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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Domestic terrorists instill fear


The significance of the Virginia gun rally

Thousands of people gathered for a rally in Richmond, Virginia on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and with many of them heavily armed, it seemed like a recipe for disaster. Gun control advocates even canceled a counter protest for the event due to a fear of confrontation. This group likely remembered the confrontation that turned deadly at a white nationalist protest just 70 miles away in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

While the protest ended peacefully without casualties, it could have become a tragic event in American history had the group’s threats come to fruition.

“The Base,” a neo-Nazi group that has been actively planning to spread their beliefs and instill fear, was present at the rally. An essential element of The Base’s plans has been to establish independent subset groups and recruiting members online. They have been specifically attacking black people and Jewish people, even admiring the Charleston church shooting and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

While it is not illegal to use hate speech or even be part of a hate group, it is illegal to make plans to carry out hate crimes, which is just what the FBI caught four men doing before the rally.

In a domestic terrorism investigation, the FBI bugged an apartment in Delaware to hear about The Base’s plans for the Virginia rally, what members of The Base saw as a “boundless” opportunity. With many at the gun rights rally having firearms with them, part of the plan was to steal high-end weapons.

It was also assumed that there would be no shortage of police presence at the rally, prompting a Base member, Brian Mark Lemley Jr., to say, “If there’s like a PoPo cruiser parked on the street and he doesn’t have backup, I can execute him at a whim and just take his stuff.” The other man in the apartment, Patrick J. Mathews, hoped that these ambushes on police officers and civilians would lead to “full blown civil war.”

Mathews was a Canadian combat engineer being investigated by the Canadian government for racist extremist activities and illegally crossed the northern border. Members of the military are often recruited by The Base, as they truly want a civil war and have a doomsday mentality to resist “their people’s extinction.”

Our culture has become so accustomed to tragedies, with some mass shootings not getting publicity because they did not have as many casualties as others. It is no surprise that what-if events like the gun rally held last Monday, where there was not violence but there could have been a warlike battle, are not given much attention. There is so much bad news to focus on every day instead of “could-have-been-bad news.”

While it is fortunate that the FBI caught some of these men when they did, it shows that white nationalism is not just repulsive hate speech; this speech is manifesting into hate crimes and physical demonstrations.

Those arrested are just the tip of the iceberg for what could be a much larger group than we realize, with the group communicating on an encrypted platform and actively seeking out new members.

White nationalism should also not be looked at as a Southern, rural issue to make us feel safe in urban areas. Although Mathews was plotting the rally in Richmond, he was arrested in Delaware.

Back in November 2019, a member of The Base was arrested in Camden County, New Jersey for recruiting other members to carry out vandalism on Midwestern synagogues. Two synagogues were vandalized in Michigan and Wisconsin, but the neo-Nazi chillingly had a nationwide plan he called “Operation Kristallnacht,” referencing the ravaging of Jewish homes and businesses in 1938 in Germany.

This recent rally filled with firearms did not lead to any deaths thanks to an FBI crackdown just a few days prior to the event, but this should not make us feel safe. There are plenty of events that could be targeted by The Base and other white nationalist groups, like Black Lives Matter, pride parades or March for Our Lives.

If The Base continues to make plans, the FBI may not be able to stop a tragedy before it happens every time. The Base must be viewed and considered for what they are: a terrorist group that could continue to instill fear and acts of violence against minority groups. This group should not affect anyone’s decision to congregate for other demonstrations, so the government must take extra precaution when protecting those expressing their views or supporting a movement.

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