White supremacists behind vast majority of 2022’s extremism-related murders, report finds

A vast majority of extremism-linked mass murders in 2022 were committed by white supremacists, according to a report published by the Anti-Defamation League.

The advocacy group’s Center on Extremism characterised 25 “extremism-related” murders last year, with 18 of those killings “committed in whole or part for ideological motives,” according to the report.

Two massacres – the murders of 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a mass shooting inside a LGBT+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado – accounted for most of the extremism-related murders last year, the report found.

Payton Gendron, an admitted white supremacist who espoused the so-called Great Replacement theory, pleaded guilty last year to hate-motivated domestic terrorism and 10 counts of first-degree murder, among other charges, after the Buffalo attack.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, who is accused of running a neo-Nazi website and using racist and anti-gay slurs, will face a jury trial on more than 300 charges in connection with the attack at Club Q in Colorado. The suspect has pleaded not guilty.

White supremacists are behind the highest number of extremism-related murders in most years; last year, 21 of the 25 murders were linked to white supremacists. But “all the extremist-related murders in 2022 were committed by right-wing extremists of various kinds,” the report found.

The number of mass killings linked to extremism in the US within the past decade was at least three times higher than the totals from any other 10-year period since the 1970s, according to the report.

The report notes that there were fewer extremist-related murders overall in 2022, continuing a downward trend of extremist-related killings after a five-year span of 47-78 extremist-related murders per year between 2015-2019. Last year’s total would have been much lower if not for the two high-profile massacres in New York and Colorado.

The report also notes that 93 per cent of the killings in 2022 were committed with firearms, “a consistent fact of extremist violence” and a “consequence of the country’s failure to take meaningful action to deal with gun violence,” according to the Center on Extremism.

Over the last few years, federal law enforcement agencies have repeatedly renewed domestic terror bulletins noting a “heightened threat environment” in the US, fueled by extremist ideologies and largely “motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances” that pose threats to vulnerable communities, including LGBT+ people and people of colour.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI have repeatedlytestified to members of Congress and issued law enforcement-wide advisories to warn against a rise in white supremacist violence, as well as online communities that have laundered disinformation and conspiracy theories tied to violence from obscure corners of the internet into mainstream channels across social media.

The agencies have identified domestic violent extremists, particularly white supremacists, as the “most persistent and lethal terrorist threat” facing the US.

President Joe Biden also has repeatedly condemned the “poison” of white supremacism and extremist violence. Last year, his administration established an inter-agency group focused on combating antisemitism, Islamophobia and “related forms of bias and discrimination,” according to the White House.

The group will coordinate efforts to “raise understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, address antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline, seek to prevent antisemitic attacks and incidents, and encourage whole-of-society efforts to counter antisemitism and build a more inclusive nation,” according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.