Black House Leader Hopes To Combat White Nationalist Terrorism With New Law
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wants to finally add a domestic terrorism law to the books.
Senior Black congressman Bennie Thompson unveiled a new piece of legislation on Wednesday aiming to address domestic terrorism and violent white supremacist groups.
Dozens of news outlets have done in-depth stories revealing how little the federal government can or will do to stop white nationalist groups from enacting race and gender-based violence across the country.
Thompson's bill would force the United States Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to track domestic terrorism. In addition, the three groups would have to release yearly reports on the data. Republicans have repeatedly fought any attempts to track domestic terrorism, claiming it would unfairly target right-wing groups.
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In 2009, Republicans stopped the Department of Homeland Security from tracking domestic terrorism at all. The political party argues it is an attack on conservatives.
There is no current legislation protecting citizens from domestic terrorism. As a result, the FBI and Justice Department have to work with state laws in order to stop homegrown terror suspects. This has proven to be difficult and multiple cases in have illustrated the need for a change in how domestic terrorism is addressed.
"Domestic terrorism, fueled largely by a surge in white supremacist extremism, presents a growing threat to the security of our homeland,” said Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, in a statement.
“In 2018, the lives of 50 Americans were taken as a result of domestic extremist-related killings—all connected to right-wing extremism, and mostly tied to white supremacism," he added. "Yet, few Americans know much about what exactly the Federal government is doing to prevent domestic terrorism.”
In addition to 18 co-sponsors, groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Arab American Institute have backed the bill.
On Monday, a federal judge threw out charges against four members of the white supremacist group, Rise Above Movement. In October, the FBI accused them of punching and attacking people during 4 separate protests across California.
1/ @NYtimes reported today that Robert Rundo, a leader of the white nationalist group Rise Above Movement, was arrested by the FBI after fleeing to Central America earlier this month.https://t.co/T0ew1kyftW— ProPublica (@propublica) October 24, 2018
In a statement, the FBI said the men punched police officers and threatened even greater violence.
“Every American has a right to peacefully organize, march and protest in support of their beliefs – but no one has the right to violently assault their political opponents,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.
“The allegations describe an orchestrated effort to squelch free speech as members of the conspiracy travelled to multiple locations to attack those who hold different views. This case demonstrates our commitment to preserve and protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said the law which the Justice Department used to charge the men was too broad and let them all go free. One of the men, who already plead guilty to other charges, was also released.
“Make no mistake that it is reprehensible to throw punches in the name of teaching Antifa some lesson,” Carney wrote in a 12-page statement.
“Nor does the Court condone RAM’s hateful and toxic ideology. But the government has sufficient means at its disposal to prevent and punish such behavior without sacrificing the First Amendment.”
Despite visible increases in race-based violence across the country, the FBI and Homeland Security said they are doing all they can.
This week, Congress has been grilling officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security on white nationalist violence and the spate of shootings involving nationalist group members.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley and other Black politicians have been furious for two years about the FBI decision to create a new category called "Black Identity Extremists." During harsh questioning, the FBI admitted that the term was not tied to any group or movement and could not identify what exactly they were looking for when using the term.
Yesterday, the FBI confirmed that the absurd "Black Identity Extremism" designation does NOT exist & that black people are NOT being surveyed as a credible threat to our nat'l security. If that's not the case, why does the FBI continue spending resources monitoring black people? pic.twitter.com/pgj7WTEzzj— Rep Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) June 5, 2019
Pressley questioned why the FBI was focused at all on "Black Identity Extremists" while nationalist groups that have been implicated repeatedly in terror attacks like Charlottesville and the Pittsburgh synagogue roam free.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned Michael McGarrity, the FBI’s assistant director of counterterrorism, about why there’s no federal law that designates certain crimes as domestic terrorism. pic.twitter.com/RAtkCqVahK— HuffPost (@HuffPost) June 5, 2019
"Yesterday, the FBI confirmed that the absurd 'Black Identity Extremism' designation does NOT exist & that black people are NOT being surveyed as a credible threat to our nat'l security," Pressley wrote on Twitter.
"If that's not the case, why does the FBI continue spending resources monitoring black people?"