Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on In Homeland Security.
By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University
Demonstrations and protests broke out in all 50 states and in at least 700 cities and towns following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed last month in a confrontation with four Minneapolis policemen.
[Related: Civil Unrest 2020: A Toxic Mix of Three Elements]
Often orchestrated by agitators and violent extremists, many of the protests developed into riots that endangered peaceful demonstrators, bystanders, and property. In an effort to protect citizens, maintain order, and protect property, law enforcement agencies around the nation have focused their resources on calming the crowds and stemming the current crisis.
Even federal law enforcement agencies that typically play more of a role in protecting the United States from acts of domestic and international terrorism have been called upon to assist in investigations and to increase public safety in areas of protests.
[Related: Preparing for Protests, Civil Unrest Requires Coordination among Agencies]
According to ABC News, over 600 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel were deployed to Washington, D.C., and across the nation to keep the demonstrations under control. Attorney General William P. Barr announced on May 31, that the 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) network will be used to identify criminal organizers and instigators in the demonstrations.
“The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly,” Barr warned.
The Importance of Maintaining a Focus on the Threat of Active Shooters and Domestic Terrorism
While local and federal law enforcement resources are responding to the nationwide demonstrations, we must recognize the continued threat of active shooters and domestic terrorism.
[Related: Resources for Local Law Enforcement to Fight Domestic Terrorism]
The FBI identifies active shooter incidents as those that meet the following criteria:
- Shootings in public places
- Shootings resulting in a mass killing
- Shootings where a methodical search for potential victims is used
- Shootings where the shooter’s actions did not involve another criminal act
By the FBI’s criteria, there were 28 active shooter incidents in 2019 in 16 states and 27 active shooter incidents in 2018 in 16 states. In 2019, there 247 casualties (97 killed and 150 wounded) during active shooter incidents.
Last year was the deadliest year in terms of domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people, including 19 children. Hundreds of others were injured.
According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, “The spate of attacks we saw in 2019 underscores the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes.”
Violent Islamist Extremists Have Used the Racial and Political Tensions to Discredit the US
In the midst of the nationwide protests, violent Islamist extremists and ISIS supporters have exploited the current situation. For example, a statement released by New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy (D) said violent Islamist extremists have used propaganda about the racial and political tensions “to discredit the United States and motivate residents to accept their violent extremism and encourage supporters to conduct terrorist attacks.”
These realities reflect a continued danger in the United States. As a result, both federal and local law enforcement have a critical role to play in reducing the danger posed by agitators and violent extremists. Citizens also have an important role to report to law enforcement any suspicious behavior within their communities that may represent a domestic terrorism or active shooter threat.
The FBI encourages all citizens to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid sharing too much personal information, and to speak up if something appears to be a potential threat. Threats to our critical infrastructures continue to exist. As air travel is likely to increase and larger groups of people will gather as a result of the relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions, diligence and homeland security initiatives are as important as ever.
About the Author: Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Military University. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Central America, and Europe on the topics of human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, police responses to domestic terrorism, and various topics in policing. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.
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