Extremist violence killed more people in the United States in 2016 than in any year since Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City, a group that monitors domestic extremism said Thursday.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an advocacy group focused on combating anti-Semitism and extremism, said domestic extremists killed 69 people in 2016, up from 65 the year before, with the majority of those casualties — 49 — the result of a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, the ADL said Thursday in a report titled “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2016.”
In fact, the group said, 2016 would have been a relatively “mild” year in extremist violence were it not for Omar Mateen’s attack on Pulse nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Right-wing extremists — including white supremacists and antigovernment and antiabortion extremists — have consistently carried out the majority of domestic extremist-related murders in the United States every year since 1980, the ADL said.
“Indeed, though Omar Mateen’s Pulse nightclub shootings were by far the deadliest act of extremist violence in 2016, comprising 71% of all such deaths, they also represented the only lethal incident involving domestic Islamic extremists,” the report said.
Mateen, a 29-year-old Floridian with a history of violence and social problems, had looked at violent Islamist propaganda online, and claimed his attack in the name of the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Black nationalists also re-emerged in 2016 for the first time in decades as a significant component of extremist violence, the ADL said. Micah Xavier Johnson and Gavin Eugene Long, each independently inspired by black nationalist groups, killed a total of eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Killings by white supremacists, who believe in the superiority in light-skinned races, hit an “uncharacteristically low” level at seven deaths, the ADL said, cautioning that it would not consider that low a trend unless it persists for a second year.
“These low figures also occurred during a year in which nonviolent white supremacist activity was particularly high, in large part due to agitation and propaganda by the so-called alt-right and other white supremacists in connection with the 2016 presidential election,” the group said, referring to the term for a far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state.
The ADL, American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights advocacy groups have repeatedly criticized the Trump administration, and campaign, for stoking white nationalist and xenophobic sentiments.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a liberal-leaning advocacy group that also monitors extremism, published a report Wednesday that described a slight growth in U.S. hate groups over the course of 2016, with the sharpest rise among anti-Muslim groups and white nationalists. The SPLC said it also documented more than 1,000 “bias incidents” ranging from schoolyard name-calling to assault and vandalism during the first 34 days after President Trump’s election.
The ADL’s report does not detail any murders that took place during that time period.
Trump has said little about those incidents and the similar attacks and harassment of minorities that occurred during the presidential campaign. In November, he told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the perpetrators of such incidents should “stop it.”
“I hate to hear that,” he said, when asked about the reports. He said he believed it was only “a very small amount.” Trump drew public criticism again Wednesday after he responded during a news conference to a question about anti-Semitism by talking about his electoral victory and that he has Jewish relatives, and without mentioning the word “anti-Semitism” in his response.
Firearms accounted for the vast majority of the deaths included in the ADL’s study. “Though it is common for people to associate extremists with exotic weapons such as bombs or other weapons of mass destruction, overwhelmingly extremists in the United States, regardless of movement, are at their most lethal when employing firearms,” the report said.