April has become somewhat symbolic of white supremacists. Perhaps this is because April 19 is Patriot’s Day and April 20 is Adolph Hitler’s birthday. Who knows? What we do know is several symbolic incidents of mass violence have occurred during the month of April. The Oklahoma City bombing occurred on April 19, 2000. The Columbine High School massacre happened on April 20, 1999. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, a cause for celebration among organized bigots. This year, the coronavirus has become the extremists’ battle cry.
According to several recent reports, white supremacists have used the pandemic as an opportunity to advance a far-right agenda, encouraging followers to conduct attacks during the crisis to incite fear and target ethnic minorities and immigrants. White supremacists also use the pandemic to recruit new members. Several recent plots have been linked to people who frequented such discussions.
In March, a white supremacist planned to bomb a Kansas City hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated. The man was shot and killed by FBI agents sent to arrest him. In Missouri, an extremist suspected of planning an attack on a Missouri hospital was killed in a shootout with F.B.I. agents. It was also reported in March that racist extremist groups, including neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, encouraged members who contract the virus to spread the contagion to cops and Jews.
In April, an Arkansas man apparently went on Facebook Live to announce that he was hunting for a law enforcement officer to ambush and execute in Texarkana, Texas. He was charged with making terroristic threats, evading capture, and carrying a weapon illegally.
The most recent incident of blatant racism occurred this past Saturday in San Diego County when a man chose to wear a hood to grocery shop, as a method of wearing a face covering.
White supremacy and anti-Semitism have also become intertwined with protests against COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Protesters in my home state of Michigan and other states claim to speak for ordinary citizens against lockdown orders resulting from the pandemic. However, many protests are led and supported by far-right-wing groups.
Last Thursday marked the second protest at the Michigan State Capital in Lansing. Its purported purpose was to persuade Governor Gretchen Whitmer to lift stay-at-home restrictions in the state. However, hundreds of the protesters, with military-style rifles draped across their backs and handguns on their hips, forced their way into the building. They wore swastikas, held up racist and anti-Semantic symbols, and waved Confederate flags. Many were not wearing masks and had no regard for social distancing. They screamed “Lock her up” (speaking of Whitmer) and thrashed insults about her over coronavirus restrictions in the state.
Whitmer extended the state of emergency until May 28, while the state-at-home order remains in effect until May 15. Why? Because Michigan has not yet met the criteria for a sweeping reopening of the state’s economy. In response to the protest, our current president tweeted Whitmer should “give a little” and “make a deal” with the “very good people” who protested. Whitmer pushed back, arguing she is working to protect lives. “Whether you agree with me or not, I’m going to continue to do my job, regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think that makes sense,” said the governor. “We’re going to listen to facts and science.” She did not comment on the president’s latest “good people on both sides” rhetoric.
To be fair, some protesters express a deep financial need to return to work. They must keep roofs over their heads, lights on, and families fed. I understand the financial implications; I own and operate a small business that depends on the legal system for its stock in trade. Courts are closed and cases are stalled across America. My clients and I are suffering economically.
However, COVID-19 is not the common cold—it is a global pandemic. To date, we have seen 3,618,325 cases and 253,381 globally. In the U.S., over 1.1 million people in the U.S have been infected, with nearly 70,000 deaths. Michigan has reported nearly 44,000 cases and over 4,100 deaths.
COVID-19 should not be a political issue. It is not a time to advance less righteous agendas. The focus, for citizens and politicians, should be to protect lives. It is devastating that a pandemic is used to express hate. Shouldn’t a global pandemic bring out the best in our people? Acts of violence, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy are roadblocks to creating a better America. If you see something, say something. Let’s stop the madness.
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. The series consists of "Betrayal of Faith", "Betrayal of Justice", and "Betrayal in Blue", with a fourth book due out in 2019. You can learn more about these topical political, legal thrillers at markmbello.com. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.