flag as he posed for photographs with armed members of Georgia Security Force III% militia

We all need to come together, put aside some of our petty differences and unite together to fight Sharia law, Williams shouted through a bullhorn to the crowd of about 50 people. We do not need it in our country. Overseas in Europe and other places, theyre throwing people off of buildings, theyre decapitating people because they do not believe the things they believe.

The event, where some men gripped rifles, drew concerns from passers-by.

Is this safe? a mother asked, anxiously covering her babys head as she passed a cluster of men in camouflage fatigues wielding long guns. What is this? Im just trying to take a walk with my girlfriends.

Zack Schneeberger, an IT project manager, 36, who walked up to the group with his wife and 6-month-old while waving a rainbow flag, said the Atlanta neighborhood was a haven of love and diversity.

Why bring assault rifles? You do not bring bullets to get a clear understanding, he said.

Act for America, which boasts that it has more than 500,000 members, said the rallies were about defending democracy and pushing back against Sharia law. The law is a philosophical code derived from Islamic scripture and meant to guide observant Muslims. In addition to civil and criminal law, it prescribes a wide range of faith practices, such as abstaining from alcohol and praying five times a day.

Many aspects of Sharia law run contrary to basic human rights and are completely incompatible with our laws and our democratic values, the group wrote on its website touting the rallies.

Brigitte Gabriel, who founded Act for America in 2007, has in recent years made a barrage of anti-Muslim comments.

During a speech at the Joint Forces Staff College in 2007, Gabriel said a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.

Her group has worked in state legislatures pushing anti-Sharia law initiatives.

Gabriel has also touted her ties to Trump.

Last year, she posted a Facebook photo of her and Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. And in March, Gabriel tweeted that she was in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with members of the Trump administration. Officials with the administration later said she attended a brief meeting with a member of the legislative staff.

In recent months, she has lauded Trumps proposed travel restrictions, which would temporarily bar travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim countries. So far, the proposal has been stalled in federal courts and could be headed for the Supreme Court.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks the activities of hate groups nationwide, said Gabriels group is meant to defame Muslims and Islam as a whole.

They spew hate, Beirich said.

In February, the law center reported that its count of hate groups in the country increased for the second consecutive year and that the number of anti-Muslim organizations had nearly tripled within a year. The group, among other things, attributed the growth to Trumps incendiary rhetoric on Muslims.

Corey Saylor, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Saturday his group was helping to organize counter-protests. CAIR was among 129 groups that urged mayors of cities where the rallies were scheduled to disavow them.

Its simple: This group does not like Muslims, he said of Act for America.

In Atlanta, many attending the rally insisted they were not against all Muslims.

Were marching against a politicized Islam, said Yosef Ozia, 23, a member of Proud Boys, a far-right mens group founded by Gavin McInnes, the libertarian provocateur and co-founder of Vice Media.

Yet there was some resistance to counter-protesters who chanted, “Muslims are welcome here.”

“They’re not welcome!” one woman attending the rally shot back.

“Do you have room in your home for them?” another hollered.

“There’s only one religion in the world that can’t get along, and that’s Islam,” said Jacob Hudson, a small business owner and Trump supporter who traveled 150 miles to the rally from Birmingham, Ala.

Muslims who oppose violence need to stand up and disavow extreme terror in the name of Islam, said Hudson, 31.

“Until they do that, we’ll do it for them,” he said.

Times staff writer Lee reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Jarvie from Atlanta. Times staff writer Barbara Demick in New York and Caitlin Doornbos of the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this report.

kurtis.lee@latimes.com

Twitter: @kurtisalee

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UPDATES:

9 p.m.: This article has been updated with a higher reference to the unlikelihood of Sharia law being imposed in the United States.

7:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with more comments from Atlanta protesters.

6:25 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional protests in other cities.

This article was originally posted at 1:45 p.m.

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Anti-Sharia rallies around the US denounce Islam while stoking concerns among Muslim groups – Los Angeles Times

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Why Does the Far Right Hold a Near-Monopoly on Political Violence? – The Nation.

Studies show that most people across the political spectrum abhor it. So what might explain the disparity? Many Republican candidates have included themselves using firearms in their campaign ads. From left to right, top to bottom: Kay Daly, Joni Ernst, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Eric Greitens, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Will Brooke. In the wake of the mass shooting in suburban Virginia last week that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others wounded, conservatives have been furiously waving the bloody shirt. With LEFT-WING HATE filling half the screen, Sean Hannity blamed Democrats, saying they dehumanize Republicans and paint them as monsters. Tucker Carlson claimed that some on the hard left support political violence because it could lead to the dissolution of a country they despise. Others have blamed seemingly anything even vaguely identified with liberalism for inciting the violencefrom Madonna to MSNBC to Shakespeare in the Park.1 This is all a truly remarkable example of projection. In the wake of the shooting, Erick Erickson wrote a piece titled, The Violence is Only Getting Started, as if three innocent people hadnt been brutally murdered by white supremacists in two separate incidents in just the past month.2 In the real world, since the end of the Vietnam era, the overwhelming majority of serious political violence not counting vandalism or punches thrown at protests, but violence with lethal intent has come from the fringes of the right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Centers Intelligence Project says that if you go back to the 1960s, you see all kinds of left-wing terrorism, but since then its been exceedingly rare. She notes that eco- and animal-rights extremists caused extensive property damage in the 1990s, but didnt target people.3 Meanwhile, says Beirich, right-wing domestic terrorism has been common throughout that period, going back to groups like to The Order, which assassinated [liberal talk-radio host] Alan Berg [in 1984] right through to today. Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation Leagues Center on Extremism, told NPR that when you look at murders committed by domestic extremists in the United States of all types, right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of those murders. The actual share is higher still, as violence committed by ultra-conservative Islamic supremacists isnt included in tallies of right-wing extremism.4 A 2015 survey of law enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that the police rate anti-government extremists as a greater threat than reactionary Islamists. The authors wrote that right-wing violence appears consistently greater than violence by Muslim extremists in the United States since 9/11, according to multiple definitions in multiple datasets. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Sovereign Citizensfringe anti-governmentalistslaunched 24 violent attacks from 2010 through 2014, mostly against law enforcement. When Robert Dear shot and killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, it became the latest in a series of bloody attacks on abortion providers dating back to Roe v. Wade in 1973. In the 30 years that followed that landmark decision, providers and clinics were targeted in more than 300 acts of violence, including arson, bombings and assassinations, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.5 But while the extreme right has held a near-monopoly on political violence since the 1980s, conservatives and Republicans are no more likely to say that using force to achieve ones political goals is justified than are liberals and Democrats. Thats the conclusion of a study conducted by Nathan Kalmoe, a professor of political communication at the University of Louisiana. In 2010, he asked respondents whether they agreed that various violent tactics were acceptable. Kalmoe found that fewer than 3 percent of the population strongly agreed that sometimes the only way to stop bad government is with physical force, or that some of the problems citizens have with government could be fixed with a few well-aimed bullets. He says that while there were tiny [partisan] variations on these specific items, they werent statistically significant on average.6 Ideology alone isnt a significant risk factor for violence. Theres a much stronger factor of individual personality traits that predispose people to be more aggressive in their everyday lives, Kalmoe says, and we see that playing out with people who engage in political violence. Mass shooters are often found to have had histories of domestic violence, and that was true for James Hodgkinson, the shooter who attacked the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Kalmoe says, we often see that violent individuals have a history of violence in their personal lives. People who are abusive, or who have run afoul of the law in other ways, are more likely to endorse violence.7 Political animosity is similarly bipartisan. According to Pew, roughly the same number of Republicans and Democratsaround halfsay they feel anger and fear toward the opposing party.8 Which raises an important question: If red and blue America fear and loathe one another equally, and a similar number believe that political violence is acceptable, then why is there so much more of it on the fringes of the right?9 Part of the answer lies in a clear difference between right and left: for the past forty years, Republicans, parroting the gun rights movement, have actively promoted the idea that firearms are a vital bulwark against government tyranny.10 13 Call it the Minutemen theory of gun rights. While the Second Amendment was framed to protect government-organized militias at a time when we had a very small standing army, the right has promoted the idea that its Americas first freedom, integral to defending our other rights, since the 1960s.14 Its become ubiquitous, from the militia movement that arose in the 1980s and has seen a resurgence in recent years, to the armed standoffs at the Bundy Ranch and the Malheur National Wildlife refuge. It animated Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, as well as the 2013 Los Angeles airport shooting spree, a 2014 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left two cops and one civilian dead and a number of less dramatic acts of violence.15 The belief that democratic government rests on the Second Amendment has become widespread among Americans; one poll found that about two-thirds believe that their constitutional right to own a gun was intended to ensure their freedom. But Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at SUNY Cortland and the author of several books on the politics of guns, says thats a modern idea. While theres a long tradition of some in America feeling deeply mistrustful of our government and there have been incidents throughout our history where people took up arms against the government the more specific idea that theres a right to rebel, or that somehow you can keep the government under control by taking up weapons, found its first serious expression in a law review article published in 1960. And the idea really took hold among a subset of Americans and a subset of gun owners, who argue to this day that this was part of the purpose of the second amendment. They talk about the Minutemen and the Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence. The idea really took hold in the 1970s and 1980s when the NRA itself began to use this same kind of rhetoric.16 Its also infused right-wing politics beyond the gun lobby. Watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots is a common theme in Tea Party circles, where the Gadsden flag dont tread on me! and loose talk of revolution blend seamlessly with mainstream anti-tax ideology and disdain for liberals. While a handful of Democrats competing in red states have run ads featuring them firing weapons, its become almost universal in Republican campaigns, where it not only marks a candidates opposition to gun safety legislation, but also signals that he or she is ready to wage war against the Washington establishment.17 War as a metaphor for politics isnt limited to the right, but it has become a constant in conservative discourse. The first shots of the second American civil war have already been fired, said Alex Jones earlier this month; We are in a clear-cut cultural civil war, according to Newt Gingrich; Pat Buchanan offered that were approaching something of a civil war, and said that its time for Trump to burn down the Bastille; You aint got any idea of the war thats raging outside the four walls of the church, religious right activist Dave Daubenmire told a crowd of anti-gay protesterslast weekend. Dont you understand whats going on? Dont you know its a war? Dont you know they want your children? Dont you understand that those same people singing Jesus loves you this I know want to kill us? Then theres the quasi-apocalyptic prepper mentality, which holds that were on the brink of social collapse so youd better buy gold and stock up on ammo for when the shit inevitably hits the fan.18 Nathan Kalmoe says that theres an important distinction to make between people who have more conventional views, versus people who have much more extreme views. He thinks that, whether on the left or the right, those who are at least somewhat close to the mainstream probably have a greater commitment to non-violent approaches to politics and are socialized into non-violent norms of how participation is supposed to work. But on the right, those lines have become blurred in recent years Glenn Becks goldbuggery, the ravings of the alt-right and the Minutemen theory of gun rights have all become features of the larger conservative landscape, even if theyre not quite mainstream.19 The Nation is reader-supported. Donate today to fund more reporting like this. Kalmoe says that rhetoric alone isnt the main cause of political violence, but violent language and vilifying opponents can nudge people in ways that make them think and act more aggressively in politics. He conducted an experiment that first measured subjects aggressive personality traits. Then he exposed them to two imaginary political ads, one that employed mildly violent political rhetoric and one that used neutral language, and he found that those subjects who had already displayed a penchant for aggressive behavior were far more likely to support political violence after being exposed to the violent rhetoric. So its not that violent rhetoric causes real-world violence so much as it can make people who behave aggressively in real-life more likely to endorse violence against political leaders.20 Liberals believe that mature institutions and the separation of powers are what keep tyranny at bay, not an AR-15. If James Hodgkinson looked around himself and saw a president who acts as if hes above the law and a Congress thats working in the dark to strip away health insurance from millions of people to finance tax cuts for the wealthy but is unwilling to perform its oversight duties, and decided that he would stand up to tyranny with an assault rifle, he would have taken a theme thats exceedingly common on the right to its bloody logical conclusion.21

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Anti-Sharia group offers donors a private tour and cocktails at Trump hotel – The Providence Journal

Amy Brittain, Abigail Hauslohner / The Washington Post A controversial group that has held rallies against the spread of Islamic law is seeking to harness the allure of President Donald Trump’s brand as it raises money for its upcoming Washington conference. For $10,000, sponsors of the ACT for America gathering can enjoy “pre-conference cocktails” and a “private tour of the historic Trump International Hotel” alongside the group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, among other benefits, according to promotional materials published on the group’s website. The walk through the hotel, located in the stately Old Post Office Pavilion a few blocks from the White House, is scheduled to take place before participants head to Capitol Hill to hold lawmakers’ “feet to the fire” on national security issues, according to plans posted on the group’s website. The organization, which critics have decried as anti-Muslim, has repeatedly claimed that Judeo-Christian culture is under “assault” in America and radical Islam is to blame. The promotion represents a new twist in the story line of Trump’s luxury hotel, which has sparked several lawsuits and criticism from ethics experts alleging that the president is improperly profiting from foreign governments and other interest groups holding events at the property. Although groups typically pay to book meeting space and food service at the Trump hotel as they would at any event venue, ACT is touting the chance to enjoy access to a signature business owned by the president of the United States. The October event offers ACT, which has drawn headlines this month for its “March Against Sharia” rallies across the country, a chance to associate itself with a president who campaigned on banning many Muslims from entering the United States and has recently seen his efforts to restrict travel from certain majority-Muslim countries tied up in legal challenges. Officials from the Trump Organization and ACT declined to answer questions about the event, including whether ACT was paying the hotel for the tour and, if so, how much. Christine Da Silva, a Trump Organization spokeswoman, pointed to “guest privacy” in declining to discuss the event but said that generally, “private tours about the history of the building are organized periodically.” An ACT spokesman, David White, did not make Gabriel available for an interview, but in a statement to The Washington Post he defended the group’s work. “ACT for America embraces the practice of all religions, including Islam,” White said. “We stand opposed to Sharia law, which is not a religion, but a barbaric code that executes LGBTQ people for their orientation, mutilates children, and subjugates individual rights.” The group has invoked Trump in its efforts to lure donors. Gabriel, who has shared photos of herself at the White House and Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach club, wrote to donors after the election saying that ACT “has a direct line to Donald Trump, and has played a fundamental role in shaping his views.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Gabriel, whose legal name is Brigitte Tudor, describes herself on ACT’s website as “one of the leading terrorism experts in the world.” ACT says it has more than 750,000 members. Its most recent tax filings list about 17,000 volunteers. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks hate organizations, has labeled ACT an extremist group characterized by “wild hate speech demonizing Muslims” and a mission to advance anti-Muslim legislation around the country. Heidi Beirich, who runs SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said that Gabriel’s national prominence has recently surged. “Her visibility is higher than it’s ever been,” Beirich said. Last summer ACT announced that retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, who was advising then-candidate Trump on national security issues, had joined its board of advisers. In August, Flynn appeared at an ACT event in Dallas and referred to Islam as a “cancer,” according to a Dallas Morning News account of his speech. A person close to Flynn told The Washington Post that he is not involved with ACT and has no plans to attend the group’s conferences. Flynn was fired this year as Trump’s national security adviser after reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence on his meetings with Russian officials. In March, Gabriel shared photos of her visit to the White House, where she was reported to have met with a staffer handling legislative affairs. On April 6, Gabriel posted a photo of a red carpet and said she was heading to dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Trump also dined at his luxury Palm Beach club that evening, around the time that U.S. forces launched a military strike in Syria. Most of the events for ACT’s 2017 “United Against Terror” conference are scheduled to be held on Capitol Hill and at a hotel in Arlington. Katrina Pierson, who was a national spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, is listed as one of the speakers. Pierson, when reached by a Post reporter, declined to comment about the Trump hotel promotion or say if she endorses ACT’s beliefs. “As someone who was targeted in the first ISIS inspired attack in the United States, I don’t feel it’s necessary to comment as to why I would share my story with others when asked in a personal capacity,” she told The Post, referring to her presence at a Muhammed cartoon exhibit in Texas that was attacked by gunmen in 2015. “Political correctness and cowardness has no place in America,” the group says on promotional materials for the gathering. “We will not be silenced. We will not fail. We will ensure that America remains the brightest star shining on a hill over the world.” The private tour of the Trump hotel is listed on ACT’s website as part of the “Chairman’s Circle” sponsorship package, which is the top tier available to donors. It also includes four conference registrations, a private lunch with Gabriel, and preferred seating for events. The Trump International Hotel, which opened last fall, has emerged as one of Washington’s new attractions since Trump won the election. Although he owns the hotel, he leases the historic building from the federal government. A clock tower remains open to the public through the National Park Service and is available through a separate entrance – giving visitors panoramic views of the city. A wide array of special interest groups has chosen the hotel for events in the months since Trump has taken office. Prominent bookings have included a conference on U.S. and Turkish relations, a PAC fundraiser for funeral directors featuring former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich and an event highlighting forklift safety issues. Last week, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit claiming “unprecedented constitutional violations” by Trump, largely centered on allegations that he has refused to create a meaningful divide between his business and his presidency. Activists and protesters have routinely made their presence known on the property. In May, a protester projected words in bright blue lights that read “Pay Trump Bribes Here” and pointed an arrow to the front door of the hotel. Last month, a Pennsylvania man was arrested for bring an AR-15 rifle, handgun and ammunition onto hotel grounds. It is unclear what parts of the Trump International Hotel would be included on ACT’s advertised private tour. Throughout the hotel, there are signs that restrict guest access to certain hallways. Secret Service spokesman Joseph Casey told The Post that the Trump Organization is generally responsible for securing the property. Casey said the Secret Service has a security presence there only if one of the agency’s protected people, such as Trump, Pence or their family members, visit the hotel.

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June 21, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Copy of Nooses showing up more in hate incidents around country – KIRO Seattle

by: JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Updated: Jun 17, 2017 – 6:41 PM “We’ve seen a spike in the use of symbols of hate lately, and the noose is one more example,” said Denison University professor Jack Shuler, who has studied lynching and noose imagery in the U.S. Two nooses were found at Smithsonian museums in the past week, one outside the Hirshhorn Museum last Friday and one inside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Wednesday. Bananas tied to nooses were discovered at American University in Washington last month, while a noose was found at the nearby University of Maryland and a suburban middle school in Crofton, Maryland. Two 19-year-old white men were arrested and charged with hate crimes for allegedly hanging the noose at the Crofton school. No arrests have been made in the other cases. TRENDING NOW: Bill Cosbys wife releases fiery statement after trial. Read it here. Couple trapped in London fire spent final moments calling parents Unseen photos of Mt. St. Helens eruption discovered in forgotten camera at Goodwill. (See them here) VIDEO: Coconut Oil Isnt Actually Good For You, The American Heart Association Says DOWNLOAD OUR FREE NEWS APP This comes as other episodes of bigotry have shaken the country, including the spray-painting of a racial slur on the gate of basketball superstar LeBron James’ mansion in Los Angeles on Wednesday. In Portland, Oregon, two white people were stabbed to death last Friday after they tried to stop a white man from shouting anti-Muslim slurs at two young women. One of the women was wearing a Muslim head covering, and both were black. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks bigotry, said it has seen an increase in hate incidents in the U.S. since the election of President Donald Trump. Between Election Day and Feb. 1, the SPLC said, it collected information on about 1,800 hate-related episodes from almost every state. “In the past, it would be a couple hundred at most, and that would be high,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Loops of rope have long been used to intimidate African-Americans because they evoke lynchings. The nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative said there were 4,075 lynchings of blacks in the South to spread racial terror between 1877 and 1950. For blacks, the noose is “comparable in the emotions that it evokes to that of the swastika for Jews,” the Anti-Defamation League said. “I’ve seen in the last couple of months more instances of nooses being used to intimidate people,” said Shuler, author of “The Thirteenth Turn: A History of the Noose.” ”I think we’re in a situation right now where people who express hateful opinions are being allowed to speak freely and it’s become OK again.” Beirich blames the rhetoric from Trump’s presidential campaign, during which he pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border and ban Muslim immigrants. Trump also claimed for a long time that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. “Putting those sentiments in public from a presidential campaign has sanctioned a lot of people,” Beirich said. “Things they might have kept inside themselves, that they have kept quiet about, have burst out.” The noose didn’t stop some visitors to the black history museum. Stephen Middleton, who brought his extended family to the museum Thursday from Georgia and Maryland, said he wasn’t surprised someone targeted the museum. But “we’re not going to be deterred, we’re not going to be wavered and not going to be intimidated,” he said. ___ Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press in Washington. Contact him at jholland@ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland 2017 Cox Media Group.

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June 17, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Feds: Neo-Nazi plot targeted civilians, nukes and synagogues – News Talk Florida

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Federal prosecutors say a neo-Nazi arrested after agents found bomb-making materials in his Florida apartment while investigating the slayings of his two roommates planned to use the explosives to harm civilians, nuclear facilities and synagogues. Court documents filed Monday say a third roommate arrested in the killings told authorities that 21-year-old Brandon Russell had been targeting the sites. The murder suspect, Devon Arthurs, was arrested last month after telling police he fatally shot 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk because they were neo-Nazis who disrespected his recent conversion to Islam. Arthurs told police Russell was not involved in the shootings, but that he was planning a bombing. The documents also state that police found two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a skull mask in Russells car. TAMPA (AP) Investigators found white supremacist propaganda, bomb-making materials and a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at a Florida apartment where a teenager killed two roommates who had once shared his neo-Nazi beliefs before he converted to Islam, police and the FBI said. Devon Arthurs, 18, led police to the two bodies inside his Tampa apartment last Friday, saying he killed them after they showed disrespect for his new faith, according to police and FBI reports released Monday. A fourth roommate, a member of the Florida National Guard, was arrested on charges related to the alleged discovery of bomb-making materials. The investigation began unfolding Friday, when Arthurs held two customers and an employee hostage at gunpoint at a Tampa smoke shop, police said. Arthurs said he converted to Islam and was upset about American bombings in Muslim countries, among other issues, according to a Tampa police report. He is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges, and court records did not list an attorney for him. Officers talked Arthurs into letting the hostages go and dropping his weapon, and took him into custody, according to officials. Police said Arthurs started talking about killing two people, and then he directed them to a condominium complex where the four roommates shared an apartment. When they arrived at the apartment the fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, was crying and standing outside the apartments front door in his military uniform. He had just finished duty with the Florida National Guard. Inside lay the bodies of 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. Both had been shot. Investigators also found a cooler filled with bomb-making material, two radioactive substances and the Nazi propaganda, according to the FBI. Federal agents arrested Russell, 21, on Saturday on charges related to the explosives. The FBI said Russell admitted to his neo-Nazi beliefs and said he was a member of a group called Atomwaffen, which is German for atomic weapon. At first, Russell told agents he kept the explosives from his days in an engineering club at the University of South Florida in 2013, and that he used the substances to boost homemade rockets. The agents wrote that the substance found was too energetic and volatile for these types of uses. Russell has been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material. Court records did not list an attorney for him. Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious computer hacker and internet troll, wrote a post about the killings for The Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi website. Auernheimer, known online as weev, said in Sundays post that he knew the shooting suspect and both of the shooting victims. He said he banned Arthurs from The Daily Stormers Discord server, an online forum, for posting Muslim terrorist propaganda earlier this year. He came in to convert people to Islam, Auernheimer said during a telephone interview Monday. It didnt work out very well for him. Auernheimer described Himmelman and Oneschuk as friends of friends and said they belonged to the Atomwaffen group. Atomwaffen are a bunch of good dudes. Theyve posted tons of fliers with absolutely killer graphics at tons of universities over the years. They generally have a lot of fun and party, he wrote. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Centers Intelligence Project, said the law center had seen recent news reports on Atomwaffen members posting neo-Nazi fliers on college campuses. But the SPLC hadnt examined the groups membership or the ins and outs of the organization before Fridays shooting. Once again, we see how violent these people are, she said. In the neo-Nazi movement, weve seen a long string of bombers and murderers.

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June 13, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Pot War, Muslim Travel Ban, Russia Probe: Jeff Sessions In The Middle Of Troubled Trump Issues – Benzinga

Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. senator to endorse President Donald Trumps candidacy, finds himself swept up in virtually every issue that has confounded the administrations efforts to advance any sort of an agenda. Front and center is his role in whether the Trump team conspired with Russian agents to fix the November election, his subsequent recusal in March from the federal investigation into those ties and whether he broke his own promise to stay out of the affair. Sessions is supposed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia Tuesday, but the openness of the session is undecided. Here are a few things to know about Sessions: As a Republican senator from Alabama, he went out on a limb and endorsed Trump in February of 2016, when few people thought the real estate mogul had chance, and he was rewarded for his loyalty with the AGs job. Its been downhill ever since. Last week, former FBI Director James Comey, without being specific, said he had information about Sessions related to Russia that he termed problematic to the investigation. It was a tantalizing clue that there may be other complicating issues connecting the attorney general to the ongoing investigation, Sen. Chris Coons (DDel.) told Politico. Comey also said he asked Sessions, his boss, not to leave him alone with Trump after an awkward meeting in February, when Comey alleged that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynns visits and meetings with pro-Kremlin Russians. Sessions had also said under oath during his confirmation hearing that he had not had contact with the Russians during the election campaign, then admitted it in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee when reports surfaced he indeed had meetings. It was then that Sessions recused himself. Sessions played a key role in Trumps two executive orders seeking to ban Muslims from first seven, then six nations. His comments about Muslims played a part in the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, refusing to enforce the order. Yellen was subsequently fired by Trump in January. Both the first and second bans were blocked by federal courts, and the Muslim prohibition now appears headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sessions is also strongly opposed to guest worker visas that allow immigrants to work temporarily in the United States. Sessions was named head of the Trump campaigns national security advisory committee in March 2016 and was pivotal to Trump naming Flynn as national security advisor, even though it was known that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about meeting with the Russians and discussing U.S. sanctions against Russia for the 2014 invasion of neighbor Ukraine. Sessions was also instrumental in the naming of Pence as Trumps running mate, and Pence subsequently led the Trump presidential transition team. Sessions has a history of making racially inflammatory remarks, and his nomination to a federal judgeship in 1986 was denied because of the accusations. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich told the Washington Post that Sessions has been guilty of using hate speech, and that his presence close to Trump a tragedy for American politics. Sessions has vowed to wage war on the increasing number of states that have passed marijuana laws allowing it for medicinal and/or recreational use. However, a bipartisan budget committee has rejected Session’s attempts to get money for the effort. I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store, Sessions said March 15, comparing it to heroin. Related Links: Comey Demolishes Infrastructure Week, Calls Trump A Liar I Read The Tweets Today, Oh Boy: A Week In The 140-Character Life Of Donald Trump _______ Image Credit: By Office of the President-elect – https://greatagain.gov/sessions-highlights-6819d2478fc5#.ow7rot78y, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Posted-In: News Futures Previews Politics Travel Legal Events Markets Best of Benzinga 2017 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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June 12, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

‘Holocaust Revisionist’ Organization Upset At Being Labeled A ‘Hate Group’ – Forward

wikimedia A self-described group of Holocaust revisionists has taken issue with being designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Deir Yessin Remembered, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., says that its mission is to spread awareness about a 1948 massacre by Jewish militias that, by some estimates, killed more than 100 Arab villagers. However, the organizations activities have also expanded to include Holocaust denial. Heidi Beirich, director of SPLCs Intelligence Project, said Deir Yassin Remembered was added to the centers lists of hate groups for 2017 due to the groups support of Holocaust deniers and its questioning of historically accurate facts about the Holocaust, the Michigan news website MLive.com reported on Friday. Indeed, one blog post on Deir Yessin Remembereds website takes issue with the existence of the Final Solution, the existence of gas chambers, and the number of Jews killed in concentration camps. The SPLCs annual list of hate groups includes 917 groups across the country this year, 28 of which are in Michigan. Contact Jesse Bernstein at bernstein@forward.com or on Twitter @__jbernstein.

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June 12, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

March Against Sharia Targets Muslims in US – Newsweek

ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel saysthe Islamic law known as Sharia is taking over the land, eclipsing the U.S. Constitution, with radical clerics turning the nation into a modern-day caliphate. That isnt even remotely true, but the inconvenient fact is unlikely to stop anti-Islamic zealots who disguise their Islamophobia as a humanistic concern about Sharias infringement on American civic life. This Saturday, ACT for America is holding March Against ShariaMarch for Human Rightsevents in more than two dozen American cities. We, at ACT for America, are committed to protecting women and children from Sharia Law, says the groups website, and its impact on Muslim women and children, including honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation. We must ensure that every woman and child enjoy the protection afforded by the U.S. Constitution. Subscribe to Newsweek from $1 per week ACT for America According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks radical organizations across the United States, ACT for America is the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America, claiming 280,000 members and over 1,000 chapters. The group was founded in 2007 by Gabriel, who is a Lebanese Christian. The following year,it launched Stop Shariah Now, which would presumably ‘inform and educate the public about what Shariah is, how it is creeping into American society and compromising our constitutional freedom of speech, press, religion and equality. That campaign and related efforts have resulted in anti-Sharia legislation in several states. Those laws, however, are often supported by Republicans who are themselves far more prone to fundamentalism than the Muslims they fear. In a report called “Manufacturing Bigotry, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that 80 percentof the 102 anti-Sharia bills were sponsored or co-sponsored by an overlap legislator, or legislator who sponsored or co-sponsored a restrictive law targeting undocumented immigrants, women seeking reproductive health options, workers seeking to organize and voter identification. Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT for America, on Fox News. Fox News There is no ability under the Constitution to impose Sharia law, says Heidi Beirich, who directs the SPLCs Intelligence Project. The vast majority of religious adherents, regardless of their faith, understand the American ideal of separation between church and state. Gabriel turned down requests for comment over email and social media. But last year, speaking at an ACT for America conference, she called her group the NRA of national security, an apparent reference to the National Rifle Association. During the talk, she suggested that some Syrian refugees are members of the Islamic State. She also lambasted Chobani, a yogurt company that is a popular target of the far-right because it hires refugees. For all the fearmongering by ACT for America, Sharia creep remains the stuff of right-wing fantasy. It seizes on reports of criminal behavior by American Muslims, including female genital mutilation and honor killings. Both are troubling yetextremely rare. Nor is there any evidence that mainstream Muslims are attempting to foist those fringe practices on the American population at large. This is an attempt to make Muslims seem like these insidious, creepy beings whose only role here is to come and steal constitutional rights, says Beirich.

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June 11, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

5 Questions with Heidi Beirich | Aspen Ideas Blog

You oversee the Southern Poverty Law Centers yearly count of the nations hate and hardline anti-government groups. Is the number of these groups growing? And can you give an example of a few that have developed more recently? These groups have been growing, and for some time. The number of hate groups started rising in 2000 after the Census Bureau, for the first time, announced publicly that in the 2040s there would be no white majority in the US. That obviously was a motivator for white supremacist groups to recruit, and they did aggressively. There were 602 hate groups in 2000 and there are 917 now. Obamas election was also a factor, as well as the economic meltdown in 2008. But the most important factor leading to the growth of these groups is Americas changing demographics.The hate movement is capitalizing on this with those who share racial resentmentsand have built a backlash that comprised part of the electoral coalition behind President Trump, namely the Alt-Right. In the last year, it was organizations such as Daily Stormer or Identity Europa that saw the biggest gains in terms of new chapters. They hitched their messaging to the Trump campaign and as a result, saw great increases in their ranks. Daily Stormer now has 400,000 page views a month and in the last year, moved from an online website to a real world organization with 30 chapters. The way the antigovernment movement, which includes gun extremists and those who think Democrats are out to destroy them, grows is a bit different. It tends to add organizations and chapters when Democratic presidents are in office, which happened under Clinton and Obama. In 2016, their number of chapters fell, likely as they watched the Trump campaign excel and eventually win in November. Hate crimes spiked in the US following the November election. Whats the status of hate crimes now, six months after the election? The SPLC documented about 1,800 hate crimes and bias incidents from the day of the election through February. It was an extraordinary number of such events, which typically occur in much smaller numbers during a similar period of time. The most targeted populations immigrants and Muslims were also subject to demonization during the election campaign. As we often say at SPLC, hate speech has real world consequences and they can be terrifying for the groups subject to demonization. Also, many of the crimes were specifically committed in Trumps name. In the first month or so, about twenty percent of the incidents perpetrators referred directly to him. Whats the goal of collecting data around the problem of hate? The most important objective is to demonstrate that this is a continuing problem in America that needs to be addressed. Too often, people work under the assumption that all of Americas horrifying racial past is history. But a white supremacist governing structure didnt disappear with the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the mid-1960s. And racists, who were backed up in their beliefs by law since the founding of the country, dont just abandon those beliefs overnight. Detoxifying race in this country is a long-term project. Simply documenting that hate crimes are happening matters greatly in dealing with this problem.We should also hold accountable those who demonize populations for political reasons or other ends for the violence their words can unleash. Hate crimes are brutally undercounted. The DOJ (Department of Justice) has conducted three major statistical studies of survey data compiled annually by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). These analyses make it clear that the number of hate crimes in the US is much larger than other counts, at 250,000 annually. Think about that for a second. The FBI reports about 5500 hate crimes annually, and has for decades. The NCVS data, however, says the number is 30 times that amount. That means the undercounting is serious and the system for collecting data on hate crimes basically broken. If we really documented 250,000 hate crimes a year, this issue would be a national crisis. We, as a country, would be working on it with policies and dedicating resources to it. But due to the undercounting, it simply isn’t a top priority in our political system. The UK, which has millions fewer residents than the US, counted over 50,000 hate crimes last year. It’s possible to do better, if we care about the issue. Youre speaking in the America I Know track at the Festival. What dont most Americans know or understand that you wish they did? I wish they better understood the role hate continues to play in our political system and culture. Most Americans dont realize how many of these groups exist, how often ideas from white supremacist circles make it into mainstream media and politics, and how much that impacts our society. Many people dont realize that nearly all domestic terrorist attacks, or attempted attacks, are committed by white supremacists and not radical Islamists. In fact, our domestic terrorism problem is indigenous mostly, meaning it’s motivated by ideas about white superiority that are part of our culture, not some foreign import like radical Islam. Dylann Roof, who was driven by white supremacist ideology to kill black people in a Charleston church, is the norm for terrorists domestically. There is a certain naivet on this point that I wish did not exist because we cant combat these ideas if we dont know about them, dont care about them, or refuse to acknowledge them. We can only fix such problems when we are fully aware they exist.

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June 11, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed

Anti-Sharia rallies around the US denounce Islam while stoking concerns among Muslim groups – Los Angeles Times

Speaking out about what they believe are the ills of Islam, anti-Sharia law activists demonstrated nationwide Saturday, but were met by counter-protesters who assailed their rhetoric as insensitive and demeaning. Members of Act for America, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, gathered in parks and plazas across the country, organizing nearly two dozen so-called March Against Sharia rallies, stoking concerns and counter-events by Muslim leaders who say the group is spewing hate. In Atlanta, an assortment of militia men brandishing assault rifles, supporters of President Trump waving American flags and mens rights activists wearing helmets descended on Piedmont Park, a leafy oasis in the citys affluent, liberal Midtown neighborhood. In New York, nearly 100 people attended a rally near lower Manhattan. They were outnumbered by counter-protesters, and the two sides hurled insults across two rows of police barricades. Commies, screamed the anti-Sharia demonstrators. Fascists, retorted the counter-demonstrators. Some anti-Sharia marchers in Orlando, Fla., such as Sheryl Tumey, noted the timing of event, two days before the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as a reason to protest. The gunman, who killed 50 people at the gay club, had been inspired by Islamic State extremists. We live here and that touched us and that was a terrorist, said Tumey, 50. We are here and they want to bring in a religion of hate and oppression. And so it went around the country in Chicago, Denver, Seattle, San Bernardino and elsewhere, where anti-Sharia marchers took to the streets and were met by their foes. The demonstrators were protesting a set of religious and legal codes that have never been part of American jurisprudence and seem extremely unlikely to take root in the foreseeable future. Legal experts have said there is no mechanism by which any foreign criminal or civil code can trump U.S. laws, and laws mandating religious practices would be a clear violation of the Constitutions separation of church and state. Nevertheless, joggers took out their earbuds and cyclists stopped pedaling, aghast as the small Atlanta crowd chanted, USA! USA! and spoke fervently of terrorism, female genital mutilation and beheadings. A small gaggle of counter-protesters held up placards and shouted, No Hate! No Fear! Muslims Are Welcome Here. We have to protect America, our citizens and our way of life, said Lila Mercer, 49, an assistant manager for a big rig dealership who had traveled 40 miles from Auburn, Ga., for her first protest. Sharia law does not belong in America, she said as she waved a homemade placard that said GOD BLESS USA. Behind her, Michael Williams, a two-term Republican state senator who is running for governor, waved a tiny U.S. flag as he posed for photographs with armed members of Georgia Security Force III% militia We all need to come together, put aside some of our petty differences and unite together to fight Sharia law, Williams shouted through a bullhorn to the crowd of about 50 people. We do not need it in our country. Overseas in Europe and other places, theyre throwing people off of buildings, theyre decapitating people because they do not believe the things they believe. The event, where some men gripped rifles, drew concerns from passers-by. Is this safe? a mother asked, anxiously covering her babys head as she passed a cluster of men in camouflage fatigues wielding long guns. What is this? Im just trying to take a walk with my girlfriends. Zack Schneeberger, an IT project manager, 36, who walked up to the group with his wife and 6-month-old while waving a rainbow flag, said the Atlanta neighborhood was a haven of love and diversity. Why bring assault rifles? You do not bring bullets to get a clear understanding, he said. Act for America, which boasts that it has more than 500,000 members, said the rallies were about defending democracy and pushing back against Sharia law. The law is a philosophical code derived from Islamic scripture and meant to guide observant Muslims. In addition to civil and criminal law, it prescribes a wide range of faith practices, such as abstaining from alcohol and praying five times a day. Many aspects of Sharia law run contrary to basic human rights and are completely incompatible with our laws and our democratic values, the group wrote on its website touting the rallies. Brigitte Gabriel, who founded Act for America in 2007, has in recent years made a barrage of anti-Muslim comments. During a speech at the Joint Forces Staff College in 2007, Gabriel said a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States. Her group has worked in state legislatures pushing anti-Sharia law initiatives. Gabriel has also touted her ties to Trump. Last year, she posted a Facebook photo of her and Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. And in March, Gabriel tweeted that she was in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with members of the Trump administration. Officials with the administration later said she attended a brief meeting with a member of the legislative staff. In recent months, she has lauded Trumps proposed travel restrictions, which would temporarily bar travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim countries. So far, the proposal has been stalled in federal courts and could be headed for the Supreme Court. Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks the activities of hate groups nationwide, said Gabriels group is meant to defame Muslims and Islam as a whole. They spew hate, Beirich said. In February, the law center reported that its count of hate groups in the country increased for the second consecutive year and that the number of anti-Muslim organizations had nearly tripled within a year. The group, among other things, attributed the growth to Trumps incendiary rhetoric on Muslims. Corey Saylor, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Saturday his group was helping to organize counter-protests. CAIR was among 129 groups that urged mayors of cities where the rallies were scheduled to disavow them. Its simple: This group does not like Muslims, he said of Act for America. In Atlanta, many attending the rally insisted they were not against all Muslims. Were marching against a politicized Islam, said Yosef Ozia, 23, a member of Proud Boys, a far-right mens group founded by Gavin McInnes, the libertarian provocateur and co-founder of Vice Media. Yet there was some resistance to counter-protesters who chanted, “Muslims are welcome here.” “They’re not welcome!” one woman attending the rally shot back. “Do you have room in your home for them?” another hollered. “There’s only one religion in the world that can’t get along, and that’s Islam,” said Jacob Hudson, a small business owner and Trump supporter who traveled 150 miles to the rally from Birmingham, Ala. Muslims who oppose violence need to stand up and disavow extreme terror in the name of Islam, said Hudson, 31. “Until they do that, we’ll do it for them,” he said. Times staff writer Lee reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Jarvie from Atlanta. Times staff writer Barbara Demick in New York and Caitlin Doornbos of the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this report. kurtis.lee@latimes.com Twitter: @kurtisalee ALSO Neo-Nazi website raises $150,000 to fight Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit ‘I’m with my kids’: Chicago man shot dead after pleading with teen gunman A new generation of Democrats isn’t waiting for the party to tell it what to do UPDATES: 9 p.m.: This article has been updated with a higher reference to the unlikelihood of Sharia law being imposed in the United States. 7:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with more comments from Atlanta protesters. 6:25 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional protests in other cities. This article was originally posted at 1:45 p.m.

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June 11, 2017   Posted in: Heidi Beirich  Comments Closed


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