Black people find themselves vulnerable and in crisis on various fronts, as the FBI is concerned about the divide between the police and minority communities and violence against young men of color. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice warns that domestic terrorism is on the rise, as whites become a minority.
Speaking on Thursday at a community college in Cleveland, FBI director James Comey said there is a crisis in big cities, amid a growing divide between the police and communities of color, and an increase in murder and other violent crimes. Cleveland has been in the spotlight in recent months, in light of the killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy who was killed by police for playing with a pellet gun, and the acquittal of a white officer for his role in the shooting death of a Black couple, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, in a hail of 137 bullets.
The Guardian reports the city of Cleveland and the U.S. Department of Justice recently reached a federal court-monitored agreement, after the federal agency concluded the city’s police officers use excessive force and violate people’s rights, particularly Black people. Under the consent decree, officers will create systems where they will be held accountable for operating without discrimination, and will receive training in engaging the community in bias-free policing.
“It’s a problem the rest of the country could easily drive around because it’s happening to those people in those neighborhoods,” Comey said, offering that police must “own the history” of how Black people have been treated by police. “We can’t allow that to happen because people we serve and protect don’t forget. That’s part of their inheritance as well.”
The FBI chief also said better policing won’t solve the problems plaguing Black communities, who need police to weed the predators out.
“We need police in these neighborhoods to save those lives because those lives matter,” Comey said. “These are Americans dying in our streets, so we are needed there.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, John Carlin, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said that domestic terrorist groups, not unlike ISIS, use social media to spread messages and encourage attacks in the U.S. Speaking at George Washington University, Carlin said domestic terrorism is a “real threat” that “demands to be addressed in new and creative ways,” as the Huffington Post reported. The DOJ official noted that with the U.S. focused on Islamic extremist groups since September 11, domestic terrorism “doesn’t get discussed as much as it should.”
“Over the past few years, more people have died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than in attacks associated with international terrorist groups,” Carlin said.
He added that as is the case with ISIS, social media “can create for an extreme segment of society a sort of ‘radicalization echo chamber’ where followers reinforce for each other extremist propaganda and calls for violence.”
“White supremacists post to social media, and studies now posit that mass killings are contagious. Violence begets violence, and through the power of the Internet, a meeting hall is no longer needed. Formal organizational structures are unnecessary. Connections are made, and messages spread, through the push of a button,” Carlin said in his speech.
Carlin said that white extremists will begin to feel marginalized as whites decline in numbers as a percentage of the U.S. population, which is a challenge and a great cause for concern. However, he does not believe the U.S. government should designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations, as is the case with foreign groups, in which people face “material support” charges for supporting certain organizations on social media. That domestic terrorists do not fall under the material support statute is a situation that “reflects our values,” Carlin said.
“To do that for a group here would mean, based on who the group is and what they’re doing, the entire group is designated as a terrorist group,” he added.
Earlier this year, now former Attorney General Eric Holder called the Charleston massacre at Emanuel AME Church “clearly an act of terrorism” and a “wake-up call” for the nation. The shooter, Dylann Roof, was ultimately indicted on federal hate crimes charges in July under the new DOJ head, Loretta Lynch.