Connecting state and local government leaders
The letters come as hate groups are on the rise across the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The NAACP next week will call for congressional hearings on domestic terrorism in response to what the group called “a rising climate of hate crimes and targeting African Americans and communities of color.”
The civil rights organization will outline its case in letters to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Homeland Security, asking for the hearings as well as “transparency regarding the ways in which Black activists are tracked and monitored by government agencies.”
The letters are prompted by last week’s arrest of an active-duty Coast Guard lieutenant and white nationalist who had stockpiled weapons and ammunition ahead of a planned domestic terrorism spree targeting politicians, journalists and others.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson called the arrest “troubling” but ultimately unsurprising, pointing to a national climate rife with racism and burgeoning white supremacy. More than 1,000 hate groups are currently active nationwide, a 7 percent jump from last year, according to a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crime reports received by the FBI jumped 30 percent from 2015 through 2017, while right-wing violence killed at least 50 people last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“Sadly, many with racist beliefs have been emboldened by a national climate in which our nation’s highest office sanctions dog whistle politics and xenophobic rhetoric,” Johnson said in a statement. “This recent incident is unnerving. Now is the time to act to ensure our communities are awakened to these potential dangers and protected.”
A key aspect of the congressional appeal focuses on ensuring that government agencies are not infringing on civil rights in their monitoring of black activists. Several such activists were tracked after being involved in protests following the deaths of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
A spokesman said the organization is also working to ensure that local partners are involved in both matters.
“We have, are and will work with state and local elected leaders, as well as advocates and activists on understanding both issues better in ways that protect our communities,” said Malik Russell, NAACP’s director of communications. “We have over 2,200 branches around the nation who are on the forefront of these issues.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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