New Zealand is not the first: Here are some of the most horrific white terrorist attacks and plots of the Trump era
At least 49 people have been killed in a terrorist attack that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described as one of the country’s “darkest days.” The targets were two mosques in the city of Christchurch, and according to New Zealand police, the suspects were greatly influenced by far-right white nationalists of the United States. One of the suspects, according to police, published a 74-page manifesto demonizing Muslims and immigrants—and American terrorist Dylann Roof, who slaughtered nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, was cited as a role model in the document.
After Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana survived a shooting spree in June 2017, the right-wing media in the U.S. claimed that a wave of violence was coming from the left (never mind the fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders wholeheartedly condemned the attack and wished Scalise a speedy recovery). AM talk radio host Michael Savage even went so far as to that President Donald Trump’s critics needed to be “removed from the airwaves by the federal government for their constant drumbeat of hatred.” But the notion that terrorism is unique to either leftists or far-right Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria) and Boko Haram is ludicrous—and the horrific attack in Christchurch follows a series of white nationalist, white supremacist or Christianist attacks or plots in the U.S.
Here are some of the most disturbing white terrorist attacks or alleged plots of the Trump era.
1. February 2019: U.S. Coast Guard officer faces weapons charges after alleged plot to assassinate Democrats and journalists
One of the most underreported stories of 2019, hands down, is a U.S. Coast Guard officer’s alleged plot to murder a long list of prominent Democrats. In February, a self-described white nationalist was arrested on weapons charges after federal law enforcement found more than 1000 rounds of ammunition in his apartment in Maryland—and according to investigators, he had a hit list that named House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats as potential targets. Some major media figures were on the list as well, including Van Jones and Don Lemon of CNN and MSNBC’s conservative Joe Scarborough (who is one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal critics on the right).
The Coast Guard officer’s alleged plot received a lot more coverage on MSNBC and CNN than it did on their cable news competitor, Fox News, which is not surprising: it didn’t fit into the right-wing narrative of Islamists having a monopoly on terrorism. But if the alleged terrorist had been connected to ISIS or the Taliban, Fox News would have given it nonstop coverage.
2. October 2018: Terrorist mail bomb campaign targets prominent Democrats
In October 2018, a series of mail bombs were sent to Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sen. Cory Booker, investor George Soros and many other prominent Democrats—and the knee-jerk response of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, John Cardillo and other far-right media figures was that the whole thing was a Democratic hoax or “false flag” operation. Republicans, Limbaugh insisted, simply don’t resort to such acts. But in fact, a 56-year-old Florida resident and avowed Trump supporter was arrested on October 26, 2018 for the attacks and was charged with interstate transportation of explosives and other federal crimes. The suspect lived in a van, where authorities found numerous pro-Trump stickers and anti-Democrat messages.
3. October 2018: 11 worshippers slaughtered in vicious attack on Pittsburgh synagogue
The terrorist shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, 2018 was the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Eleven people were killed, and suspect Robert Bowers (a white supremacist) was charged with a long list of federal and state crimes. According to investigators, the suspect had been posting anti-Semitic messages on social media and blamed Jews for illegal immigration in the U.S. Bowers he had become a critic of President Trump, claiming that he was a “globalist, not a nationalist.” But he shared Trump’s obsession with the caravan of Central American refugees that was making its way north.
4. October 2018: older African-American couple killed in Kentucky
On October 24, 2018 in Kentucky, an older African-American couple, Maurice E. Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, were randomly killed in a supermarket parking lot in Jeffersontown, Kentucky near Louisville simply for being black. According to police, the suspect (who was charged with three federal hate crimes and had a history of making racist comments) tried to enter an African-American church before the attack on Stallard and Jones but, thankfully, didn’t get in.
5. August 2017: activist Heather Heyer murdered at Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
On December 7, 2018, white nationalist James Alex Fields, Jr. was found guilty of killing activist Heather Heyer by running his car into a group of counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. Heyer, who was 32, was among the activists who gathered in Charlottesville that day to protest against a large demonstration by white supremacists, white nationalists and Christianists that was billed as a Unite the Right rally. And the event had many of the familiar themes one finds among white terrorists: the U.S. is being invaded, and the invasion must be stopped.
The Washington Post has reported that the 74-page manifesto of one of the suspects in the Christchurch, New Zealand massacre is titled “The Great Manifesto”—a title the Post says “echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.”