Extremist Attacks Foiled but Hate Groups Are Gaining Strength in U.S.

Extremist Attacks Foiled but Hate Groups Are Gaining Strength in U.S.
U.S., coast guard and self-proclaimed white nationalist, who the government said was plotting to kill a long list of prominent journalists and politicians was denied bail in Maryland, United States last week.

In a court filing, federal prosecutors said Christopher, Hasson, 49, studied the methods used by other extremist killers; drew up a list of prominent journalists and politicians as potential targets, and stockpiled weapons to “murder innocent victims on a scale rarely seen in this country.”  Law enforcement officers seized 1,000 rounds of ammunition and a cachet of weapons in his Maryland home. He was arrested and charged with possession of illegal drugs and weapons.

Court documents quoted an email whereby Hasson, wrote he was “dreaming of a way to to kill almost every last person on the earth.”


Hasson is a stark reminder of the rise of hate crimes in the U.S., since U.S. President Trump came to power. Far right- extremism and white supremacy are now the greatest domestic security threats to face the U.S.

Critics of Trump said that he is partially responsible to blame for the recent acts of violence because he has stoked nationalism with his incendiary political rhetoric and immigration policies - accusations that Trump repudiates.

According to a FBI report released in Nov, 2018, hate crimes in the U.S. rose by 17 percent for the third consecutive year with 7,175 hate crime incidents reported in 2017, compared with 6,121 in 2016; they attributed the rise to more police departments deciding to report bias incidents. But also noted a surge in the number of black and Jewish Americans; with 2,013 of the attacks aimed at African Americans and 938 were Jewish Americans.

For crimes motivated by hatred over faith, 58.1 percent targeted those of Jewish faith and 18.7 percent targeted those of Muslim faith, the report says. In 2016, 54.2 percent of hate crimes were anti-Jewish while 24.8 percent were anti-Muslim.

The hate-crimes on Muslims and Jews include: December 2016, a man assaulted a 16-year-old Muslim boy in Brooklyn, his mother, an off-duty NYPD officer wearing a hijab tried to intervene, the attacker called her an “Isis bitch” and threatened to cut her throat; in that same year an Imam and his assistant were gunned down. In October 2018, a man holding an AR-15-style assault rifle and three handguns, shouting anti-Semitic slurs stormed into a synagogue, firing at worshippers gathered for a peaceful morning service, killing 11 congregants and injuring four police officers and two others. The massacre was described as the deadliest against the Jewish community in the United States.

More recent attacks were prevented by police – when four men were arrested for an alleged bomb plot to attack a Muslim community in upstate New York, U.S.


At the news conference in upstate New York, police chief Patrick Phelan from Greece, New York, said, "There was a plan to attack this community with weapons," Phelan said. "If they had carried out this plot — and there's every indication is that they were going to — people would have died. I don't know how many and who, but people would have died."


The plot was disrupted after a student at a school in Greece, New York, Odyssey Academy, showed another class member a picture on his phone and said, “he looks like the next school shooter, doesn’t he?” The comment was reported to school security, who notified local authorities, triggering a police investigation into whether there was a serious threat to the students.


The target for the attack was a Muslim community called Islamberg. Local authorities and neighbours said the community is peaceful and friendly, a long-established part of the region’s culture. Islamberg lies in a rural area about 200 miles southeast of Rochester. It was first settled by Muslim families in the 1980s with around 200 residents.


According to American media, “The community was settled in the 1980s by followers of a Pakistani cleric, Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani,”and “The initial settlers were predominantly African-American Muslims who left New York City looking for a better place to practice their religion and raise their children.” It is also a base for the headquarters of the Muslims of America organization.


The men 20-year-old Brian Colaneri, 18-year-old Andrew Crysel, and 19-year-old Vincent Vetromile and a 16-year-old student -- who was not identified due to his age were all arrested and charged.


The teenage student had stockpiled 23 firearms and three homemade bombs filled with nails and black powder to carry out the attack.  The men communicated through a chat app, Discord, that according to the police is popular among far-right groups.


It remains uncertain how the four individuals became acquainted, or their motivation for the attack. Although a possible connection might be that three of the men were in Boy Scouts together and two are former Eagle Scouts.


Although a small, remote residential community, Islamberg, has attracted the attention of far-right conspiracy theorists, including from Alex Jones, Infowars and even Fox News. It has been a long-held belief by the far-right groups that Muslims were “stockpiling guns” on the “compound” in Islamberg in response to President Trump’s election, according to American news reports.


Additionally, Islamberg has been targeted previously. Two years ago, a Tennessee man was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison for plotting to attack the community.


In response to the latest spike in U.S., hate- crimes U.S. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, said he was, "particularly troubled by the increase in anti –Semitic hate crimes.”

"The American people can be assured that this department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights," the statement said.

The FBI’ statistics were also echoed in a recent report released by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), who report in 2018, the number of hate groups in the U.S. increased for the fourth consecutive year; the record high attributed to a culmination of political polarization, anti immigration policies and online propaganda.


The SPLC said the number of the groups increased by 7 percent last year, to 1,020, a 30 percent rise from 2014. These figures support other concerning developments, including a 30 percent spike in the number of hate crimes reported between 2015 and 2017, that coincides with reports by that Anti – Defamation League who report an increase in right wing – violence that killed 50 people 50 people in 2018.


Heidi Beirich, the director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in an interview. “There are more hate groups, more hate crimes and more domestic terrorism in that same vein. It is a troubling set of circumstances.”


Beirich said the rise in extremist activity monitored by her team started in the early days of the 2016, presidential election when President Trump entered the White House. Before that, she said, the number of hate groups had fallen for three straight years.

“Trump has made people in the white supremacist movement move back into politics and the public domain,” Ms. Beirich added. “but he is not the only reason why the ranks of hate groups are growing. The ability to propagate hate in the online space is key.”

The SPLC’s report runs parallel to findings by the Anti – Defamation League on extremism in the U.S. The Anti- Defamation League reported that right-wing extremism was connected to around 50 extremist-related killings monitored by the group in 2018, with Islamic Jihadist groups not affiliated with any.

2018, was the deadliest year for right-wing extremism since the Oklahoma City bombing, when a truck packed with explosives was detonated by an anti- government militant on April, 19, 1995, outside a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people and injuring others.




Correspondent Washington DC

The author has worked at BBC and ITN in the past.