Local Politics

(Opinion) The Lit Powder Keg

Domestic Terrorism in the United States has been on the rise for well over a decade. Social media has made it easier than ever for groups to plan and grow in online spaces. The attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, was evidence of the impact these groups have. Groups like the Proud Boys, The Patriot Front, Qanon, and the Oathkeepers orchestrated their attack after planning on social media. Members of the United States Government helped orchestrate the attempted coup during the nation’s transition of power.

Photos by Gavin Chambers during 2020 protests

There are many factors for the rise of these hate groups: distrust of the government, failure of America’s institutions, and individuals who play into the fear, anger, and hate of their followers. The former president encourages these groups with hateful rhetoric which has undoubtedly led to the resurgence of these groups. These dangerous ideologies are spreading through American political culture like wildfires as tensions are at a boiling point. There have been hundreds of incidents over the last few years of individuals or groups acting out with political motivations. 

This threat to our nation keeps getting swept under the rug. Over a year following January 6th, a seismic event in American history, it seems as if everyone has forgotten what happened, or is too distracted by the current events flashing on their screens. People from all over the country, including Mainers, have been arrested for their actions on January 6th. In fact, multiple Mainers have been arrested and are awaiting trial for the crimes during the insurrection. Looking back at the violence that occurred that day, the death toll of five could have been much higher. There were weapons found on people arrested in the crowd and nooses with politicians’ names on them. Rioters were minutes away from breaching the room where the election was being certified.

The riot was an attempted coup spurred on by the former President’s speech and the planning of Qanon. As Reuters reported, Trump sat and watched the riots for 187 minutes before asking his supporters to go home. The most dangerous part of January 6th wasn’t that it happened, but the precedent that it sets for future elections. It’s a threat to American democracy if people believe that if you lose, you can storm the Capitol to overturn the results. It almost worked the first time. Who’s to say it won’t be attempted in 2024? It seems as though these extremist groups are preparing for a fractured country where violence reigns. 

Photo by Pierre Blachu00e9 on Pexels.com

For example, the Patriot Front is an extremist right-wing white nationalist hate group that allegedly almost incited a riot in June. As reported by NPR, 31 members of the patriot front were arrested outside of a pride parade in Idaho last June. They had riot shields and weapons on them; if they hadn’t been caught in time, innocent people could have been harmed. A trend that has been on the rise and is evident with the patriot front is people traveling to other states to commit acts of political violence. There were men arrested from 10 different states who all traveled to Idaho to incite a riot and harm people. 

What’s quite alarming about the Patriot Front is how organized they seem to be with their matching khaki, white masks, and blue jackets. In a leaked training video from December 4th, the Patriot Front can be seen practicing for a riot with knockoff Captain America shields. They have a hierarchy system with higher ranking members giving marching orders to militia members. These wannabe revolutionaries have disgraced the word patriot and the original 13 colonies’ flags. According to the leaked video, they are training near the Capitol in D.C. As reported by CNN, The Patriot Front isn’t a new hate group as they’re apparently a splinter group of Vanguard America of which an alleged member drove into the crowd of the Charlottesville protests in 2016. 

The Patriot Front has deep-rooted connections to New England as well. On July 2nd, 2022, the group marched through the streets of Boston and assaulted an innocent man in the street. The Boston Globe claims that 17 civil rights groups have requested Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Patriot Front for their dangerous activities. 

Due to the seemingly left-wing voting of New England states, there is a belief that hate groups aren’t active here and it’s only seen in the south. This opinion held by many is factually incorrect, as this isn’t an isolated incident as hate groups acting out in New England have been a trend for years. As reported by The Guardian, on July 3, 2021, 11 members of the Moors Militia were arrested on I-95 after a standoff with police. The group was found with “three AR-15 rifles, two pistols, a bolt-action rifle, a shotgun, and a short-barrel rifle.” The group arrested claimed they were heading from Rhode Island to Maine for training. These members follow the sovereign ideology where they believe they shouldn’t be under the jurisdiction of the federal government. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has apparently tracked 4 hate groups active in Maine: The Patriot Front, The Nationalist Social Club, The Colchester Collection, and the Proud Boys. There could be even more groups operating in Maine than actually known because people travel to the rural areas from out of state for training. Nationwide there are 733 identified hate groups and 488 antigovernment groups operating in the states. As reported by News Center Maine, the Nationalist Social Club (Nazis) marched from Kittery to Portsmouth New Hampshire where they signaled Nazi salutes outside of a drag theatre show in January of 2022. The number of hate crimes in Maine dramatically increased from 2019 to 2020; as reported by News Center Maine, the FBI was aware of 83 hate-reported crimes in 2020. This is an alarming jump from the 19 hate crimes reported in Maine in the year 2019. 

Domestic terrorism in America from right-wing groups isn’t new; in fact, it’s been part of our history for centuries. However, this is increasingly becoming a threat to the very fabric of this flawed nation. These vile groups feel empowered by members of our own government to act out their plans of domestic terrorism because of the dangerous language and accusations made by our politicians. These groups believe themselves to be martyrs in a fight to save America as they’re the “true patriots.” Patriots don’t try to influence the peaceful transition of power in this country, patriots don’t take part in treason, patriots don’t attempt to kidnap a governor and start a civil war, patriots don’t wave the flags of hate and traitors to this union. 

Photo by Alexander Zvir on Pexels.com

America is on the brink of chaos, a powder keg ready to explode waiting for a spark. America is in rough shape, more unlivable than it’s ever been as the gaps in wealth only continue to grow, and our national infrastructure crumbles before our very eyes. Members of the media stoke the flames of hate trying to gain attention for whatever is the battleground for today’s culture war. A large percentage of the population are displeased with the government and it only takes one incident to spark nationwide unrest. A recent example is the aftermath following the cruel death of George Floyd. Parts of Portland Oregon were under control by groups who were anti-government. Those protests weren’t just about the unjust murder of an innocent man, they symbolized the anger many citizens of America feel towards the government. One Supreme Court decision, one incident, or an election result could ignite the country.

Domestic terrorism is going to be an issue in the coming decade as mass despair takes hold of the population; people will struggle and lash out against who they believe is responsible for their misfortune. The failures of this nations institutions have left millions in desperation. These conditions have led to the rise of violent fringe groups.  No matter where you live in this country, these terrorist groups will be close to home. People will continue to travel to other states to commit acts of terror to push their dangerous ideologies.

2024 will be a dangerous year for America as politicians seek power as they weaponize hatred and fear. If we’re not careful, 2024 could be the last democratic election in America’s history as talk of fraudulent elections gets louder, and political violence is becoming a norm. America is on the edge of a potential civil war, and the powder keg has already been lit; the alarm has already sounded, but some have just chosen to ignore it.

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