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Brian Levin, criminal justice professor and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, was interviewed in the aftermath of the June 14 shooting in Alexandria, Va., that seriously injured a Republican congressman and four others.
The shooting took place an early morning baseball practice a day before the annual Republican-Democrat congressional charity baseball game. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, who later died after a shootout with law enforcement officers, was a Bernie Sanders-supporting man from Illinois with a record of anti-Trump rantings on social media.
The incident focused attention on extremism coming from the extreme left.
VICE News, in its article, reported that in the spring of 2016, Levin found himself in an uncomfortable position: trying to save the life of a Ku Klux Klan member.
Levin, a former New York City cop who studies domestic extremism as the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, was documenting a Klan rally in Anaheim, California, when a counterprotest suddenly took a violent swing — forcing Levin to physically place himself between a Klansman and a furious, anti-fascist mob that seemed ready to kill.
It made Levin wonder if in his focus on the obvious subject — the white supremacists — he’d overlooked a growing source of extremism: the far left. “At that point, I said we have something coalescing on the hard left,” Levin told VICE News.
The article was published June 15, 2017, and can be read at “Extremism experts are starting to worry about the left.”
Also picking up or rewriting the report:
- Fox News: “Even liberals are worried about liberal extremism,” on June 18, 2017;
- The Daily Caller: “Experts see rising extremism on the left,” on June 16, 2017; and
- com, “Terrorism experts disturbed by increase in leftist violence,” on June 16, 2017.
Reuters, the news service, reported that most political violence in the United States still comes from right-wing groups, according Levin.
However, the United States also has a history of violence from left-wing groups such as the Weather Underground, which was active in the 1970s.
It then eased substantially over the past three decades but has risen again in recent years with violence at protests against globalization, police brutality and the Trump administration, Levin said.
Left-wing extremists “might be the junior varsity, but they’re now on the radar screen,” he said.
The news service article was published June 15, 2017, and was picked up by news media nationwide. It can be read at “‘Unremarkable’ Virginia attacker shows difficulty of fighting political violence.”
The Long Beach Press-Telegram and other Southern California News Group newspapers reported that members of Southern California’s congressional delegation called for unity and described threats against themselves and their staffs following the
Levin said that threats today come from across the ideological spectrum.
“Threats come not just from Islamic extremism or right-wing sources, but the hard left,” Levin said. The article was published June 14, 2017, and can be read at “Members of Congress talk security, unity following shooting at GOP baseball practice.”
The Kansas City Star reported that the shooting highlights a trend that terrorism experts have been monitoring in recent months: the ramping up of violence committed by the left.
“This is something we’re very concerned about,” said Levin. “The violence is not indigenous to just one side of the political spectrum. While other entities are farther along, this emergent hard left has coalesced.
“And we can’t just ignore it.”
The attack, which occurred during a congressional baseball practice early Wednesday, critically wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in House leadership. Two Capitol Hill police officers and at least two others also were shot.
The shooter, identified as James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois, died at a hospital, President Donald Trump said. The Belleville News-Democrat reported that Hodgkinson belonged to several anti-Republican groups on Facebook. Among them: “The Road to Hell is Paved with Republicans,” “Donald Trump is not my President” and “Terminate the Republican Party.”
Levin said he’d been traveling across California, meeting with government officials and talking about the problem of increasing political violence.
“I was just in Sacramento meeting with the attorney general’s office on Monday,” he said. “In California alone, we have seen over 20 cases since December 2015 of violent public confrontations that revolve around political issues. We’re even seeing it at meetings involving Congress people.”
Increasingly, he said, the hard left has been involved.
“There’s been a sliver that has gone away from the kind of peaceful protests which really dominate the progressive left,” Levin said. “There’s now a splintering of a violent left which buys into the rhetoric of violence, public displays of violence and confrontations, and conspiracy theories.”
Social media, he said, has amplified the acceptance of violence.
“We even have academics saying that violence is justified as resistance,” he said. “We have become a tribalistic society where violence is now viewed as a form of political expression on all different sides.”
With violent acts coming from every direction, Levin said, it’s almost impossible to predict where the next threat will come from.
“We not only have to look at violent Salafist jihadists, which still represent a very prominent threat; we also have to look at far-right extremists and nationalists of all stripes, including black and white,” he said. “But now, there’s also the emergent hard left.”
The article was published June 14, 2017, and was picked up by other news media nationwide. It can be read at “Terrorism experts say GOP shooting highlights disturbing rise in left-wing violence.”
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