On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols parked a rented truck filled with explosives outside of the Alfred P. Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City. The explosion was so powerful it destroyed the entire structure, which included a Day Care Center that housed children of the employees. Three hundred other buildings in a 16-block radius were also damaged; 168 people were killed, 16 of whom were children.
Until 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst act of terrorism against mainstream Americans in our history.
Within a few days, McVeigh and Nichols were identified, arrested, and proudly admitted their terrorism. They were army veterans and had declared fiercely anti-government views. Their stated rationalization for the Oklahoma murders was the supposed DEA “massacre” of 80 Branch Davidians (an eccentric Christian religious group) in Waco, Texas, two years previously.
Five years after the Oklahoma City bombing, a small memorial was created on the grounds with an empty chair for each murdered citizen. Twenty years later, April 19, 2015, a larger memorial, museum and reflecting pool were dedicated to the country in remembrance of that terrorism. President Bill Clinton officiated, as he had done immediately after the original bombing.
There had been numerous acts of domestic terrorism before “Oklahoma City,” but the victims were hidden because they were largely non-white and non-Christian. Numerous lynchings, synagogue and church burnings, beatings, and rapes were common but were kept secret within communities.
After Oklahoma City was bombed and the bombers’ likely ties to the local militia were revealed, it became clear that there was a vast network of KKK, neo Nazis, white supremacists, militias, survivalists, racist skinheads, black separatists, other such groups that have been widespread and well organized. Federal and local law enforcement agencies were forced to acknowledge their presence and to investigate them.
The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) is the best resource for identifying “Hate Groups” and they share their data with law enforcement. SPLC has is watching 784 hate groups at present. They cite an uptick since the 2008 election of President Obama
In the last 20 years we have witnessed new forms of domestic terrorism:
So, yes, 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombers are frightening and are horrific examples of “foreign” terrorism. But we must call out and prosecute all incarnations of “homegrown” terrorism as well.
Foreign or domestic, the victims are just as dead and just as mutilated, and they strike the same fear in each of us, which is the universal goal of all terrorists.
Karen J. Pataky, Vice President
Committee for Public Policy and Political Action
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