“The purpose of this particular webinar is to educate and engage our general public our elected officials and our law enforcement officers, media etc. on this homegrown hate and domestic terrorism and then develop an action plan on what really needs to be done,” Masood Akhtar, the founder of the “We Are Many United Against Hate” movement, tells Madison365. “There are still a lot of people who don’t know, generally speaking, that this is a significant problem in our country.”
National experts and local perspectives will be featured as We Are Many United Against Hate hosts a nationwide virtual discussion via Zoom titled “Homegrown Hate and Domestic Terrorism” today starting at 3 p.m.
We Are Many United Against Hate is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of common people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular, seeking equal protection for all, united against hate, bigotry and racism. Akhtar says this is an educational opportunity to engage the general public.
“We’ve reached out to two national subject matter experts to be our speakers – one that specializes in hate crimes and one who specializes in domestic terror,” he says.
One of those experts is Brian Levin, a criminologist, civil rights attorney and a professor of criminal justice. He is founding director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. He is the 2020 recipient of the annual Wang Family Excellence Award for outstanding scholarship in the entire CSU system – the largest in the nation.
The other expert is Daryl Johnson, one of the foremost experts on domestic extremist groups in the United States. Beginning his career as a civilian in the U.S. Army, Johnson has held a number of government positions, most recently as a senior analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. He is currently the founder of DT Analytics, a private consulting firm for law enforcement.
Two of the other panelists, who are from Wisconsin, will be Toshiana Northington, who was a recent hate crime victim at Woodman’s Grocery Store in Madison and Derek Barsaleau, a former white nationalist.
“Based on our own experience, when we bring life stories as a part of these educational programs, those life stories resonate with a lot of people,” Akhtar says. “We felt that it was very important as we hear from an expert talking about hate crimes that we hear the story from a victim of hate crimes. Likewise, when the other person is talking about domestic terrorism, we want to bring a real-life story of a former white nationalist.”
Akhtar notes that U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced the creation of a task force on left-wing extremists within weeks of civil unrest in American cities yet the Department of Justice he leads is still is reluctant to aggressively pursue the threat of right-wing extremists.
“The question we are asking is: ‘Why are we only prosecuting one group?’ I think the intent of this event is that we really want to bring these critical issues to public attention from these experts with real-life stories and an engaged public,” Akhtar says. “That, to me, is very, very critical.”
Akhtar says that is critically important, now more than ever, for our White youth to speak up about hate crimes and extremist groups. “Particularly those who live in our rural communities. We really need them to speak up and join the people of color to speak up with one voice to really combat our homegrown terrorism before it is too late,” he says.
“Homegrown Hate and Domestic Terrorism” is free and open to the public. The moderator will be NBC-15’s John Stofflet. Akhtar will give the opening marks at the event.
The program is sponsored by various individuals, statewide organizations, media, and businesses including Madison Magazine; WISC -TV3; Scholz Nonprofit Law LLC; Jessica and Jim Doyle; McFarland School District; Madison Area Technical College; Office of Dane County District Attorney; Amber Indian Cuisine; NBC 15; WKOW; Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Paul and Margaret Summerside; Summerleigh Associates; The Tamara D. Grigsby Office for Equity and Inclusion; Freedom from Religion Foundation; Daar Engineering; Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice Sustainability; Muslim Youth Association and Forward Community Investments.
“We have a tremendous list of sponsors because we are very action-oriented,” Akhtar says. “We are pleased to have so much community support.”
Those wishing to participate in this online Zoom conference are asked to register here.
“There will be an opportunity for people to ask questions. We want to make this very interactive,” Akhtar says. “This is a chance for people to learn and talk about the biggest threat that is out there – homegrown terrorism – so that we can all work together to fix it.