The controversy surrounding the appearance of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in a photo with members of a well-known patriot movement group in Mohave County is a reminder of how extremists today are pushing the boundaries and moving into the mainstream.
We need to be vigilant in reminding public officials about who these groups are and what they represent. It was deeply unfortunate that the governor appeared in a photo with members of Patriot Movement AZ. Members of this particular group have been verbally abusive toward Hispanics, Native Americans and Muslims. There is nothing “patriotic” about this group.
Fortunately, Gov. Ducey did the right thing. After learning more about who they are, he denounced both the group and their behavior.
As a former elected official, I can understand how a handshake or photo can be looked upon as a pass for the actions of a group. That’s why his denunciation was important. That’s why it’s vital now to learn more about this group and their intolerant beliefs.
Patriot Movement AZ has been in the news before. In January, they sought out Hispanic lawmakers, legislative staffers and children at the state capitol, calling some “illegal” or telling them “to go home.” A Navajo lawmaker was asked if he was “illegal.” Individuals were harassed on the basis of their skin color.
What does this one incident say of the larger picture of extremism today in America?
More and more in our society, extremism is moving into the mainstream. It lives online, in plots and plans hatched on Reddit, Telegram and 8chan. It thrives when white supremacists gather, burning crosses in a field to celebrate their shared hate. It has infected our politics and our media.
ADL and its Center on Extremism fight against extremism because we recognize its power to upend democracies and to terrify populations.
Extreme ideologies often seek radical changes in the nature of government, religion or society. ADL’s Center on Extremism has spent years monitoring and reporting on white supremacists and their beliefs.
We’ve carefully watched the trends in Arizona, and here are some of the things we are concerned about today:
Arizona has a long history as the flashpoint for the most extreme anti-immigrant activists and groups in the country.
Some Arizona civic leaders have also pioneered harsh anti-immigrant legislation, which created templates for other states. In 2012, an ADL report identified former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio as one of the key players in the anti-immigrant movement, alongside a number of figures who played a role in making Arizona the center of the anti-immigrant movement in the United States.
Other groups also involved in conducting patrols along the border with Mexico are the U.S. Border Guard, III Percenters and the National Socialist Movement (the largest white supremacist, neo-Nazi organization in the country).
Arizona is also a state with growing anti-Semitic incidents. According to ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, there were 26 anti-Semitic incidents in Arizona in 2017; that was significantly higher than the 10 incidents reported in all of 2016, and the four incidents reported in all of 2015.
Recent hate crimes and incidents have been in the news: Two Arizona women were arrested for vandalizing a mosque in Tempe in March; two gay men were assaulted in Phoenix in April; a harassing note with hate symbols was left at the northeast Phoenix home of a Jewish family in January; and most recently, an electronic road sign hacked with “Hail Hitler” was found along Hunt Highway in Pinal County.
Locally, we’re offering students, teachers, administrators and family members the opportunity to work together by way of ADL’s No Place for Hate Initiative. The initiative enhances a culture of respect in the school community, and encourages schools to complete various activities and projects to promote unity and reduce bullying, name-calling and other expressions of bias. We reach 50,000 students in 43 schools across Arizona. Last week, we designated 36 schools as No Place for Hate schools.
We work with law enforcement in responding to hate incidents to advocate on behalf of victims. We’re also partnering with local law enforcement to reduce the influence of bias in interactions and decision-making, contributing to improved police-community relations, building mutual respect and trust, and increasing officer safety.
While ADL persistently fights against extremism, the truth is all of us play a role in fighting it. At a time when extremists and white supremacists feel emboldened, we urge everyone to join us in this fight. We urge our public officials to speak-out against all acts of hate. We strongly encourage reporting of all anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism to ADL and to local law enforcement.
We can uproot the weeds of extremism and hate before they grow stronger by joining forces. JN
Carlos Galindo-Elvira is the Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.