Seditious conspiracy convictions won’t stop threats from domestic extremists

Seditious conspiracy convictions won’t stop threats from domestic extremists | The Hill

Seditious conspiracy convictions won’t stop threats from domestic extremists  at george magazine

FILE – Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys during a rally in Portland, Ore., Sept. 26, 2020. Tarrio and three other members of the far-right extremist group have been convicted of a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol in a desperate bid to keep Donald Trump in power after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File)

The conviction of Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, former leader of the Proud Boys, for seditious conspiracy advances the cause of justice for the Jan. 6 insurrection. However, as the mall shooting in Texas makes clear, the threat posed by domestic extremists continues.  

On Thursday, May 4, a jury in Washington, D.C., found Tarrio and two other others guilty of seditious conspiracy for planning the attack on the U.S. Capitol. They acquitted a fourth defendant but found him guilty of other crimes related to Jan. 6.  

The seditious conspiracy statute, which dates to the Civil War era, makes it a federal crime for two or more people to “conspire to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States.”  

Using text messages and other evidence, the prosecution proved that although not present in Washington on Jan. 6, Tarrio and his co-conspirators “directed, mobilized and led members of the crowd onto the Capitol grounds and into the Capitol.”   

Founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western chauvinists” who embrace what they see as traditional values. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies them as a “general hate group” that embraces “a broad range of bigotries, including misogyny, antisemitism and anti-Black, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views.”  

The group rose in prominence following the second 2020 presidential debate, during which Donald Trump told them to “stand back and stand by.” The phrase became a rallying cry, which the Proud Boys printed on their merchandise.  

The seditious conspiracy conviction of Tarrio follows that of Elmer Stewart Rhodes, founder of the anti-government Oath Keepers, in November 2022.  

More than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, of whom 541 have pleaded guilty, 66 have been convicted and 58 have received prison sentences.   

These convictions serve the cause of justice, but as last Saturday’s Texas shopping mall shooting suggests, the threat of domestic extremism remains.  

While the investigation is ongoing, law enforcement officials found that the alleged shooter, Mauricio Garcia, shared neo-Nazi and white supremacist content on social media. He also wore a patch bearing the acronym, “RWDS,” which stands for “right-wing death squad,” a phrase used by far right extremists. 

The Texas massacre is the latest in a series of mass shootings motivated by extremist ideology. Anderson Lee Aldrich faces 48 hate crime charges for allegedly killing five people at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs in November 2022. He ran a neo-Nazi website.  

Payton Gendron pleaded guilty to one count of domestic terrorism and 10 counts of murder during his May 14, 2022, shooting rampage at a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket, which he admitted was racially motivated.  

In addition to these high-profile domestic terrorist attacks, hate crimes have been on the rise since Jan. 6, 2021.  

According to the FBI, in 2021 hate crimes increased 11.6 percent over the previous year, with 10,840 reported incidents against 12,822 victims.  

The largest number of attacks targeted African Americans, but anti-Semitic and anti-LGBQT incidents also increased.  

While national figures for 2022 have yet to be released, a Voice of America report found that hate crimes increased significantly in six major cities.  

Republican politicians have fueled extremism through a combination of denial and reinvention. In the aftermath of the attack on the capital, approximately half of Republicans blamed Antifa for the violence.  

In February 2022, the Republican Party officially declared the insurrection “legitimate political discourse.”  

The connection between politics and extremism became even clearer when a judge ruled that jurors in the civil case against Trump for rape, sexual harassment and defamation would remain anonymous out of concern for their safety.  

E. Jean Carroll, the plaintiff, reported being subjected to a torrent of abuse and threats since going public with her allegations. The jury found in her favor on the harassment and defamation allegations. 

Political attacks on transgender people have been linked to an increase in threats and violence against that demographic.   

Fortunately, no large-scale domestic terrorist attack has occurred since Jan. 6, 2021, but that does not mean extremist groups have disappeared.  

After social media sites banned them, these groups migrated to the dark web, making it harder to track their activities.  

Extremist organizations have also decentralized. The Proud Boys are a case in point. In June 2021, Tarrio announced he would resign as national leader to focus on local politics in his home state of Florida. He urged his followers to do the same.  

“Start getting more involved in local politics, running our guys for office from local seats, whether it’s a simple GOP seat or a city council seat,” he told NPR.  

In September 2021, Proud Boys forced three Vancouver schools into lockdown when they tried to enter their grounds during an anti-masking protest.  

Other extremist groups have also refocused their energies on local politics. Two members of the III Percenters have been elected to the Eatonville, Wash., school board.   

“If you’re going to make a change, you don’t do it by storming the Capitol,” declared Matt Marshall, founder of the Washington branch of the movement and Eatonville school board member. “You make change by using the process that you’ve been given and starting at the bottom.”  

Extremists have also infiltrated local law enforcement. 

In Arizona, former Oath Keeper board member and former county sheriff Richard Mack founded the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, to promote an antigovernment ideology with ties to white supremacy.  

The constitutional sheriffs’ movement insists that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement authority in the country and that county government should be the sole political authority within their territories.  

A February 2022 Reuters report found that police trainers with far-right ties have trained hundreds of officers across the country.   

Analyzing a leaked Oath Keepers membership list, the Anti-Defamation League found 373 persons believed to be serving in law enforcement and 81 holding or running for a broad range of elected offices, from local school board member through mayor to state representative and senator.  

Far-right extremism is the most serious terrorist threat to the United States and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. As the 2024 presidential campaign season begins, the danger of local and national violence will increase.  

A complete, unequivocal repudiation of white supremacist, antigovernment and all other extremist ideologies by every candidate will be necessary to counter the threat.  

Tom Mockaitis is a professor of history at DePaul University and the author of “Violent Extremists: Understanding the Domestic and International Terrorist Threat.”   


domestic extremism

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio

Jan. 6 Capitol attack

Oath Keepers

Politics of the United States

Proud Boys

Right wing militia groups

Stewart Rhodes

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