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Bill Introduced In Virginia General Assembly To Define Domestic Terrorism
Richmond, VA—January 26, 2018—A bill that would define domestic terrorism has been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly by Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price. House Bill (HB) 1601 provides a definition for an “act of domestic terrorism” and a “domestic terrorism organization”, creates a news series of felonies and misdemeanors for domestic terrorism activity, and directs the Superintendent of the Department of State Police to identify groups that meet the definition of a domestic terrorism organization and list them annually in the Virginia Register of Regulations. This bill was introduced on January 19, 2018, and has been referred to the House Committee for Courts of Justice.
Drafted in collaboration with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and modeled after state laws related to street gangs, the bill defines domestic terrorism as a violent or criminal act that aims to intimidate or instill fear in someone because of their race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, or to stop someone from pursuing their constitutional rights. A domestic terrorism organization would be one with three or more people that has an “identifiable name or identifying sign or symbol”, whose primary goal is to carry out an act of domestic terrorism or have members who have attempted to commit two or more acts of domestic terrorism on their own or with others.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide were surveyed in 2015, asking them to rank the three biggest threats in their jurisdiction from violent extremism. Of the 382 law enforcement agencies surveyed, only 5 percent of the jurisdictions reported that Al Qaeda-inspired terrorism was a greater threat than “other” forms of terrorism, whereas 45 percent of the jurisdictions surveyed assigned “other” forms of terrorism as posing the greater threat [source: https://sites.duke.edu/tcths/files/2013/06/Kurzman_Schanzer_Law_Enforcement_Assessment_of_the_Violent_Extremist_Threat_final.pdf]. This perception is backed up by the data: since September 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, anti-government fanatics, and other extremists than by Islamist extremists [source: https://www.revealnews.org/article/home-is-where-the-hate-is/].
Given the increase in domestic terrorism and hateful rhetoric, HB 1601 is innovative and timely. It would establish a framework to prosecute individuals and organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, involved in domestic terrorism. “The majority of Virginians despise these groups, but feel powerless to do anything about them because the groups have been allowed to hide behind the label of ‘hate groups’, instead of calling them out as what they are: terrorist organizations,” explains Kofi Annan, President of the Fairfax County NAACP. “This is nothing short of another manifestation of white privilege in our justice system and it’s time we put an end to it. This could be a watershed moment for Virginia and precedent-setting for the rest of the country.” HB 1601 has the support of the Fairfax County NAACP, Virginia State Conference NAACP, and national NAACP.
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. Founded on February 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. The Fairfax County Branch of the NAACP began meeting in 1918 and was chartered in 1944. To learn more about the Branch, including dates for upcoming meetings and events, please visit https://www.fairfaxnaacp.org.