On June 14, President Trump called for unity. His remarks came after a vicious shooting during a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. The shooter was a man reportedly enraged at the president and GOP policies; Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others were severely injured.
“We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace,” Trump said, concluding, “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.”
It was the right message, but one that Trump has too often failed to follow. This has been especially true when it comes to violence motivated by hatred. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented nearly 900 hate incidents in the 10 days after Trump’s election, around a fifth of which were committed by Trump supporters or in his name. The populations most targeted in those 10 days — immigrants and Muslims — had been regularly demonized by Trump during the campaign.
Always ready to condemn attacks motivated by extremist interpretations of Islam — like those in Manchester and London in May — when it comes to hate violence by white supremacists the president is untypically quiet.
And that’s a serious problem because this type of violence is on the rise.
In March, James H. Jackson traveled from Baltimore to New York City to kill black men. A reader of the pro-Trump, neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer and a veteran, Jackson killed one man before turning himself in, after which he was charged with terrorism.
In February, a man in Olathe, Kansas, walked into a bar yelling, “Get out of my country,” and then shot two men from India, killing one. Adam Purlinton was booked for murder.
In early June, federal hate crime charges were brought.
The father of one of those injured blamed the attack on Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, imploring Indian parents “not to send their children to the United States.”
A black college student and commissioned Army officer was stabbed to death May 20 at the University of Maryland, College Park. The attacker, Sean Urbanski, was a member of a racist Facebook group Alt-Reich. A Trump fan, Urbanski liked a post online that read, “Trump isn’t lying that hispanics [sic] are taking the land away and that times are bad.” It featured graphics that claimed the white race was being snuffed out by minorities. The FBI is investigating the murder as a hate crime.
Six days later, Jeremy Christian stabbed two men to death on the MAX train in Portland, Oregon. The men died after coming to the aid of two young Muslim women Christian was harassing. A participant in a pro-Trump “March for Free Speech” rally in late April, Christian, too, had extremist beliefs. He praised Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, defended the American Nazi Party and called for a white ethnostate.
Christian was indicted on 15 charges including aggravated murder.
This hate violence is happening in an increasingly volatile environment, as this issue of the Intelligence Report documents. Extremist secessionist movements are popping up across the country, white supremacist criminal gangs are growing in numbers and cops are being killed by white and black extremists alike.
Particularly challenging for law enforcement, violence is breaking out on the streets between militant far right groups and antifascist activists. On the right, new radical right fight clubs like the DIY Division, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights and the Proud Boys have popped up to do battle in clashes between pro-Trump and anti-Trump groups.
One would think that with this volatility and the shocking amount of hate violence we’ve seen, our president would provide some guidance. At the least, he could denounce the hatred, some of it committed by his supporters, as strongly as he did the horrific shooting on June 14. Perhaps Trump could take a page from former President George W. Bush, who decried hate violence against Muslims after the 9/11 attacks, helping to ease a spasm of anti-Muslim attacks.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen little interest by the Trump Administration in taking such a stand.
In March, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration decried hate crimes, but he quickly added that people are unfair to those on the political right after such incidents. In most cases, the administration remains silent. It took the Trump Administration three days to speak out against the Portland attacks — and only from the official POTUS Twitter account that Trump doesn’t really use, preferring his personal account.
It is a spineless response to a serious problem raging across America. With such indifference in charge, the plague of hate violence looks set to continue.