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We Are Many-United Against Hate: Combats domestic terrorism with education and intervention

We Are Many-United Against Hate logo, Madison
We Are Many-United Against Hate
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We Are Many-United Against Hate is a Madison-based organization promoting education to combat division.

Robert "Bobby" Crimo III, confessed to shooting into a crowd of people at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois—murdering seven people and injuring many others. He then drove to Madison, Wisconsin, where he intended to commit a similar atrocity.

Crimo is a young man who seemingly acted alone. He was already known to police and had posted violent imagery online, which is a profile that has become all too familiar in mass shootings.

A Madison-based organization is trying to prevent more shootings like this from happening through education and intervention. We Are Many-United Against Hate was created in 2016 by businessman, Masood Akhtar. The group formed in response to the proposal to establish a Muslim registry. Now the movement has grown throughout Wisconsin and the country to build inclusive communities through education and finding the root causes of division.

"[Mass shootings are] becoming a very common phenomenon in the United States, which is very, very concerning," Akhtar starts.

From student ambassadors to field experts, We Are Many-United Against Hate's network is expansive. On their honorary board there are professors, domestic terrorism experts and former Neo-Nazis working together to combat hate.

Daryl Johnson is the owner of DT Analytics and sits on the group’s honorary board. Johnson has experience examining domestic terrorism groups. From his perspective, individuals committing domestic terrorism lack stabilizing influences, such as family and friend networks or full-time employment. And without these stabilizers, individuals may turn to searching online and may stumble upon extremist beliefs and communities.

Ryan Lo’Ree, a program director with Parallel Networks, also serves on the honorary board. Lo'Ree once was a Neo-Nazi, and acknowledged after getting out of the military, he didn't find help for his trauma. He found community support through the Neo-Nazi group. He wasn't drawn in by the ideology, but by the same brotherhood he felt while in the military.

Lo'Ree says, "When I came back from the military, I wasn't getting that same adrenaline rush that I was getting while in the military. And the closest thing I had to that was when I was actually running with this group."

Akhtar, Johnson and Lo'Ree emphasize that if someone you know is deviating from their normal behavior to say something. Key indicators that should raise red flags are suddenly talking about violence, acquiring weapons and ammunition, and consuming propaganda from extremist groups.

Lo'Ree cautions to not do this intervention alone because it is not something that can be accomplished overnight.

"We have built a culture, especially in America over the last couple hundred of years, built around violence," Lo'Ree says. "It's going to take all of us being able to step forward and say enough is enough and saying that it's not right."

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Mallory Cheng joined WUWM as a Producer of Lake Effect in June 2021.
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