Anti-government “extremists” seeking to terrorize Americans have infiltrated the anti-coronavirus lockdown movement and are baselessly accusing governors of trampling on civil rights, panelists argued during a virtual forum Wednesday held by Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee.
Reps. Max Rose (D-NY) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) hosted the event on extremism during the coronavirus outbreak.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) declared:
Extremists are taking their hate to the streets marching alongside other angry Americans. We see anti-government extremists and militia members accusing governors across the country of trampling on their civil rights even as those governors desperately try to manage one of the most confounding health crises in our country’s 240 some odd year history.
Outside the state capitol in Michigan, protesters angry over the restrictive anti-virus lockdown, including some carrying guns, have demanded that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) end the shutdown. Similar protests have broken out across the country in response to coronavirus shutdowns that have devastated the American economy with the worst unemployment rates since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Panelist Ali Soufan, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who now heads the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm, grouped so-called “extremists” within the anti-lockdown movement with white supremacists, saying:
Extremists are quick to make use of conspiracies and polarizing narratives in order to radicalize, recruit, and call for acts to violence, which poses a direct threat to the safety of the American people.
Specifically, White supremacists blame Jews, immigrants, foreigners, and other minorities, like Asian Americans, for the pandemic. Anti-government extremists use the stay-at-home orders and other policies perceived as infringing on individual freedoms as an excuse to stockpile weapons.
Soufan indicated that all those “extremists” have joined forces and are feeding off each other during the ongoing pandemic, pushing coronavirus disinformation.
“All these anti-government people, the hate people, anti-semitic people, they are getting together, and now we are starting seeing them capitalizing on each other’s conspiracies and piggybacking off them,” he said.
“All these movements are in a way celebrating together COVID-19 [coronavirus illness] because they feel that this is their opportunity to destroy the system that they don’t believe in,” Soufan added.
Soufan and Greenblatt acknowledged that Islamic terrorists, like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda, are also exploiting the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the world.