WIU LEJA Professor, Student Pen Security Magazine Article: “Parliaments Under Attack Worldwide — Extremism, Riots, Vaccine Mandates”
February 23, 2022
MACOMB, IL — Last year, Western Illinois University’s Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (LEJA) Professor Dean Alexander, who also directs the Homeland Security Research Program of the WIU, has published extensively on topics including extremism in the United States, January 6, 2021. United States Capitol siege, fringe anti-vaxxers, and violence associated with anti-masking efforts. Now, Alexander and LEJA student Caden Buettner, a senior from LaSalle (IL), have joined forces again to merge these and other topics into a global context and project their ramifications around the world.
The couple, who co-authored another article for Security magazine, recently researched issues relating to parliaments around the world under attack from fringe groups. Their work was published February 9 (LINK ABOVE) in Security magazine. This is the 11th piece published by Alexander and one of his current and/or former LEJA students, giving students a great opportunity to showcase their knowledge gained in the classroom, Alexander added.
“In our most recent research, we found that individuals and groups ascribing different (and sometimes overlapping) extremist and fringe precepts were threatening or attacking parliaments around the world. The main impetus for this violence was due to health government-initiated COVID-19 and security measures or lack thereof,” Alexander explained. “Violent subversives have been found among pandemic advocates, activists, conspirators, members of hate groups and other belligerents have jeopardized legislatures around the world. This reality shows that these incidents were not random or stealthy acts, but rather deliberate, brazen, planned, symbolic and noteworthy acts. Specifically, legislatures should adopt an enhanced security posture. After all, legislatures are bound to be targeted again here and abroad.
According to Buettner, for more than 200 years parliaments around the world have been the victims of arson, gunfire, bombings and other assaults by foreign armies, domestic terrorists and mobs.
“Perpetrators targeting this branch of government have gone this route: they meet, define themselves, and share their animosity against the legislature and its policies. Then they agree to take action, sometimes through nonviolent protests, and other times through pre-planned violent attacks,” Buettner added.
The pair wrote that in 2020-21, in the United States alone, thousands of protesters opposed to pandemic response measures, the gun control rule and opposition to the presidential election, to name a few, descended on some state capitals. While some may have been there to demonstrate peacefully, some of the dissidents were armed, made threats, sought to intimidate lawmakers and entered legislatures. As recently as February 2022, hundreds of anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters rallied outside the Oregon Legislature in Salem.
“These and other aggressive protests in state legislatures nationwide were precursors and offshoots of the (obviously) seismic revolt of January 6,” Alexander explained. “The riot at the United States Capitol on January 6 began with some 10,000 protesters on the Capitol grounds. The descent into chaos that day culminated with 2,000 agitators breaching the Capitol complex and aimed to overthrow democracy. The transcendent effects of this crisis include a loss of faith in our democratic institutions and processes, as well as further fracturing an already highly partisan, tribal and divisive society. Over $1.5 million in damages have been reported and 725 people were charged with federal crimes in that single incident.
Parliaments under attack globally
A review of several dozen pandemic-related violent protests in parliaments around the world in 2020-2021 has led to recognition of their scope and relevance. Disruptions have taken place from Australia and New Zealand to Indonesia, Thailand, England, Germany and Slovenia, and from Morocco and Tunisia to Canada, Guatemala, Paraguay and in Curaçao, among others. The incidents ranged from gatherings of tens of people to tens of thousands, in which vandalism, arson and other acts and instruments of violence were used to attempt to break into the parliamentary precinct. The large number of demonstrators and the blocking of roads leading to these institutions have hindered access to these sites. At times, security forces have been caught off guard — intelligence lapses, understaffed or otherwise — as protesters burst through gates, scale fences and barriers and storm legislatures.
“Participants in the combative protests included those opposing masks and COVID-19 vaccination mandates, lockdowns and health/COVID-19 passes; a mix of extremists, ultra -hate-based nationalists; and those with anti-government interests, and those aligned with distinct political parties,” noted Alexander and Buettner in the security article. “Individuals embracing marginal ideologies (e.g. , QAnon, and Sovereign Citizens), conspiracies related to COVID-19 (e.g., anti-Semites, 5G cell towers, and vaccine effectiveness), and articulating other grievances were present during particular outbursts. These crowds were often fueled by misinformation , harnessed and accelerated by technology and social media, and underpinned by pandemic-spurred alienation, mental health, and social pressures. means”, embracing all walks of life, participated in these disturbances. »
Democracies in peril
Alexander added that while the airing of legitimate grievances and peaceful protest is the mainstay of a healthy democracy and should be encouraged, violence or the threat of it, especially voiced by those not on the outside of a legislature by attempting to storm it, or by violating it, should be considered unacceptable and — given its illegality — avoided by all.
“This is especially the case for those who supposedly claim freedom. Democracy cannot be sustained when a legislature, or any branch of government, falls victim to the proverbial barrel of a gun,” said he shared. “What is even more disappointing and frightening is that a November 2021 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that some Americans increasingly support political violence, lack faith in government institutions, embrace ideals undemocratic and were more susceptible to misinformation and misinformation than in years past.”
Buettner and Alexander noted that collectively, these polls point ominously to a society that is markedly alienated, having doubts in many American institutions and processes and easily swayed by any rumor or story, no matter how absurd, offered by politicians, groups or other individuals imbued with the agenda.
“The February 2022 “freedom convoy” of Canadian truckers in the vicinity of the Ottawa parliament to protest against Canada’s anti-pandemic measures spawned truck convoys of a similar vein around the world. This development underscores the urgency of recalibrating security measures around legislatures around the world,” the authors note. “These realities, coupled with the aforementioned history of greedy intrigue and propensity to attack legislatures on a global scale, ill reflect upon democracies and their citizens. Individuals who envision such a society and take unlawful steps to advance it should be promptly investigated, prosecuted and adjudicated. In doing so, people can continue to live peacefully in a democratic society and contribute to its sustenance, despite its imperfections, as for its citizens.”
about the authors
Alexander can be contacted at [email protected] He has been a member of the WIU School of LEJA since 2005. His alumni work in police departments, government agencies (FBI, Department of Homeland Security and State Department) and risk management companies across the United States. His teaching, research, and speaking activities encompass terrorism, security, and legal issues, and he has lectured in 10 countries, including to law enforcement and military officials at events around the world. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), US State Department and National Intelligence University. Since his publication on terrorism in 1991, Alexander has written several books on the subject, including: Family Terror Networks (2019), The Islamic State: Combating the Caliphate Without Borders (Lexington, 2015), Business Confronts Terrorism: Risks and Responses ( University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), and Terrorism and Business: The Impact of September 11, 2001 (Transnational, 2002).
Buettner is a specialist in law enforcement and the administration of justice, with minors in security administration, forensics, and homeland security. At WIU, he is Attorney General for the Student Government Association (SGA) of WIU and is the founder/president of several charity clubs on campus. Buettner also learns Arabic to master reading and writing in this language. After graduating, he plans to work for federal law enforcement.
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