Juan Peralez: Domestic terror threat remains; let’s confront it

Out state isn’t immune to threats of violence from extremist groups. Work must begin to oppose them.

Juan Peralez

Juan Peralez

Juan Peralez / Herald Forum

The U. S. Department of Homeland Security issued an Alert Bulletin on Jan. 27, regarding the heightened threat of domestic violence by violent far right, white nationalist and extremist groups in our country.

Of utmost concern in the bulletin was the threat to the public safety for all residents of our country given the violent history of these groups over the last 25 years. The Homeland Security bulletin has been extended three times; April 4, June 15 and Aug. 13.

Far-right violent extremism refers to the use of violence by subnational or non-state groups such as the neo-Nazis, 3 Percenters, Proud Boys and others whose targets may include racial or ethnic groups, resistance to government authority, indignation against women and belief in conspiracy theories such as QAnon, backing societal upheaval and seeking to provoke civil war.

These groups have been responsible for 73 percent of U. S. terrorist plots, assaults and the escalation of violence and insecurity. It started with the Oklahoma City bombing of the Federal Building in 1995 by Timothy James McVeigh, which killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children. McVeigh was charged with murder since we still do not have federal laws against domestic terrorism like we do against foreign terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qaida.

Other assaults or mass shootings include the 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C., which resulted in nine people killed during a Bible study, In June 2016 we had the Orlando, Fla., attack that resulted in the deaths of 49 people at a night club. In August 2017, in Charlottesville, Va., Heather Danielle Heyer a young white woman was killed by a car that drove into a crowd of anti-Nazi protestors. In September 2018 a 46-year-old white nationalist killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pa. And in 2019 we had the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in which in 22 people were killed and two dozen were wounded.

On the same day of the insurrection in Washington, D.C., nearly 100 people were able to breach security fencing and made it as far as the front door of Washington state’s Governor’s Mansion on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. Gov. Jay Inslee has requested a full investigation of the intrusion on to the mansion’s grounds.

Since the Jan. 6 insurrection — followed this weekend by a similar protest in Washington, D.C. — and the DHS Alert Bulletins, an intelligence report was submitted to Congress by the Biden administration in April of this year. In the report President Biden expressed concern over the heightened threat posed by the violent White nationalist and extremist militia groups. He asked the Congress for resources to combat these groups and also asked for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to review their strategies to combat these groups. As a result of the intelligence report submitted, $77 million was authorized by Congress to be distributed to state governments so they can address the threat.

That investment raises some questions that must be addressed by our state Legislature specifically by its Public Safety Committee.

First, how will all Washington residents be informed about security threats?

What can Washington residents do and who should they contact if they become aware of suspicious security threat activity? How will the Legislature and other public safety government institutions respond to this heightened security threat for the personal safety of all residents? Finally, how will the state of Washington utilize its portion the funding?

One suggestion that I believe should be considered is the creation of a monitoring body composed by community members. Perhaps something like the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I encourage residents of this state to contact their state lawmakers by phone or by email, as well as the Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, demanding action on this critical issue for the personal well being of all Washingtonians.

Juan Peralez is president of Unidos of Snohomish County, uniting law enforcement and the communities of the county. Learn more at www.unidos-snoco.org.

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