Right-wing extremists behind more US terror in 2021 than any other group

Right-wing extremists such as white supremacists were linked to at least 26 extremist-related murders in the United States in 2021 and have been responsible for 75 percent of such murders in the last ten years, according to new data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

According to an annual analysis of extremist fatalities by ADL Center on Extremism, domestic extremists were responsible for killing at least 29 people in the United States, in 19 separate incidents.

This represents an increase from the 23 extremist-related murders documented in 2020 but is far lower than the number of murders committed in any of the five years prior, primarily because no high-casualty extremist-related shooting spree occurred this past year. 

Such killing sprees are the main contributor to high murder totals.

White supremacists killed more people in 2021 than any other type of extremist with nearly half of the deaths (13) attributed to adherents of the movement.

Two killings were committed by Black nationalists and one by an Islamist extremist—the latter being the first such killing since 2018.

“This data underscores an indisputable fact: far-right extremists pose the greatest domestic terror threat to the United States,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “But we need to keep in mind these statistics only capture a portion of the landscape of extremist violence and activity. Every year, extremists in the United States are involved in terrorist plots and acts, armed standoffs, shootouts with police, hate crimes, scams and cons, threats and harassment and a wide variety of other criminal acts.”

To view the incidents referenced in this report and other extremist activity across the country, please see ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map.

Domestic extremists killed at least 29 people in the United States in 2021, up from the 23 murders documented in 2020, but far fewer than the killings in any of the years 2015-19 (which ranged from 45 to 78).

White supremacists killed more people in 2021 than any other type of extremist. Nearly half of the deaths last year (13) were attributable to white supremacists. Five of those deaths were committed by those with ties to white supremacist prison gangs.

Over the past 10 years, shootings accounted for 75% of the deaths at the hands of extremists but last year, 83% of the extremist-related deaths were firearms-related.

Of the 443 people killed in America at the hands of extremists over the last 10 years, 333 (or 75%) were killed by right-wing extremists.

Of the 333 right-wing extremist-related killings over the last 10 years, at least 73 percent have been at the hands of white supremacists.

Fourteen of the extremist murders appear to have been committed in whole or in part as ideological killings, while 15 were committed for one or another non-ideological motives or for which no motive has been revealed.

Over the past 10 years, the number of ideological-related killings and non-ideological (and unknown motive) killings by extremists has been close to equal (231 versus 212), with the majority of non-ideological killings coming from right-wing extremists, especially white supremacists.

Lyndon McLeod’s December shooting rampage in Denver added five more deaths to the number of lives taken by adherents of toxic masculinity. Over the past 10 years, people associated with the “manosphere,” most of them incels, have killed 16 people in the United States, a troubling development.

Lyndon McLeod, who killed five people during a deadly rampage in the Denver area, was an author dedicated to alt-right philosophies, including masculine supremacy, contrarian COVID-19 beliefs, and targeted violence against the “weak”—including those he killed.

ADL’s Protect Plan, announced after the attempted coup d’etat on Jan. 6 at our nation’s Capitol, offers a whole of government and whole of society approach to confront domestic terrorism, including actions for federal, state and local officials and the tech industry.

ADL says public officials and law enforcement authorities must speak out against all manifestations of insurrection, hate and extremism. For too long, policymakers have focused disproportionate attention on the threat of Islamist extremism – to the detriment of readiness to address many other, equally serious security issues.

Every state should enact comprehensive, inclusive hate crime laws, the group says. Effective responses to hate violence by public officials and law enforcement authorities can play an essential role in deterring and preventing these crimes.

ADL also says Congress and state legislatures should authorize and finance research to better understand the drivers of extremist hate and fund evidence-based programming to counter it.

Recognizing the limits of legal responses to hate violence, Congress and the Department of Education should increase federal funding for inclusive school climate, anti-bias education and hate crime prevention, the ADL says.

Several People’s Convoy organizers have ties to extremist groups and movements, including the anti-government Three Percenters militia movement and QAnon, making these right-wing rallies and other events vulnerable to diffusion or exploitation by domestic terrorists.

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