The participation of active-duty personnel and veterans in white supremacist activity has long posed a serious threat to the public and other military personnel. Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center first began actively lobbying the Department of Defense to prohibit all military personnel from being members of, or participating in, the activities of white supremacist groups in 1986. While steps have since been taken to prevent racist extremists from entering the U.S. Armed Forces, numerous recent examples of violent white supremacists with current or former involvement in the military shows those responses have been inadequate.
Over the last two years, we have identified dozens of former and active-duty military personnel among the membership of some of the country’s most dangerous white supremacist groups. Those groups include the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group whose members have allegedly been responsible for five murders since mid-2017. One of the people killed was a gay, Jewish college student named Blaze Bernstein who was stabbed more than 20 times.
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Rightwing extremists poisoning the ranks of the military, or extremists using their military training to further their racist and often-violent ambitions, is not a new problem. Historically, many of the white power movement’s most infamous leaders have served in the military.