A new study reveals alarming support for political violence in America

The rise of political violence in America may have reached an inflection point according to researchers at the University of California — Davis. A new study reveals more than a quarter of Americans express widespread support for violence to advance a political objective. An anti-governmental movement is also on the rise according to data from the Southern Policy Law Center.

This includes threats against all levels of state, federal and local government — on election workers, school board members and violence directed at congressional leaders. Researchers say all the data points to the possibility of 2024 being a significant year for political violence.

Hate crime statistics have hit record levels, and conspiracy theories dominate many conversations in America — reasons why researchers are raising concerns about political violence in 2024.

“We see that the public’s willingness to accept political violence to accept even the idea of something as extreme as the assassination of a political leader, being something that they see as possible and even acceptable, if it was necessary, has grown,” Rachel Rivas from the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

Rivas is the Interim Director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which for 50 years has tracked the hate and antigovernment extremist movements across the United States. News4JAX reached out to Rivas after reviewing new data released by Dr. Garen Wintemute of the University of California — Davis.

After surveying more than 8,600 Americans, 33% said violence would usually or always be justified to advance some political objective. Rivas says researches at the Southern Poverty Law Center are hearing the chatter firsthand.

“And we know this is because we’re in those chat rooms, we’re watching the speeches, we’re listening to the videos and we are in the spaces where they are talking rallies,” Rivas said. “These revival tours around the country where they are saying that there’s something to be afraid of. Often the message is that they want folks to be afraid of their neighbors, afraid of each other, of their leaders, afraid of where the country is headed. So afraid in fact, they feel called to arms literally in arming themselves.”

Rivas says during the second half of 2023, some two and a half years after the January 6th, 2021 Capitol riot — Southern Poverty Law Center researchers noticed the reformation and building towards another event in 2024.

Data from other agencies back her claim:

A report from US Capitol Police shows 8,008 threats against members of Congress in 2023, an increase of 7% from the year before.The Brennan Center for Justice surveyed local and state elected officials and reported 60% of those surveyed were very or somewhat worries about the safety of their colleagues and staff, including election workers.

Rivas says Florida is a hotspot for this kind of activity because it’s a political swing state, and those states see the most activity from hate and antigovernment extremist groups.

“No one wants it to happen in their city, hopefully it doesn’t happen here.” News4JAX Crime and Safety Analyst, Tom Hackney, spent 29-years with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, including a role overseeing Homeland Security. He says the treat of increased violence doesn’t surprise him, pointing out that the violence can come from both sides of the political aisle.

“The tips that law enforcement get both federally and locally help to keep a pulse on what is happening both on the state level and federally, so many times you get an anonymous tip from inside the group,” Hackney said.

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