Sikh Shooting Puts Focus on Hate Groups at Home
The slaying of six people at a Sikh temple by a gunman with ties to white supremacists has raised questions about the scope of domestic terrorism — and what law enforcement is doing to stop it.
Federal law enforcement agencies cracked down hard on homegrown extremists after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children at a day care center. Many leaders went to prison, died or went bankrupt.
But in recent years, the spread of the Internet, the worsening economy and changing demographic patterns have been giving new voice to hate groups.
White supremacists are generally motivated by a desire to separate themselves from people of other races — and deep fears that they are losing ground. No one keeps track of exactly how many there are. But the Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies hate movements, estimated there were at least 133 racist skinhead clusters inside the United States last year.
The Anti-Defamation League, which also closely follows extremists, reports that Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page had been a member of the Hammerskin Nation, the most violent and well-organized of the white supremacist groups. Prospective members undergo a probationary period, pay dues to the organization and pledge their loyalty.
It’s such a serious promise, according to Mark Potok of the SPLC, that Hammerskin members have been known to hunt down defectors and cut the white power tattoos from their bodies.