Terror from the Right: A Recent History of Violent Right-Wing Extremism
By David Holthouse Media Matters | March 11, 2011
Yesterday, as conservative media hyped the commencement of Rep. Peter King's contentious hearings on Muslim radicalization in America, details continued to emerge about Kevin William Hardham, the 36-year-old Army field artillery veteran accused of planting a "weapon of mass destruction," along the route of a Martin Luther King Day unity parade route in Spokane, Washington earlier this year.
The backpack bomb Hardham allegedly planted contained shrapnel dipped in rat poison. It was discovered just minutes before hundreds of MLK Day marchers arrived. Hardham appears to have a long track record of fantasizing about politically and racially motivated violence in various online extremist forums.
The attempted MLK Day bombing in Spokane was hardly an isolated incident. Right-wing domestic terrorist plots and extremist violence are on the rise in America. Earlier this year the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) released a report analyzing domestic terrorism statistics reported by the FBI and other crime agencies since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The MPAC report shows that since 9/11, right-wing extremists including neo-Nazis and other white supremacists have been involved in 63 domestic terror plots, while radical Muslims have been involved in 45.
Meanwhile, the number of hate groups tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) topped 1,000 this year for the first time since the SPLC began counting such groups in the mid 1980s, and the resurgent antigovernment militia movement is exploding, with more than 300 new groups forming in the last year alone.
SPLC Intelligence Project director Mark Potok attributes this dramatic increase in right-wing extremist activity to three factors: "Resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government's handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities."
Some of the right-wing extremist terror plots and violence from recent years
July 27, 2008
Unemployed truck driver Jim David Adkisson opens fire on the congregation of a Unitarian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, killing two people and seriously wounding six. Adkisson tells police he targeted the congregation because its members included gay men and mixed-race couples. A suicide note that Adkisson left in his car outside the church describes the attack as a "hate crime," "a political protest," and "a symbolic killing."
"I'd like to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done," Adkisson wrote. "If life ain't worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. Do something for your country. Go kill liberals."
Adkisson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
October 22, 2008
Two white power skinheads are arrested for allegedly plotting a multi-state robbery and murder spree that would have culminated in an attempt to assassinate then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, were later charged with conspiracy, possessing a sawed-off shotgun and threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon a major presidential candidate. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 14 years and 10 years, respectively.
The skinheads told police they formulated their plot in Bells, Arkansas, after shooting out the windows of a black church. According to a written statement they provided to investigators, the skinheads planned to rob gun stores and kill 88 non-whites, beheading 14 of their victims.
Those numbers are significant in the white supremacist movement. Eighty-eight stands for "Heil Hitler," as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. The number 14 refers to the number of words in the white supremacist catchphrase coined by domestic terrorist David Lane: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
"The final thing we had discussed was dressing in white tuxs [tuxedos] with a top hat and trying to assassinate Obama. We did not plan on living past that day," Cowart wrote in his statement. "One day, while riding in my car, Paul told me that he wanted to go to a predominately [predominantly] black school and kill as many as he could."
A Secret Service agent testified at Cowart's sentencing hearing that in dozens of chat messages found on his computer he discussed wanting to kill African-Americans and start a race war.
December 9, 2008
Law enforcement investigators find radioactive materials and other components for making a "dirty bomb" in the home of Belfast, Maine neo-Nazi James Cummings after Cummings is shot to death by his wife, who told police she killed her husband after years of physical and mental abuse.
According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center, investigators found containers of uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon, along with neo-Nazi materials, including a completed application to join the National Socialist Movement, a major neo-Nazi group.
A local painter who worked inside the Cummings residence earlier in 2008 told police that Cummings expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and showed off the swastika flag hanging in the house.
Amber Cummings reportedly told police that her husband was "very upset" over the election of President Obama, was in contact with white supremacist groups, and had been mixing chemicals in their kitchen sink.
January 21, 2009
Brockton, Massachussets neo-Nazi Keith Luke is arrested after shooting three immigrants from Cape Verde, killing two of them. Luke tells police that he is "fighting for a dying race," and that the shootings were just the first stage of his plan for a killing spree. A police report states that he had planned to go to an Orthodox synagogue to "kill as many Jews as possible during bingo night." Luke is being held without bail, awaiting trial for murder, attempted murder, armed kidnapping, and gun charges.
January 22, 2009
Police in Mobile, Alabama discover a "cache of explosives" in the home of white power skinhead Thomas Hayward Lewis during a search conducted after Lewis was arrested for spray-painting swastikas and neo-Nazi slogans on a Messianic Jewish place of worship. The graffiti included "Hitler was right," "Juden raus (German for "Jews get out)," and references to Combat 18, a violent neofascist group based in the United Kingdom that promotes "lone wolf" terrorism. Lewis pleaded guilty to damaging religious property and illegal possession of an explosives device. He was sentenced earlier this year to one year in prison.
April 4, 2009
Richard Poplawski, a 23-year-old neo-Nazi with an Iron Eagle tattooed on his chest, murders three police officers in Pittsburgh. The Iron Eagle was a symbol of the Nazi Party under Hitler. According to police, Poplawski, wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with an AK-47, ambushed three officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. Friends and relatives said Poplawski, who posted frequently to the white supremacist website Stormfront, was convinced that Jews controlled the media and that President Obama was going to seize his arsenal of firearms.
"The federal government, mainstream media, and banking system in these United States are strongly under the influence of- if not completely controlled by- Zionist interests," Poplawski wrote on Stormfront. "An economic collapse of the financial system is inevitable, bringing with it some degree of civil unrest if not outright balkanization of the continental US, civil/revolutionary/racial war, etc. Let comfort and convenience be damned, and I will welcome the hardship and embrace the pain secure in the knowledge that our people will rise above and overcome our darkest days."
Poplawski is scheduled to stand trial next month.
May 23, 2009
Anti-government militiaman Joshua Cartwright kills two sheriff's deputies in Okaloosa County, Florida, after they attempt to arrest him on domestic violence charges at a local gun club. After killing the two deputies, Cartwright fled the scene. His vehicle crashed and flipped during a high-speed chase. When Cartwright began firing out the rear window of his wrecked truck, sheriff's deputes returned fire, killing him. According to a police report, Cartwright's wife said he ""believed that the US Government was conspiring against him. She said he had been severely disturbed that Barack Obama had been elected President."
May 30, 2009
Shawna Forde, the leader of Minuteman American Defense, a nativist border vigilante group, leads the home invasion robbery of a man that Forde and her two accomplices, MAD Operations Director Jason Bush and MAD member Albert Gaxiola, believe to be a drug trafficker.
During the robbery, Arivaca, Arizona resident Raul Flores is shot to death in cold blood along with his nine-year-old daughter, Brisenia. Flores' wife is also shot but survived by playing dead.
Forde's half-brother, Merill Metzger, later tells the Arizona Daily Star that shortly before the murders Forde started talking about forming an "underground militia" that would be funded by robbing drug dealers. "She was talking about starting a revolution against the United States government," he said.
Bush has longstanding ties to the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, and told police that he and Forde discussed recruiting Aryan Nations members for their militia.
Forde was convicted of orchestrating the premeditated murders and sentenced to death last month.
May 31, 2009
Scott Roeder guns down George Tiller as the Wichita, Kansas doctor serves as an usher at his church. Tiller was the director of Women's Health Care Services, a clinic that performed abortions among providing other health services.
Roeder had a long history of involvement with right wing extremist groups, including the Christian anti-government group the Freeman militia as well as the anti-abortion group Army of God, which advocates the use of violence as an anti-abortion tactic. Previously, Roeder had planned to bomb an abortion clinic.
Scott Roeder was convicted of first degree murder on January 29th, 2010. He received a life sentence.
June 10, 2009
Longtime white supremacist James von Brunn opens fire with a rifle just inside the entrance to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, killing a security guard. Prior to the Holocaust museum shooting, von Brunn was best known for attempting to takeover the Federal Reserve building in 1981 armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Brunn, who died in jail last year while awaiting trial, was friends with the late white supremacist leader Ben Klassen, who founded the virulently racist Church of the Creator. Brunn referred to Klassen as an "Aryan genius."
March 28 to March 30, 2010
Nine members of the Hutaree Militia, a "Christian Patriot" group, are arrested in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. According to a federal indictment, the militia members engaged in paramilitary training in perpetration for an apocalyptic battle with the forces of the Antichrist, who they believed would include local, state and federal law enforcement officers. The indictment charged the militia members with plotting to kill a randomly selected police officer in Michigan, and then detonate improvised explosive devices at the officer's funeral. Searches of Hutaree Militia residences turned up weapons, explosives, a Hitler tract and an audio version of The Turner Diaries, the race war novel written by William Pierce, founder of the neo-Nazi group National Alliance, that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh cited as inspiration.
A federal judge has set the trial date for September 13th.
May 20, 2010
Two police officers in West Memphis, Ark. are shot to death after pulling over a minivan driven by self-declared "Sovereign Citizen" Jerry Kane, with his son in the passenger seat. (Sovereign Citizen adherents deny the legitimacy of the federal government and subscribe to a bizarre alchemy of conspiracy theories popular among right-wing extremists. Notorious advocates of sovereign citizens ideology include Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and the now defunct Montana Freemen, a violent militia outfit.)
As the officers puzzled over a stack of handmade identification documents Jerry Kane provided, 16-year-old Joseph Kane burst from the minivan firing an AK-47. Both officers were killed. Jerry and Joseph Kane died about 90 minutes later during a gun battle in a Wal-Mart parking lot in which two other officers were wounded.
A subsequent investigation revealed the father-and-son team had been traveling the country, delivering seminars on Sovereign Citizen ideology. "I don't want to have to kill anybody," Jerry Kane said at seminar not long before the West Memphis shootings. "But if they keep messing with me that's what it's going to have to come down to."
July 18, 2010
According to a police investigation, Byron Williams opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers who had stopped him on an Oakland freeway for driving erratically. For 12 frantic minutes, Williams traded shots with the police, employing three firearms and a small arsenal of ammunition, including armor-piercing rounds fired from a .308-caliber rifle. In an affidavit, an Oakland police investigator reported that during an interview at the hospital, Williams "stated that his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU."
March 9, 2011
Kevin William Harpham is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and receiving and possessing an improvised explosive device in relation to the attempted bombing of an Martin Luther King Day parade. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Harpham was previously a member of the National Alliance, an infamous neo-Nazi organization although it's unclear whether he's still a card-carrying member.
An individual identifying himself Kevin Harpham made several posting on the anti-Semitic website Vanguard News Network, including a March 2008 post to a VNN discussion titled, "Violent Revolution Against ZOG." [ZOG stands for "Zionist Occupied Government.]
"Niggers will provide the chaos that consumes the state and federal resources to the point that it can't police all of it. Hopefully by then there will be more of us and we will be able to take some form of action to gain control of the pockets we will have been pushed back into," Harpham wrote. "Just make sure you clean that pocket up real good. Arrest a few every day starting with the former police, political leaders and pastors and then bury them during the night."