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Connecticut ADL, NAACP: White supremacist terror can happen anywhere

Domestic Terrorism
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Stacey G. Sobel, regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, displays a white supremacist propaganda leaflet during a news conference to discuss the threat of domestic violent extremism and gun violence with U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut, May 20, 2022.

After a racist attack in Buffalo that killed 10 people and injured three others -- 11 of the victims were Black -- local branches of national human rights groups are sounding the alarm about white supremacy. Now U.S. representatives from Connecticut want help combating these acts of domestic terrorism.

“We are seeing a pattern where white supremacist attacks bear unmistakable hallmarks of previous attacks,” said Stacey G. Sobel, the regional director for Connecticut’s chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.

Sobel said the ADL got hold of a racist document put together by the Buffalo shooter within 30 minutes of the attack. She said the ADL found that most of the language was lifted from rhetoric used by a man who shot up two mosques in New Zealand three years ago.

And, she said, events where white supremacist propaganda has been distributed in Connecticut have increased twentyfold over the past four years.

“In the past few months, the Connecticut towns include Killingworth, West Hartford, East Hartford, Trumbull, Westbrook, Hamden, Montville, and just this week in Enfield -- which has been littered with white supremacist propaganda flyers, mostly from the neo-Nazi New England Nationalist Social Club.”

The best way to stop white supremacy, according to Sobel, is to target social media companies that allow the spread of white supremacists’ ideas, like the "great replacement theory" that the Buffalo shooter referenced.

Corrie Betts, the criminal justice chair of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, says that he’s still in shock after Buffalo and that he’s trying to stay composed. But his soul is on fire.

“What happened on May 14 in Buffalo on Jefferson Avenue in that poor and segregated community could have happened right here in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury, or any other segregated enclave in this state.”

He blames social media and politicians for the violence.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

Connecticut’s two U.S. senators are in on a federal effort to curb domestic terrorism.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is getting national attention as votes on the proposal come days after the Buffalo shooting.

But after members of the U.S. House narrowly passed the bill on a party-line vote Thursday, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) expressed concern for final passage in his chamber.

Domestic Terrorism
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy speaks during a news conference with fellow Sen. Richard Blumenthal to discuss the threat of domestic violent extremism and gun violence at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut, May 20, 2022.

“This isn’t a partisan bill. We should all be able to agree that these white supremacist groups are a threat to this country, to all of our citizens,” Murphy said. “We need 60 votes in the Senate to get this passed, and I’m certainly worried about whether we’re going to get enough Republican support to be able to pass this.”

The bill aims to improve federal agencies’ ability to stop domestic terror plots by directing several of them to share information about white supremacist groups and violence. It also requires agencies like the U.S. Department of Justice to have a formal mechanism to investigate domestic terror threats.

Sen. Murphy says that if lawmakers don’t get serious about domestic extremism, the next massacre is just around the corner.

His colleague in the U.S. Senate, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), calls white supremacy a symptom of hate and extreme violence, and he says if good people do nothing, it’ll continue to spread.

“From Oak Creek to Charleston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, El Paso, the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, and now Buffalo, that throughline is the cancer of hatred metastasizing within our society.”

A vote on the measure is expected this week.

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