The director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, Brian Levin, believes that the far left has been overlooked in terms of extremism.
According to VICE, Levin, who is a former NYC police officer, was documenting a Ku Klux Klan rally in 2016 at Anaheim, California.
A counter-protest at the rally became violent and Levin found himself in between the counter protestors and a Klansman.
The event made Levin wonder if groups other than the extreme right had been overlooked. “At that point, I said we have something coalescing on the hard left,” he told VICE.
The question of leftist extremism was raised again on Wednesday when a Bernie Sanders supporter shot at Republican lawmakers at a charity baseball game practice. The shooter had a record of anti-Trump rants on social media.
Although the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, had no ties with any extremist group or movement, experts in homegrown extremism say that over the past few months there has been a rise in politically motivated violence from the left. This has led experts to shift their focus from one particular side of political extremism and start to focus on another.
VICE goes on to quote Oren Segal, the director of the Center on Extremism, an arm of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who said, “we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the left.”
“When we have anti-fascist counter-protests — not that they are the same as white supremacists — that can ratchet up the violence at these events, and it means we can see people who are violent on their own be attracted to that,” said Segal. “I hate to say it, but it feels inevitable.”
One expert of American extremist movements at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, Chris Hamilton, reportedly told VICE that ideological lines are becoming blurred as anti-authoritarian sentiments become more common.
“If you think about it, leftists never joined the National Rifle Association — unless they were radicals, they never thought about stockpiling weapons,” said Hamilton. “Ok. Well, maybe we’re entering a period where leftists will start thinking about things in that way like the eco-radicals did in the ’70s.”
Hamilton is worried that what he has seen in terms of ideological solutions for years on the far right, is now amalgamating on the left.
“These days, that kind of sentiment is popping up in the middle and on the left; it’s not just in the sovereign citizen movement,” he said while discussing the messages left-wing talk radio and far left websites exhibit. “I’m really worried about rising civil strife in the U.S.”
Levin also sees the left embracing such tactics as an issue, which will only result in political tension increasing. “I’ve been going up and down the state of California meeting with law enforcement officials about this. I’m very concerned about it,” he said. “What we’re seeing is the democratization of extremism and the tactics of radicalism. I’ve been warning about this, and nobody gave a shit.”