Concerns about Far-Right Activity, Veteran Recruitment on Rise
Friday, July 2, 2021
PORTLAND, Ore. -- 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.
Stephen Piggott, program analyst at the Western States Center, said some arrests have been made of leaders of groups active in the Northwest that led the Jan. 6 insurrection, like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
"But that hasn't deterred these groups, and the groups that they work with, from continuing to organize and mobilize at the local level," Piggott cautioned. "And we're seeing that happen in cities across Oregon almost on a weekly basis now, which is really disturbing."
Rallies are planned for the weekend in Oregon, many a continuation of past events protesting COVID-19 health measures. Piggott noted Salem has been the epicenter of far-right violence since protesters broke into the Oregon Capitol on Dec. 21.
A major concern about the groups 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 is 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.
He 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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