White supremacists are using coronavirus fears to recruit

Extremist groups are using social media to spread 'disinformation' about race, ethnicity and COVID-19 to new interests

Neo-Nazi protestors organized by the National Socialist Movement demonstrate near where the grand opening ceremonies were held for the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

According to a new report by the New York Times, white supremacists in America are using the coronavirus pandemic to stoke fears and add to their ranks.

The Times notes that April was a busy month for recruitment for domestic terrorists. The anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing on the 19th and Adolf Hitler’s birthday on the 20th are prime times to engage the like-minded.

READ MORE: White supremacists discussed using coronavirus as bioweapon

Last month protests flared at various state capitols across the country pushing back against stay-at-home orders designed to flatten the curve of the deadly coronavirus. However, some protestors took advantage of the opportunity to push their agenda with signs that were anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic.

In Michigan, protestors stormed the State Capitol in Lansing on April 30th. Many of the protestors were armed, not wearing face masks, and were photographed yelling in the faces of police officers. Governor Gretchen Whitmer rebuked the protestors on CNN’s State of the Union the following Sunday saying, “Some of the outrageousnesses of what happened at our capitol depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.”

President Donald J. Trump called protestors, “very good people,” and urged the governor to “talk to them.”

Armed protesters provide security as demonstrators take part in an “American Patriot Rally,” organized on April 30, 2020, by Michigan United for Liberty on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, demanding the reopening of businesses. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

The statement is reminiscent of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in August of 2017 which left Heather Heyer dead after James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist drove his car into a group of counter-protestors. Fields was later sentenced to life in prison. The president at that time referred to the protestors as “very fine people,” and that there were bad people, “on both sides.”

The New York Times article notes that white supremacists are having success in recruiting people who are stuck at home due to the pandemic using various social media sites including Reddit, 4chan, and Twitter.

Devin Burghart has also built a career studying the growth of these types of hate groups. Now as A thought leader at the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, he believes states “They are being very effective in capitalizing on the pandemic.”

Jared M. Maples, Director of The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, says that his organization has observed a rise in domestic extremist groups because their leaders are “spreading disinformation” to new interests who are impressionable, frustrated and/or idle.

READ MORE: Atlanta mayor says son also received racist text: ‘White supremacy is a sickness’

There is concern that the material could especially influence adolescents who are home from school and spending hours consuming material online.

There has already been one violent incident when Timothy R. Wilson was suspected of planning an attack on a Missouri hospital. He was killed in a shootout with the F.B.I. in March during the height of the pandemic.