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Floridians played a big role in the Capitol riot, do we have a bigger extremism problem?

FL has highest number of residents charged so far in Capitol siege
Capitol riot
Posted at 9:31 AM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 09:45:13-05

365 days later, just over 700 people have been federally charged for their roles in the Capitol riots.

365 days later, at least 170 of them have pleaded guilty.

And 365 days later, we now know Floridians played a major role in the violence that pinned Americans against Americans one year ago inside the nation’s Capitol.

“From Florida, we saw folks of all backgrounds showing up on January 6t of all affiliations to domestic violence extremist groups and lack thereof,” explained Andrew Mines of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Mines is among a group of researchers who dissect and track cases of extremism in the United States, including the Capitol insurrection last year.

“A year out, a lot of questions remain unanswered,” he said. But what the team has found using court records from cases filed is of all the individuals charged so far in connection to the riot, more than 80% are male, average age- 39. Most surprising, Mines said, is how most of the people arrested have no ties to the extreme but ended up going there January 6th, 2021.

“They didn’t come to necessarily storm the Capitol like we saw, but once things got going they really participated in an organic manner and ended up leading the charge into the Capitol. That’s something that was surprising to a lot of us that we could say definitively now and that is alarming going forward,” Mines said.

Among those individuals, at least 75 Floridians including a Melbourne teacher, a Sanford firefighter, then- law enforcement officers along with members of known far-right extremists groups- the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.

Florida leads states with the highest number of its residents accused of participating in the Capitol Hill mayhem which started as a protest against the presidential victory of Joe Biden but then turned violent after a rally cry over false claims the 2020 election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump.

“If you look at who’s been arrested and charged in Florida, it’s one of the greatest representations of how fractured domestic extremism is in this country,” Mines explained but believes the arrests do not suggest Florida is a breeding ground for extremism. “I think it would probably be a stretch to say that at this point,” said Mines.

Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism agrees but said the problem of extremism continues nationwide.

“It doesn’t mean we have an extremist group problem in Florida in the classic sense but we have a problem about the normalization of extremism that goes beyond any one group or movement,” he said.

While Segal believes the federal arrests show accountability, he doesn’t believe they do enough to stop what has become a glaring problem.

“This is not hidden anymore and, frankly, this is the landscape of extremism as we look at this post-January 6th world. Extremists feel emboldened, they’re acting more locally in terms of their activity but those pieces of disinformation and those conspiracies that animated them, they have not gone away. “This country is polarized and extremists never miss an opportunity to leverage a crisis,” Segal said.

In addition to federal arrests which are expected to reach the thousands, a federal committee continues to investigate the origin of the attacks and funding sources behind it. But in a country still so divided and misinformation still so easy to obtain, Mines and Segal agree whether or not all of these investigations will be able to deter future extremists attacks remains up in the air.