After Mass Shootings, Republicans Shield White Supremacists From Scrutiny

Last March, Texas Democrats demandedChip Roy, a Texas Republican, resigned after making blatantly anti-Semitic statements during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on hate crimes against Asian Americans. Eight people were killed in an attack by a racist gunman on Asian women just days prior. Roy called for bringing the “bad guys” to “justice” — and favorably invoked the legacy of lynching in Texas, where a white supremacist campaign of organized terror led to the extrajudicial murders of more than 600Between 1882 and 1945.

Asian American lawmakers were outraged. California Representative Ted Lieu tweeted about a Los Angeles lynch-mob that killed 17 to 20 Chinese immigrants back in 1871. Meanwhile, Roy was angered by advocates who warned Republicans that calling COVID-19 the “China virus” put Asian people in danger. He refused to apologize for invoking the legacy lynching and insisted in a statement. the Austin-American Statesmen that his critics were “thought policing” like “Communist China.” Roy’s stunt, of course, had not been censored; it was picked up by media outlets and presumably put into the congressional record.

This week, Roy was going on again about “thought police” — this time, in a speech against the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022, which Democrats rushed to update and pass in the House in the wake of the racist massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo. The bill would require federal authorities to report domestic terrorism threats. This includes white supremacists as well as neoNazis. Roy said the legislation would “target us for what we believe.”

All but one House Republican voted against the domestic terror prevention bill, including lawmakers who supported a previous version back in 2020, just a few months before former President Trump’s lies about a stolen election would inspire a right-wing mob to invade the U.S. Capitol and call for Vice President Mike Pence to hang in the gallows (which apparently pleased Trump). The bill was unanimously blocked by the Senate Republicans. This includes any discussion on gun safety or hate crimes following the mass shooting at Uvalde Elementary School in Texas. An 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers, before police entered the school and killed him.

The domestic terrorism bill will not give law enforcement new powers or authority to make arrests and surveil. Instead, it will direct federal agencies to set up offices to combat white supremacist terrorist threats and report to Congress any findings. The bill’s focus on white supremacists is what appears to have prompted Republican opposition. They are widely considered to be the greatest domestic terror threat. Thanks to Trump and others on the far right, white supremacist ideologies such as “replacement theory” that motivated the Buffalo gunman are going mainstream among GOP voters.

Roy argued, along with other Republicans that the antiterrorism bill would be used to target right-wingers by the Biden administration. He repeated a conspiracy theory that the FBI would investigate parents who speak out at school board meetings. (The FBI said it only looked intoThere are credible threats of violence against educators ballooned last year as Trump and the GOP whipped conservatives into a frenzy over what they erroneously call “critical race theory” and other issues.) The argument is that Democrats would have used the bill to target political opponents and ignore violence on the left since it focuses on extremists from the right.

It’s no secret white supremacists and far right extremists have claimed far more livesLeftists are more at risk from violent attacks in the U.S. Trump and other Republicans attempt to obfuscate this fact by conflating property damage during left-wing protests with “terrorism,” even if no one gets hurt.

Meanwhile, progressives rightly scrutinized the anti-terrorism bill, given the government’s long history of using “anti-terrorism” efforts as a cover for spying on Black activists, anti-war groups and Muslims. Abolitionists, along with others on the Left, argue that white supremacy is a dangerous feature in modern law enforcement and cannot be eradicated by more police. Black and Brown communities are notoriously overpolicedCritics claim that police have always been necessary to preserve white supremacy in the U.S.

Because of opposition from civil liberty groups to an earlier version of the legislation, progressives in Congress amended the terrorism prevention bill. This was to protect activists and protesters as well as anyone exercising their constitutional rights. They also narrowed the definition of “domestic terrorism.” The amended language is broad, and there is intense debate over how to define “violent” speech that is not protected by the First Amendment. The additional language was intended to protect Americans of all political parties.

It is not clear whether the civil liberty amendment would have protected activists from the government’s prying eye. There is also much debate about the effectiveness of federal law enforcement in stopping white supremacist violence. Even when the perpetrators have been flagged by police, law enforcement fails to prevent mass shootings. The Uvalde school district has its police and a plan to respond to active shooters. However, police on the scene are being closely scrutinized for taking more than an hour to enter a classroom where the gunman killed most of his victims.

However, given that the white supremacist attack in Buffalo was premeditated (and, according to some of the bill’s advocates, may have been prevented if white supremacist activities were more thoroughly tracked), it’s not a surprise that groups such the NAACP supported the legislation and hoped it could prevent the recruitment of more white supremacists into police ranks.

The American Civil Liberties Union was one of the groups that opposed the previous version of the bill in 2019. They did not respond to a request to comment on the new amendment. Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, did not respond via email to any follow-up questions.

Of course, Republicans’ opposition to the bill had nothing to do with its potential impacts on marginalized groups. Instead, they argued that the legislation would target his supporters for what they think and believe, even after Democrats added civil rights “guardrails” to the bill to protect people on any end of the political spectrum. Republicans opposed the focus on identifying white supremacists in law enforcement.

A close reading of the failed legislation shines some light on the GOP’s actual intentions. The legislation would have authorized an inter-agency effort via new offices at the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and FBI. These offices would be responsible for documenting domestic terror threats, including overt white supremacists infiltrating military and police at all levels of government. These are very real and well-documented threats. White supremacists are also neo-Nazis who work in law enforcement and are trained to use guns and wield state power and its authority. Activists claim that lynching is not an outdated practice. Police departments such as the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Services have been known to be sources of racist terror regardless of whether they are wearing the uniform.

The bill would have required that terrorism prevention officers produce reports on their findings and report them to Congress every two years. The reports would have been made available by Democrats, which could have exposed the extent to which white supremacy is embedded in the uniformed forces. In the age of Trump, fascist gangs and far right militias that recruit cops and soldiers — including groups like the Oath Keepers who stormed the Capitol and now face charges — are proud members of the GOP base.

Republicans have vocally supported “anti-terrorism” efforts in the past, when Muslims or racial justice activists were the targets. The GOP’s nearly universal opposition to the latest anti-terrorism legislation, which focuses on white supremacists, is a clear signal to armed extremists and racist police that the Republican Party has their backs.