As July 4th Approaches, Far-Right Appeal to Veterans Raises Concerns
Friday, July 2, 2021
HELENA, Mont. -- Far-right groups could be active over the Independence Day weekend, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to release a bulletin warning of the possibility of "extremist violence," according to a document obtained by ABC News.
Travis McAdam, program director for combating white nationalism and defending democracy at the Montana Human Rights Network, said far-right groups are planning small events, but what he finds more troubling is, they've been organizing weekly for a long time in the state.
He argued those who want to counter attempts from extremists to undermine democracy need to do the work to create an inclusive democracy, every day.
"It's not just one election cycle. It's not just having one big rally," McAdam asserted. "It's really getting in and engaging, oftentimes starting at the community level, and doing work to go in that direction and doing that work, sustained over time."
One potentially active organization is the Oath Keepers, an anti-government extremist group which played a big role in the Jan. 6th insurrection, and was founded by a veteran from Montana.
A major concern about these groups, including the Oath Keepers, is their appeal to veterans.
On July 4, a military-led group is holding what it calls a "Coalition to Defend America" rally in Florida.
Dan Barkhuff, a former Navy SEAL, leads Veterans for Responsible Leadership, a super PAC. He said they want to counteract the draw of far-right groups to veterans who come home from service.
"These extremist organizations are providing something to these veterans, which is number one, a sense of belonging, and number two, kind of this camaraderie," Barkhuff explained. "So, our goal is to redefine patriotism and to compete with these organizations in their own communities."
George Black, a researcher who reports on the connections between the conspiracy theories that fueled the Capitol insurrection in January and the grievances of right-wing military officers after the Vietnam War, said the events at the Capitol are just one part of a longer-term effort by far-right, anti-government groups to gain political power.
"It's part and parcel with the movement to suppress voting rights in Republican-led states," Black observed. "It's about replacing local officials who are in a position to certify or decertify future elections. It's very much with an eye on 2022 and taking Congress back."
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