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Civil Rights Group Says Domestic Terrorism Is Rising

Flickr Creative Commons
The Florida Channel
Domestic terrorists are being radicalized over social media.

A civil rights group is highlighting the role of social media in the lives of people who commit acts of violence- like the shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee over the weekend. The gunman posted misogynistic videos, aligning himself with an online hate group that targets women.

Sixty-one-year old Dr. Nancy Van-Vessem and 21-year-old Maura Binkley died in last Friday’s shooting. Years before he walked into the yoga studio and opened fire, Scott Beierle posted several videos espousing misogynistic views on his YouTube channel.

Southern Poverty Law’s CEO Heidi Beirich said online hate is often a precursor to actual acts of violence:

“And what happens is they end up in like-minded communities," she said. "Where they’re basically radicalized. Extremist views are shared among people. People are taught to hate particular minorities or women.”

Leon County Court records show Beierle was arrested four times between 2012 and 2016, on three occasions for battery against women, and once for trespass. As a middle school substitute teacher at Volusia County schools from 2017 to 2018, he was fired twice because of unprofessional conduct. The Volusia County School District says he had passed federal and state criminal background checks.

Beirich said Beierle is part of a rising trend of violent acts committed by far-right extremists. Beirich said the shooter shared many of the same racist, ant-immigrant, anti-women views as the shooter at the Pittsburgh synagogue.

“We’re definitely seeing a rise in the number of domestic terrorist incidents whether they’re successful or not who have far-right extremist ideas,” she said.

The Anti-Defamation League found that far-right extremists accounted for 71 percent of domestic terrorism incidents in 2017.

That’s almost three times as much as Islamic extremists.