Though President Donald Trump downplayed the threat of violent White Nationalism Friday hours after an accused terrorist, who identified himself as a White Nationalist, killed 49 people at a New Zealand mosque, a local civil rights attorney fears it’s a threat that will only grow stronger.
President Trump was asked about White Nationalism and the shooting deaths of 49 people at mosques in Christchurch, and said "I don't, really" when asked whether he thought it was a rising threat around the world.
New Zealand police say the suspect is a White Nationalist who hated immigrants, but he was not on any watch lists.
Now, investigators in New Zealand and Australia are trying to figure out more about what led up to the shooting, and if the suspect had any help.
In the eyes of Civil rights attorney Jim McElroy, a local longtime board member of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), we are not doing nearly enough as a culture to address domestic terrorism committed by white supremacists.
McElroy argues it's too easy to radicalize young men on the internet with messages of hate.
“White Supremacy and violence stemming from White Supremacists is a growing problem in the United States and internationally,” he said.
McElroy has worked on hate crimes with the ACLU and the SPLC. When he learned the 28-year-old suspect accused of carrying out the deadly New Zealand attacks appeared to have a manifesto supporting white supremacy, he wasn’t surprised.
According to McElroy, there are two problems.
First, he drew a line connecting the New Zealand attacker, Charleston, S.C., church shooter Dylann Roof and Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers.
“The common thread between these horrific acts of violence are White Supremacy, and [that the suspects are] almost entirely radicalized on the internet,” McElroy said.
He says American White Supremacy themes are far-reaching, and “Come right out of the alt-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim handbook.”
Secondly, McElroy points to President Trump's past rhetoric towards Muslims and Latinos.
“It feeds that fire and I think it's terribly irresponsible for politicians to talk that way,” he said.
Since the New Zealand attack the president declined to join expressions of mounting concern about White Nationalism.
“I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's a case. I don’t know enough about it yet,” he said.
Defenders of the president say too many look to blame him for others' wrongdoing.
“I'm not saying he pulled the trigger or he's directly responsible, but I'm saying when hate seeps into the mainstream, it's a problem,” McElroy said.
McElroy says he expects more from social media giants YouTube and Facebook to curb hate speech or actions.
He also encourages parents to have dialogues with their children early on about hate, before the internet takes the lead.