'There is problem of domestic terrorism across the US'

Two months after Capitol riot, what's happening with extremist groups?

Tags: Riots Radio US
NPR ,

Pro-Trump protesters inside the US Capitol building
Pro-Trump protesters inside the US Capitol building
Reuters/Michael Nigro/Sipa USA

US Capitol police are ramping up security at the complex on Thursday over concerns about a possible plot by a militia group to breach the building.

The threat is connected to a baseless conspiracy theory that former US President Donald Trump will rise to power again on March 4, which used to be Inauguration Day. After the Jan. 6 riot and President Biden’s inauguration, QAnon supporters searching for another date to prophesize found March 4, NBC’s Ben Collins says.

Tax-evading members of the Sovereign Citizens Movement believe a decades-old conspiracy theory that the US government has been illegitimate since Ulysses S. Grant left office in 1877, he says. Grant was inaugurated on March 4 in 1869.

“QAnon supporters, they're not all the way in on this. They don't really fully believe all this stuff,” he says, “but they're desperate for some sort of answer that isn't ‘Joe Biden is the president and reality is reality.’ ”

The buzz around this date has died down upon supporters realizing there aren’t any large events scheduled — unlike when Trump held a rally on Jan. 6, he says.

With yet another significant date passing by without Trump regaining power, Collins recalls the 1956 book, “When Prophecy Fails,” about a cult called the Seekers. The cult believed in a doomsday, and when the world didn’t end on that day, members pivoted to believing they prevented the apocalypse, Collins says.

Like members of the Seekers, QAnon and militia movements are becoming “more hardened in their beliefs as time goes on,” Collins says.

Earlier this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Capital riot was the culmination of a domestic terror threat that's been growing for years.

“Jan. 6 was not an isolated event,” Wray said. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it's not going away anytime soon.”

Wray also confirmed that after Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the summer, the FBI increased its focus on anti-government extremists like Antifa, but still listed that below the threat posed by white supremacists.

The Washington Post and other outlets are reporting that some of these far-right groups involved in the Capitol riot, including the Proud Boys, are starting to splinter. These divisions raise the concern of lone extremists who can be more difficult to track.

De-platforming extremists on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook is a “double-edged sword,” Collins says.

“They're not going to be able to get their message out in the same way,” he says. “However, when those people go into these smaller spaces, these spaces that are not tracked as easily, it's harder to find out what they're actually planning.”



top