By DEEPA BHARATH | | Orange County Register ; January 25, 2019

A new report released Wednesday, Jan. 23 by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) documents 50 domestic extremist killings on U.S. soil in 2018, of which an overwhelming 98 percent were perpetrated by individuals involved in far-right movements, particularly white supremacy.

Last year alone, 50 people were killed by domestic extremists, which is an increase of 35 percent from the previous year, according to the report.

This total makes 2018 the fourth deadliest year for domestic extremist killings since 1970 and the highest percentage of far-right killings since 2012.

Oklahoma City

According to the report, far-right extremists killed more people in United States last year than in any other year since 1995 when the Oklahoma City bombings engineered by Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured 680 others.

McVeigh was believed to have been influenced by far-right ideology, particularly the White Supremacist novel “The Turner Diaries.”

ADL’s report looks at “both ideologically and non-ideologically motivated crimes by domestic extremists,” said Joanna Mendelson, a Los Angeles-based senior investigative researcher with the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

That means the report counts killings by those who subscribe to a white supremacist ideology even though those violent acts may not have been committed to further that ideology.

Close to home

Mendelson gives the example of a case that hits close to home for those in Orange County — the killing of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, who was both gay and Jewish.

His accused killer, Samuel Woodward, has been linked to Atomwaffen Division, a far-right groups that idolizes Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson and subscribes to views that are anti-Semitic and homophobic.

The Orange County District Attorney in August filed a hate crime charge against Woodward. The hate crime charge relates to Bernstein’s sexual orientation, not his religion.

“There are huge swaths of crimes that highlight the violent nature of these extremist groups, but don’t correlate to their ideology,” Mendelson said.

She pointed to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. where Nicholas Cruz, a budding white supremacist, shot and killed 17 people and injured 17 others.

In some other cases such as the Oct. 23 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, there was a more direct correlation between the shooter, Robert Bowers, and his white supremacist ideology, Mendelson said.

That shooting in an iconic Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh left 11 dead and seven others injured.

It was an incident that shook Jewish communities nationwide, said Rabbi Peter Levi, regional director of ADL’s Orange County/Long Beach chapter.


Levi said it’s important that the public recognizes the nature of these extremist murderers, their ideology and their race. The perpetrators of these acts of domestic extremism are overwhelmingly white, according to the report.

“Facts matter,” Levi said. “We see what these people are saying. We see the online networks with which they are connecting. They are explicit. They are after people of color, foreigners.

“We often find white supremacy thinly veiled behind anti-immigrant rhetoric. We saw that with Bowers, who subscribed to anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

The ADL has tracked these numbers for decades.

Their reports over the last 10 years show about 73.3 percent of the domestic extremist killings on U.S. soil over the last decade have been perpetrated by far-right terrorists.

About 23.4 percent of the killings over the last 10 years have been committed by Islamist extremists, Mendelson noted.

Perpetrator affiliation is important while examining the threats facing this nation, she said.

“Certainly, there is a larger narrative afoot that Islamist extremism is a clear and present threat and sadly we look to the Sept. 11 attacks and things happening abroad, which illuminate this threat,” she said. “But, we must not ignore homegrown extremism and the influences and actors who perpetrate that threat.”