Testimony in Support of HB 1333
Randall Blazak, Ph.D.
January 24, 2023
Thank you for the opportunity to address this body regarding the great value in the formation of this commission on domestic terrorism.
My name is Dr. Randall Blazak. I am a sociology professor and I serve as the chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes and the vice chair of the Oregon Department of Justice Steering Committee on Bias Crimes and Incidents. I grew up in a Georgia Klan town and earned my PhD from Emory University in Atlanta after completing a study of right-wing extremism that included several years spent undercover in the white supremacist movement. I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1995 because this area, not the deep south, was the growing hotbed of domestic violent extremism.
The Pacific Northwest has a long history of cultivating fringe political movements, especially those in the racist right. The 1980s, saw a wave of terror from a neo-Nazi group called The Order, that fueled their call for a race war in America with a campaign of armed robbery and murder, which ended with a FBI shootout on Whidbey Island in 1984 that made the group’s leader, Robert Matthews, a martyr for many domestic terrorists to come.
More recently, we’ve seen patriot militia groups repopulate the region. Inspired by Timothy McVeigh’s deadly attack on Oklahoma City in 1995, they have rebranded their call for a race war as the Boogaloo. Militia groups like the Oath Keepers and the 3 Percenters were heavily present at the January 6th Capitol insurrection in 2021. Just yesterday three Oath Keepers and one compatriot were convicted of seditious conspiracy because of their role in the January 6th attack.
Beginning in the early 1980s, these groups began formulating a vision they labeled the Northwest Imperative. Since the white supremacist dream of making America “white again,” seemed increasingly unlikely in the face of demographic trends, racists felt they still had a shot at carving out a racial homeland in the Pacific Northwest. They began encouraging fellow racist patriots to move to Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, with the fantasy of driving out racial and religious minorities, LGBTQ people, liberals, and anyone they deemed to be a “race traitor.” This plan included sending members into the military, police, and local government to facilitate the revolution from within.
In 2004 I was interviewing the leader of Volksfront, one of the largest neo-Nazi skinhead groups in the world and I asked him how this racist fantasy was, in anyway, possible in the United States of America. He answered with one word and it still chills me to this day; Yugoslavia. In 2002 Yugoslavia ceased to exist as a nation. Because of racist hatred and fascist political movements, it had been balkanized into several more ethnically homogenous countries. That is the racist right’s dream of the Pacific Northwest in the near future.
The anti-government underground that waged a low grade terror campaign in the 1990s has exploded in the last six years. All the sociological factors have lined up in their favor. Massive demographic shifts that have undermined the long held authority of straight white men, the de-industrialization of the American work force that has replaced the job at the auto factory with a gig driving for Uber and evaporated the American dream, a technological explosion that has injected the most toxic conspiracy theories into everyone’s news feeds, and last, but hardly least, charismatic political leaders that fuel the anger for their own personal gain. This is not your father’s terrorist movement. There is now a massive inflow of everyday Americans who are being sucked into the rabbit hole of extremism and the calls for political violence from formerly mainstream Americans are getting louder by the day. They will use accelerationist tactics, like attacks on infrastructure, including the power grid, to create the chaos they hope to capitalize on.
The good news is we know not only how to break up domestic terrorist plots, but how to prevent people from falling into that rabbit hole in the first place. In the nearly 35 years I have been doing this work, I’ve found that the most effective agents in preventing right-wing extremist violence are former right-wing extremists themselves. Groups like Parallel Networks and Life After Hate have worked tirelessly to prevent Oklahoma City inspired attacks. The collection of real-time data by academics and civil rights groups, like the ADL, helps us to monitor trends and target hotspots for intervention. And federally funded projects like mine, Cure-PDX, develop tools for community members to become credible messengers to extremists and serve to de-escalate political violence, utilizing a public health approach.
The formation of this state commission on domestic terrorism could serve to pull all these resources together. To the growing chorus of anti-government extremists, the Boogaloo is not just a racist fantasy to re-create Washington, the Pacific Northwest, and the nation. It is a well armed movement, with members in law enforcement and the military, with a very strategic plan to ethnically cleanse this land. This commission is vital to not only preserve the inclusive culture of Washington, but to keep its population safe from traumatizing terror.