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Dozens have been charged for their role in the Capitol Hill riots and the FBI has identified at least 270 more people for the siege. While some of them have had ruins with the authorities in the past, the rioters, which included an Olympian, came from all walks of life. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker reports on what that reveals about extremism in the nation.
Today, committees of the House of Representatives opened a review of the insurrection and requested documents from federal law enforcement agencies.
Dozens have been charged with crimes for participating in last week's attack on the Capitol. The FBI says it has identified at least 270 more.
Some of the rioters were familiar figures to authorities but most were unknown and, as NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker reports: they came from all walks of life.
While the complexion and gender of those who attacked the capitol was overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, the profiles of those responsible emerging from the growing list of arrests, paints an unsettling portrait of just how wide America's hate has spread.
Fifty two-year-old Bradley Rukstales was until last week, a CEO of a Chicago area data and marketing company. Capitol police arrested him for unlawful entry.
Forty nine-year-old Christine Priola, in this photo on the Senate floor, resigned from her job as an occupational therapist for Cleveland schools.
And 38-year-old Klete Keller, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was identified by his U.S. Olympic Team jacket in a video taken during the attack.
For those who have long studied extremism, the disparate biographies, indicate an ominous turn in America.
What's so frightening about what happened last week, as I would say, it represents the normalization of extremism.
For more than 100 years, the Anti-Defamation League has been fighting against hate and anti-semitism. Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO.
It's not great when hate is a growth business, but over the last, you know, four really five years, the climate in this country has changed dramatically. I think the Trump presidency will be bookended, remembered by historians starting with Charlottesville and ending with Capitol Hill.
In Charlottesville, you had a hard core group of about 150 to 200 white supremacists who converged in that college town from all over the country. Flash forward to Capitol Hill and indeed, again, had a who's who of right wing extremists and yet when those militants staged their attack on the Capitol, they burst first through the doors, but they were followed by thousands of people. Teachers and firefighters and police officers and ordinary people.
Greenblatt argues the way these people followed the militants has unsettling historical analogies.
Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League:
What we have here is new to the U.S., but certainly not that novel. This is how we've seen Islamist extremist movements develop, for example, in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda and ISIS are hardcore terror organizations, but they rely on the radicalization of ordinary people to recruit and swell their ranks. This was a watershed moment for the white supremacy movement in the United States, and they will use it to radicalize and recruit even more people and that's why I think this is so troubling, because I don't think this was the end. I think this was the end of the beginning and I think we're now moving into a dangerous new phase.
Does this change or alter your organization's approach?
This will certainly alter the way the ADL thinks about the problem. Our analysts have been studying extremist movements for decades and decades, but what's worrisome is we are moving into a new phase where more and more people are being radicalized and willing to do the kinds of things like commit a clear criminal activity.
Are there any historical markers that you're looking to to essentially deprogram – not just the hardcore, but thinking of that group that was behind the the push. How do we reach those people?
Well, I think one of the things we need to acknowledge is that what happened last week happened in the context of a very complicated socio-economic cultural moment. We've seen the gap increase between the haves and have nots. We've seen more and more jobs move overseas. We've seen COVID-19 literally demolish communities, destabilize our economy, cost millions of jobs. This all fits into a narrative where people feel really alienated and afraid. Layer on top of that, the role of the media and I would point out social media in particular.
It is hard to understand, though, because while the economic argument and understanding has been there, the Olympic swimmer, the real estate agent, the CEO from a Chicago based company. I can't imagine that they are living on the economic margins in the same ways that others who have been displaced by manufacturing jobs lost.
Radicalization isn't necessarily a process that happens only to a certain type of person. It may be that the out-of-work individual is more vulnerable to it, but we know from the annals of history, whether it's political Islam in the Middle East, whether it's Nazism in Germany, whether it's communism in the former Soviet Union, the intellectuals, the executives, the ordinary people can get swept up in the madness that's literally what played out last week in Washington.
So how do we fix it? I do think it's going to require a process of national healing and before you can have unity, you will need accountability, and unless we have a full accounting for that offense, the country will never heal.
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Christopher Booker is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour Weekend covering music, culture, our changing economy and news of the cool and weird. He also teaches at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, following his work with Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in Chicago and Doha, Qatar.
Laura Fong shoots and produces stories for PBS NewsHour Weekend on a wide range of topics, including U.S. politics, education, the arts and urban transit. She also covers breaking news for the Saturday and Sunday broadcasts. Before joining NewsHour Weekend, Laura worked on the first three seasons of the CNN documentary series "Inside Man" with Morgan Spurlock. Through Teach for America, Laura taught first grade for two years in Houston. She has a B.A. in electronic media from the University of Oregon.
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