ST. LOUIS – A variety of local voices are joining the effort to understand and fight the hate that was on display on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. The regional office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has been in discussions with organizations, families, and individuals in the St. Louis area.
“Frankly, what it means for people to be able to talk about the emotional recoil of seeing the Capitol building attacked itself,” Karen Aroesty, Regional Director of the ADL Heartland Office, said.
The Heartland region covers Missouri, Kansas, and southern Illinois.
Aroesty said she was not surprised by the events that transpired in the U.S. Capitol Building two weeks ago.
“I’ve been watching this kind of information and this kind of activity happen,” she said. “The kind of anger, the nature of grievance, the idea that fear was driving so much of what we saw on Wednesday.”
Aroesty said there have been several conversations with local organizations concerned about what happened. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Jewish agencies involved in advocacy work, PROMO Missouri, The International Institute, and Hispanic leaders’ groups are all taking part in discussions, she said.
She said the ADL is busy with its mission to promote education and advocacy.
“The education is gathering information on folks in the extremist movement, trying to get the sense of what the chatter online means for risk of specific activity. And sharing that information with law enforcement,” Aroesty said.
An awareness of the imagery, symbols, and online chatter can help the public work with Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies. But not everything is clear cut.
“I think that’s the challenge of connecting the dots, through all of this. When is somebody just simply expressing their views in a way that the law allows them to? And when might they do something that would cause harm,” she said.
On a national level, the ADL is urging the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the online platform Gab for its alleged role in the attack.
As more information becomes available on the players involved in the attack, Aroesty said it sheds light on the scope of hate in the U.S.
“This idea that people who have these views and might act on them are only from quiet, rural, non-diverse parts of the Midwest?” Aroesty said. “No, they’re in the big cities. And they’re in suburban neighborhoods. They are people you work with, and people you go to school with. There’s no hard and fast rule, or stereotype about that.”