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The underbelly of anti-government protests is festering, and it appears to be taking on toxic undertones, particularly in rural areas. Over the holiday weekend, four more power substations were vandalized in Washington state, knocking out power to some 14,000 residents of rural Washington.

According to the Pierce County sheriff’s office, the county where Tacoma is located, two of the break-ins were at Tacoma Public Utility substations. Two more were at a Puget Sound Energy station.

No arrests have been announced. “It is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems,” the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The vandalism came amid several similar sabotage incidents all across the country, including several in the Northwest and the Southeast. They follow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security bulletin last month which warned that their scrutiny of right-wing social media had alerted them to credible and targeted threats on critical infrastructure by “lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances.”

While these attacks are not the first to be reported – they point to a trend. The attackers broke into the fenced-off power stations in all four episodes and deliberately damaged equipment. According to the sheriff’s office, three power stations were vandalized, and a fourth substation was deliberately set to cause a fire near the city of Graham, cutting power to homes in Kapowsin and Graham.

As pointed out in an earlier AVV news story about recent attacks on substations, power stations are set up to protect people from the equipment — not to protect the equipment from sabotage.

“It’s impossible to keep it completely safe. We believe in the inherent good of people and 99 percent of people are inherently good. There are bad actors in every sector,” said Sangre de Cristo Electric Association CEO Paul Erikson. “Vandalizing power stations and substations is about the highest form of stupidity there is. Everybody uses power and people can get badly hurt … not the least of which are our employees. There is environmental damage too,” he added. “Shoot at a transformer you’ll spill 1,000 gallons of oil, and you can start a fire.”

One could ask why this is occurring — but one doesn’t have to think very long to see that these small incursions against our energy grid could well be practice runs for a dangerous domestic terrorism front that could be said to have its roots in the Trump permission slip given to white nationalists.

It is no secret that long before his election, former President Donald Trump was repeatedly “endorsed by white supremacist groups and other far-right extremists, and they’ve looked to him as a source of encouragement.” During the first 2020 presidential debate, Trump refused to explicitly condemn white supremacist groups. Instead, he opted to issue a rallying cry to the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys telling them to “stand back and stand by.”

Right-wing Extremism Growing

Incidents of disrespect for the government and downright anti-government sentiment are growing. While extremists can probably be found on both sides of the political divide, it would appear that it isn’t just the disgruntled followers of Trump’s big lie repeating their disinformation — this is real and serious domestic terrorism that appears to be coming from the right and designed to cause chaos.

It isn’t just the toxic stew of Trumpism reaching out to attempt to legislate a Christian nationalism form of morality on the rest of us. It’s the “white first” agenda and the morality attacks on school curriculums and school libraries, school boards and city councils, to public libraries, gay bars, minorities, and anyone perceived to be “different”.

It isn’t just the phony election integrity groups that set out to intimidate voters and election officials. Or the illegal private army pretending to be “official”, or the Constitutional sheriff movement.

The Huffington Post referred to it as:

“Trumpism: A Toxic Cocktail of White Racial Resentment, White Cultural Anxiety, and White Despair. If you’re a rightward-leaning white American, whether or not you harbor racial resentment is a powerful predictor of whether you support Donald Trump. Or, to put it more simply, Trump attracts white racists.”

Locally, it isn’t just the old “CAG” and Tea Party groups (although that does appear to be one contingent behind the latest petition hoopla related to housing development in the city of Salida. Never mind that Salida is actually adhering to its comprehensive plan to encourage density-supporting workforce housing in the city itself to prevent urban sprawl.) Refusing to participate in the public forums of the democratic process, specifically provided for voicing opinions and actually getting the real facts — then complaining that their voices haven’t been heard and using that as a basis for a petition, is a coercive tactic.

Taken together all of these activities may be designed to do one thing: to normalize extremism. To what end — remains to be seen.