Experts have warned that white racist activities in the Pennsylvania city of Pittsburgh are among the highest in the country, but authorities are still limited in the way they investigate them.
John Pulcastro, a supervisory analyst at the FBI in Pittsburgh, described in a zoom presentation by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute in “When Hate Hits Home” how Pittsburgh has become a “hub” for right-wing extremist and neo-Nazi groups.
“It is important to understand that it is here,” Pulcastro said about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Pulcastro warned that groups such as Patriot Front-described as an “image-obsessed organization” that rehabilitated the “explicitly fascist agenda” of the American vanguard with extremist patriotism through the Southern Poverty Law Center-are among those who hold events and recruit in the city.
The group recently participated in a rally on Pittsburgh’s Boulevard of the Allies protesting against the entry of refugees into the country, the Post-Gazette reported.
“They believe they will be attacked,” Pulcastro said. “They are training for an invasion.”
Pulcastro added that the group is one of several extreme right-wing organizations preparing for a possible civil war in the country.
Pulcastro said that other groups such as the Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan and the National Alliance are also trying to recruit in the area.
Before the election, police in Greene County, Pennsylvania, launched an investigation after leaflets associated with a group of the Ku Klux Klan calling on people to vote “pro-white” were distributed to residents.
The leaflet urged people to “contact the experts”, the Loyal White Knights – a group affiliated with the KKK that describes the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as one of the “largest and most active clan groups” in the United States.
Pulcastro said the FBI is currently limited in its investigative capabilities because much of what white nationalists say online can be protected under the First Amendment.
He said the agency’s goal remains to stop the violence and not to respond to it after it has happened, and to do that it needs the support of the public to report any potential problems or threats they see.
“This is a ‘we’ problem,” he said, adding that the office “cannot proactively scan social media for hate activity.
Even if the public brings a potential case, there must be a threat of violence, evidence of ideology and federal crimes among which a possible indictment can be made before the FBI can investigate.
Even then, Pulcastro said, it is not a matter of investigating and prosecuting “our way out” of the issue of the increasing threat of white racists in the country.
“Dialogue is the best way to stop violence,” he said.
The city of Pittsburgh was asked to comment.
Pittsburgh is the scene of the worst right-wing extremist attacks in the country after 11 people were killed in a mass shooting in the “Tree of Life” synagogue on October 27, 2018. It remains the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.