Professor Says that Violence in Portland and Kenosha was Both Predictable and Preventable

Professor Says that Violence in Portland and Kenosha was Both Predictable and Preventable

By Jim Windell

            A professor at American University says that the recent violence during protests in Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin were not only predictable but that they could have been prevented.

            Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor of Education and Sociology at American University in Washington, D.C., is a scholar of extremism and director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University. She has watched people mobilize across the political spectrum, – engaged in protests and demonstrations related to police brutality, Second Amendment rights, state shelter-in-place orders and other issues – while leaders respond insufficiently to the threat of violence.

            Dr. Miller-Idriss was expecting violence. So was J.J. McNab, a Fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. Earlier this year she testified before Congress  saying “that there will be a shootout at one or more of the Black Lives Matter protests.” McNab was warning of the dangers of having heavily armed groups with conflicting goals at the same events.

          In her new book, “Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right,” Miller-Idriss has discussed the growing activity of the extremist fringe in U.S. society. Despite warnings from Miller-Idriss, McNab and others, the presence of a wide range of militia and vigilante groups has repeatedly caught local communities and national leaders unprepared to handle the threat they pose.

           Part of the problem, according to Miller-Idriss is that there has been inaction in America toward stemming the growth of militia and vigilante groups. She says that that failure to deal with extremism is related to confusion about the goals of such groups. Some groups, such as white supremacists want to spark a race war. Others are fighting a government they perceive as being tyrannical. Still other groups are offering vigilante support for businesses and law enforcement.  And then, there are the organizations that are resisting far right groups and/or white supremacists. But no matter what the goals of these extremist groups, they tend to share a sense of threat and a belief that their lives – and even their future survival – are threatened by some outside group.

          Miller-Idriss points out that extremists thrive when people feel uncertain and isolated. Furthermore, people who join extremist groups have to need to belong as well as a need to control. That is why, she argues, millions of Americans are anxious about a dangerous and unseen virus, are isolated during shutdowns, face widespread economic uncertainty and are spending much more time online, where encounters with propaganda and misinformation are more likely.

          To make matters worse, in some communities, such as Kenosha, local law enforcement legitimized vigilante and militia presence by thanking them for being there. That tends to embolden vigilante groups and give them permission to take matters into their own hands.

          What can be done?

          Dr. Miller-Idriss has various recommendations. Certainly, se points out, the threat of future violence can be reduced by minimizing the number of people who feel empowered to act violently. Also, leaders at all political levels could affirm people’s right to protest peacefully while unequivocally condemning vigilante and militia mobilization, regardless of the reason. She cites research that has found that incendiary or hateful rhetoric from politicians both deepens polarization and increases support for political violence. The kind of speeches and comments by leaders that are hateful and angry are likely to spark more violence. Therefore, all government and political leaders to use words that cool tempers – not further inflame passions.


To view the original source of this story, click here.  

Share this post:

Comments on "Professor Says that Violence in Portland and Kenosha was Both Predictable and Preventable"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment