Forum: State, county must focus on rise of white supremacy

The actions of white supremacists are on the rise locally. That threat must be our focus.

Juan Peralez

Juan Peralez

By Juan Peralez / Herald Forum

Eighteen months ago a group of concerned Washington residents and organizations that included Snohomish county elected officials, current and former state representatives, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, Unidos of Snohomish County and community members began addressing the issue of white nationalist activity in our state.

In April of this year the group worked with the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission to sponsor a presentation in celebration of the United Nations World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on May 19.The presentation was called Ending Domestic Extremism.

In this year’s legislative session funding was requested to create a task force on addressing white nationalism, but only received enough funding for a proviso to conduct a study on white nationalism through the state Attorney General’s Office. After receiving stakeholder input, it will create a report that will be submitted to the Public Safety Committee in the Legislature for the upcoming legislative session.

The following is a summary of the presentation which includes facts presented by the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union and comments from County Executive Dave Somers and Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell.

According to the ACLU:

• The term domestic terrorism has caused widespread harm to communities of color in order to enhance safety. The Patriot Act enacted after Sept. 11, 2001, gave law enforcement extensive authority that led to abusive ineffective surveillance and targeting and disproportionately unjustified treatment of Black civil rights activists, Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners and Southeast Asians.

• In 2020, 67 percent of domestic terrorist attacks and plots were by white supremacist extremists.

• The focus must be on white supremacist extremism because it is the most dangerous form of extremism in America.

• We have to acknowledge the presence of white supremacists in law enforcement.

• Federal and state lawmakers have given law enforcement extensive authority to investigate and prosecute white supremacist terrorists. What is lacking is the will by district attorneys and prosecutors who have failed to use an array of tools and authority.

The ADL found:

• Washington state is not immune to the growing trend of white supremacist activity and that Snohomish County ranks fifth in the nation overall in white supremacist activity.

• Despite our progressive values we have the highest number of reported incidents of white supremacist activity in the nation; that California has 32 million more people than Washington should underscore the scale and size of the problem.

• Patriot Front is the biggest distributor of white supremacist propaganda in Snohomish County. Distributors even have quotas.

• Propaganda distribution to spread hate is a popular strategy that rose to historic levels in 2021.

County Prosecutor Adam Cornell reported that:

• “Hate is alive and well in Snohomish county unfortunately.”

• Hate crimes are a priority for his office and it will hold accountable those who peddle hate.

• The state Legislature needs to strengthen prosecution and sentencing for hate crime laws.

County Executive Dave Somers who made the welcoming speech said, ” We need to work together to eradicate hate and white nationalism in all its forms in Snohomish County.” He also said “we have to speak out loudly, we have a lot of work to do and we got to pull together.”

Whereas he FBI has declared these white nationalist groups as the biggest threat to democracy;

Whereas the Department of Homeland Security issued an Alert Bulletin on April 13, 2021, warning of the heightened threat environment posed by these white nationalist groups and it has been extended four times.

The Biden administration received $77 million from Congress to distribute to states to combat white supremacy. The questions that I have and must be asked are: How much money did Washington receive? Why is our Legislature not addressing the issue? Why has no investigation been done regarding the security breach at the Governor’s Mansion on the same day as the attempted insurrection at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Somers’ comments are most welcome by the BIPOC community and they show commitment to addressing the issue in our county. It is imperative that a county government/community partnership be developed to spearhead a movement to eradicate white nationalism in Snohomish County. If we are concerned about our democracy that is getting closer to the precipice and could plunge Washington into a fascist authoritarian state we must address the issue immediately. This centuries’ old myth of white supremacy must be addressed now.

The FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Justice Department have all confirmed that the primary domestic terrorism threat comes from racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race. We must work diligently to ensure that our state Legislature do everything possible to fight against these dangerous ideologies.

Watch the video of the May 19 County Human Rights Commission meeting at https://youtu.be/OkMVOwoehQw.

Juan Peralez is president of Unidos or Snohomish County.

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