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At White House Summit, UMD Terrorism Expert Urges Greater Focus on Hate-driven Violence

By Maryland Today Staff

Ending hate-driven violence in the U.S. will require policymakers to direct their focus beyond a relatively few number of domestic terrorist attacks to the hate crimes that outnumber them 100-to-1, a University of Maryland terrorism researcher said at a White House summit today.

William Braniff, director of the UMD’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and a professor of the practice in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, was one of the speakers at the United We Stand summit convened by President Joe Biden to focus on the corrosive effect of hate-fueled violence on American democracy.

“As domestic violence extremists use hate-fueled violence to drive wedge issues deeper and deeper into our social fabric, and hateful narratives and conspiracy theories get absorbed into our partisanship and our culture wars, hostile foreign governments throw gasoline on the fire, stoking us with righteous anger toward one another, manipulating and dividing us through hate, and weakening our democratic institutions,” Braniff said. “In addition to being a moral issue and a public safety issue, hate-fueled violence is a national security issue.”

But Braniff warned that the problem extends far beyond high-profile attacks.

“If policymakers focus only on the 70 or so terrorist attacks that occur in a given year, and not the 7,000-plus hate crimes, they will make national security and public safety decisions based on less than 1% of the ideologically motivated crime that occurs in this country,” he told the audience at the White House. “This fails the victims of hate crime in our communities, it minimizes the national security implications of hate.”

The summit, which was livestreamed, focused on steps the nation can take to prevent, confront and recover from hate-motivated violence. It featured political and religious leaders; civil rights, community and nonviolence activists; and survivors including Dawn and Richard Collins Sr., parents of 1st Lt. Richard Collins III, a Black senior at Bowie State University who was killed on the UMD campus in 2017 by a white man.

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