Details are just unfolding about our latest act of domestic terrorism, committed this morning just inside the doors of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
What we know at the moment is that 88-year-old white supremecist James W. von Brunn opened fire wounding a security guard before he was stopped (and wounded) by another security guard. The attack happened when the museum was full of visitors, including several groups of school children. I shudder to think what might’ve happened if the second guard had been unable to stop him–that guard should be lauded as a hero, as he likely saved many, many lives.
Von Brunn is a convicted felon, and worshiped by such groups as Stormfront and Holy Western Empire (you can google them if you’re curious, but I refuse to give them the link traffic here). They refer to him as a “hero” and a “white racialist treasure.” But what von Brunn really represents is the very ugliest bile and hatred that plagues this country.
For the second time in just over a week, we’ve experienced a terrorist attack on our own soil. Anybody who tries to rationalize this and suggest it isn’t actually a form of terrorism is seriously deluded.
These violent criminals are funded, followed and encouraged by an organized network of racist and religious fundamentalist groups. Both shooters also have ties to right-wing milita groups. Roeder, the killer who gunned down Dr. Tiller inside the lobby of his own church last week, has even warned of further acts of violence to come this summer. They carry out coordinated acts of violence and intimidation, and do so with impunity.
Explain to me, please, why these acts should not be considered terrorism?
When those of us who ask why the government wasn’t monitoring these groups, who’ve all threatened (and committed) violent acts against their fellow citizens for decades, we hear vague excuses about free speech and not violating civil rights. Considering our government had absolutely no problem suspending habeus corpus for dubiously detained Arabs, most of whom likely have no ties to any terrorist groups, I find their excuses hollow and pathetic. And very, very dangerous.
In Roeder’s case, especially, the victims of his vandalism and harassment had begged the FBI to do something about him, as his acts were clearly in violation of the Freedom of Acceses to Clinic Entrances Act (the FACE Act). And they did nothing, even after being informed of Roeder’s most recent criminal acts 24 hours before Dr. Tiller was murdered. Shamefully, the FBI only stepped in to begin a federal investigation of Dr. Tiller’s death after repeated and outraged complaints.
Compare that to law enforcement’s reaction to Abdulhakim Muhammed, who shot to death Private William Long outside an Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock, Arkansas one day after the Tiller shooting. Although there is no evidence that Muhammed is affiliated with any terrorist group, he was charged as a terrorist in the crime, which is a “special circumstances” designation that’ll allow a harsher punishment than just a charge of murder.
Roeder, and presumably von Brunn, will not be so charged, even though they were active members of multiple extremist groups whose actions fall well within the definition of terrorism.
What will it take before our government takes real action against these terrorist organizations which operate and thrive on our own soil? How much more blood will be spilled before those in authority formally recognize the threat they pose to our national security?
I’m not getting my hopes up, unfortunately. All of these organizations are affiliated with conservative politics. No matter how much the right gravely intones that they Do Not Approve of the killers’ actions (while often, in the next breath, hinting that the victims had it coming), they are fathers to these terrible children.
Connections need to be drawn, and protests from the right refuted with the truth. And then the government needs to do something about these groups. Lines have been crossed that leave these extremists well outside the protections of the First Amendment, and law enforcement must respond accordingly. And if any howls of outrage commence from the right-wing sidelines, hold the mirror to their faces and simply say “Patriot Act.” If one is opposed to terrorism, then one should be opposed to it in all its forms.
Those who have ignored or rationalized those groups on the right who fall under the definition of terrorism should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Today, their hands are a little bloodier.
Update: CNN is now reporting that the security guard who was wounded by von Brunn, Stephen Tyrone Johns, has died. My thoughts are with his family, and with all who were witness to von Brunn’s terrorist attack today.