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Extremist groups the focus of latest Jan. 6 select committee hearing | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

MINNEAPOLIS – Extremist groups and their involvement in the January 6 capitol riot were front and center in Tuesday’s public hearing by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the attack.

Lawmakers detailed how extremists felt a call to action by former President Donald Trump and mobilized following a tweet he sent in mid-December alluding to a protest in Washington on January 6.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said the right-wing militia groups the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers responded “immediately” to Trump’s calls and that the president’s words set off an “explosive” chain reaction that prompted these groups to act quickly.

“[The tweet] electrified and galvanized his supporters and, especially the dangerous extremists in the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and other racist and white nationalist groups spoiling for a fight against the government,” he said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked nine hate groups in Minnesota in 2021, including the Proud Boys.

Lisa Waldner, a professor at the University of St. Thomas who studies extremism, said Minnesota hasn’t seen a lot of activity specific to the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers, but that Minnesota is no stranger to extremist activity.

“Minneapolis used to be the headquarters for the National Socialist Movement. We used to have a racist record label based in Minneapolis,” she said. “So extremism, whether it’s race-based or other ideologies, really the bedrock tends to be this anti-government, anti-institutional sort of look.”

Waldner pointed to the internet and social media as allowing extremist ideology to flourish. Raskin, too, on the committee echoed those comments.

“The creation of the internet and social media has given today’s tyrants tools of propaganda and disinformation that yesterday’s despots could have only dreamed of,” Raskin said.

Notable examples of extremism in Minnesota in the past two years include four men connected to the far-right, anti-government group the Boogaloo Bois.

Three cases were connected to the 2020 civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder. Michael Soloman and Benjamin Teeter were sentenced to prison on terrorism charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota. The two showed up armed to Floyd protests, according to court documents.   

Ivan Hunter was sentenced to prison for rioting during that period of civil unrest. Prosecutors said he shot into the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct building.

Separately, Michael Paul Dahlager, who also described himself as a member of the Boogaloo Bois, is serving 24 months in prison for illegal possession of a machine gun. According to court documents, Dahlager contemplated an attack on the Minnesota state capitol last January and conducted surveillance of the building for that effort.

Nine people in Minnesota were arrested and charged for their involvement in the U.S. Capitol attack.

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