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Chip Berlet

Chip Berlet

Posted: June 2, 2009 01:19 PM

Anti-Abortion Violence and the Right-Wing Patriot Movement


Scott Roeder, suspected in the slaying of Dr. George Tiller, and John C. Salvi III, who in 1994 killed two health workers and injured several others in a Boston anti-abortion rampage, share a connection to the right-wing Patriot movement -- a collection of groups and individuals with one foot in the anti-tax movement and another in organized White Supremacy.

This overlapping set of alliances goes back over ten years to the height of the armed citizens militia movement which emerged from the broader Patriot movement, a longstanding part of right-wing reality in the United States. Salvi, for example, trained with a militia group in Florida, and came to believe obscure economic and religious theories popular in the Patriot Movement.

At the height of Militia Movement activity in the 1990s, a number of anti-abortion militants, and conspiracy-minded activists in the Patriot and militia movements began to intersect with elements from organized White supremacist groups, says Fred Clarkson, an investigative reporter who has tracked such groups for over 20 years. In an article for Intelligence Report in 1998, Clarkson wrote:

Many in these previously separate movements agree that everything smacking of "one-worldism" -- the Olympics, the United Nations and any other global agency -- is part of a massive plot to subject Americans to tyranny. Activists in all three movements describe homosexuals as "sodomites," people who deserve capital punishment....many of those involved in these groups are bitterly attacking abortion.

The election of Barack Obama traumatized whole sections of the U.S. Right. Right-wing media demagogues have been quick to exploit this angry constituency by using rhetoric that demonizes not just Obama and the Democrats but liberal ideology itself. By using the tools of fear, irresponsible public figures are cultivating an aggressive constituency comprised of people who feel that militant action is justified, because in their view the Obama administration has shut them out of the political process.

The anti-abortion movement harbors within it a subculture of militant activists who believe the slogan, "If abortion is murder, then act like it" says Pam Chamberlain, senior researcher at PRA, "For some this means attending demonstrations or engaging in acts of civil disobedience; for others it means committing murder." Many of these activists are motivated by their religious beliefs, but there are other factors involved as well.

According to Clarkson, the "militant anti-abortion movement is driven by three different but overlapping theologies that motivate violence: Christian Reconstructionism, Christian Identity and apocalyptic Catholicism." Salvi was motivated by apocalyptic Catholicism. It is likely that Roeder was influenced by either Christian Reconstructionism, Christian Identity or some syncretic hybrid of these theological views that have spread throughout the right-wing militant milieu.


More information on the Patriot Movement, Anti-Abortion Violence, Roeder, and Salvi