Remember the three Trump supporters who were convicted in 2018 of plotting a terrorist attack to kill Muslims in their home state of Kansas? You’re up on most of America if you do.
Same for the latest foursome of Trump-lovers looking for a MAGA baptism of blood in New York, this time with a plan—not the first—to attack the Muslim community in Islamberg.
You see, when Muslims are the suspect in a foiled terrorist plot, that case receives eight times more press coverage than when a non-Muslim is the suspect, as documented by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding after reviewing print media coverage. But when Muslims are the target of terrorism by right wing extremists, it’s met with a collective yawn by most of the media.
In this case, the police department in Greece, New York did an outstanding job, moving quickly from the first tip to search warrants to arresting Brian Colaneri, 20, Vincent Vetromile, 19, and Andrew Crysel, 18 along with a 16-year-old whose name was withheld.
Wednesday, the Daily Beast reported that at least one of the four, Vetromile, was a Trump-loving anti-Muslim bigot and confederate statue lover who talked openly about murdering Muslims, including children on social media:
“Kids have been shown to be terrorists too and have killed our people. The Koran tells them to kill us so they’re all GUILTY.”
For over a month, these four had been planning their attack on Islamberg, a community of primarily African-American Muslims about 120 miles northwest of New York City. Police found that the suspects had constructed three improvised explosive devices comprised of Mason jars packed with nails and BBs. They also had access to 23 firearms, all legally purchased.
Police Chief Patrick Phelan made no bones about the men’s intent: “If they had carried out this plot, which every indication is that they were going to, people would have died,” he said. “I don't know how many and who, but people would have died.”
Heartbreakingly for the nearly 200 families living in Islamberg, being the target of hate and even terror plots is not something new. This is a community founded in 1980 by Muslims who left New York City to live quiet lives upstate. As Islamberg spokesperson Muhammad Matthew Gardner explained, the community is comprised “of veterans, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. We are true American patriots.”
They would be living the quiet lives they had dreamed of if not for right-wing fearmongering, especially by Fox News. Dating back to at least 2007, Fox News has run story after story spreading lies about this community as some type of terrorist training camp. One segment featured a representative from the Clarion Project, an organization dubbed an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and which boasts as an adviser Walid Phares, one of Donald Trump’s advisers on the Middle East during the 2016 campaign, to spread these lies, which have been debunked time and time again.
As New York State Police Major James Barnes explained in 2017 to the Associated Press, his state troopers have a good relationship with the Islamberg community, even being invited to speak to the youths about law enforcement careers. Barnes explained, “These folks that live here are American citizens. They’ve lived here for over 30 years. They have ties within, outside of this community. And there’s not a problem here.”
But that hasn’t stopped Fox News from whipping up wild fears and hatreds, and, as Arsalan Bukhari, strategic communication analyst at the national offices of Council on American Islamic Relations, told me, “Hate speech leads to hate crimes.” In 2017, CAIR documented the highest number of hate crime against Muslims ever, far exceeding those seen just after 9/11.
For the last three years, the right-wing “American Bikers United Against Jihad” regularly drive up to taunt and harass the community. It’s hard to say if they hate the people of Islamberg more for being Muslim or for being black.
Before that nastiness, there was a second foiled terror plot in which Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old extreme right-wing Christian minister and former congressional candidate, planned to kill the men, women and children of Islamberg, using explosives, firearms and even a machete he said would cut the Muslims “to shreds.” Doggart was convicted of crimes in connection with this plot and sentenced in 2017 to 20 years in prison.
Gardner explained about the new terrorist plan, "The surprise and utter dismay which we feel after hearing of another plot to kill us has sent shockwaves throughout the children and adults in our community.”
He added, “We as a community haven't yet healed from what we endured after learning that Robert Doggart and his co-conspirators were planning a similar massacre in 2015. We can’t help thinking: Are we really going to go through this again?"