(October 12, 2020 / JNS) The Democratic members of New Jersey’s representation to the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the FBI asking the agency to up the federal response related to the far-right group the Proud Boys, which has recently increased its activity in the state.
A report from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) increased the threat posed by white supremacist extremists from “moderate” to “high” in 2020, joining homegrown violent extremists as the most persistent hostile actors statewide.
The Proud Boys has been classified as a hate group by civil-rights organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Proud Boys are “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration,” while some of its members “espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups.”
“While the FBI ‘does not police ideology,’ we believe the clear threat and pattern of violence demonstrated by members of groups like the Proud Boys merits increased scrutiny by the Bureau to protect public safety. This is abundantly necessary as these groups increasingly seek to organize and instigate violence,” the members wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“We are also concerned that members of the Proud Boys or other unlawful militias or private paramilitary organizations may plan to target and disrupt rallies, polling places or voter registration drives in the coming months,” it continued. “We believe we need a much more robust federal response to the growing threat of violence posed by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, domestic terrorists and other militias.”
The members requested that the FBI answer the following:
- Does the FBI currently consider violent extremist groups with ties to white nationalism like the Proud Boys to be a significant threat?
- Is the FBI concerned by violence at rallies organized by these groups across jurisdictions, including in Portland, Seattle, New York and other cities?
- Has the FBI taken steps to disseminate critical information about the threats of violent extremism to law-enforcement partners in New Jersey and around the country, via intelligence bulletins, Field Intelligence Groups, Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or other groups or memoranda?
- What authority does the FBI have, if any, to address instances in which individuals gather in public places under the guise of an armed militia, wearing military-style weapons and uniforms to intimidate members of the public?
- What is the FBI’s strategy to protect Americans from a surge in violent extremism and an uptick of attacks from individuals associated with these groups in the coming months?
Those who signed the letter were Reps. Josh Gottheimer; Tom Malinowski; Andy Kim; Bonnie Watson Coleman; Mikie Sherrill; Bill Pascrell Jr.; Donald Norcross; Frank Pallone Jr.; Albio Sires; and Donald M. Payne Jr.
The Proud Boys have made headlines after U.S. President Donald Trump initially told the group to “stand back” and “stand by” during the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 against Democratic nominee Joe Biden after he was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups.
It wasn’t until days later on Fox News that Trump said: “I condemn the [Ku Klux Klan]. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing. But I condemn that.”
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