Authorities investigate a pickup truck parked on the sidewalk in front of the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building, as seen from a window of the U.S. Capitol, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in Was
( Alex Brandon
Melissa Harris-Perry: Hi everyone. It's The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. It's good to have you with us.
We begin today on the steps of the Library of Congress where 49-year-old Floyd Ray Roseberry of Grover, North Carolina, parked a black pickup truck for several hours on Thursday afternoon. During those hours, Mr. Roseberry posted several social media videos, and we've made an editorial decision here at The Takeaway not to play any portion of those recordings for you. Roseberry directly addressed President Biden, referring to him as Joe, while also indicating that the black pickup held explosive devices. Roseberry further indicated that he was part of a network of other individuals prepared to detonate explosive devices in other parts of the city. Just after 2:00 PM Eastern Time, Mr. Roseberry was taken into custody without incident. During the press conference immediately following the arrest, Capitol Police Chief, Tom Manger, was asked whether he was aware of Mr. Roseberry's motive.
Tom Manger: We do know that Mr. Roseberry has had some losses of family. I believe his mother recently passed away, and we spoke with members of his family, and there were other issues that he was dealing with. There'll be more on that at a later time.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now, this response is noteworthy, because it suggests an individual mental illness framework for understanding Mr. Roseberry's actions. Actions which caused the evacuation of multiple federal buildings and revived fears stemming from the January 6 riot at the Capitol. During the standoff, Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York tweeted, "My congressional team is safe and at home. These attacks are too familiar as we still heal from January 6. Hope all workers on the ground arrive home safely soon." While Mr. Roseberry may well be suffering from grief, loss, or even diagnose mental illness, describing these conditions as a motive for violent posturing is troublesome. This framework, inaccurately stigmatizes mental illness by implying a link to violence. This is a myth. Those suffering with mental illness are not more likely to be violent. In fact, those with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of crimes than to be violent perpetrators.
This framework obscures the pressing social, political, and public safety question, was this incident linked to the rising tide of domestic terrorism in the United States, and particularly to the increase in white supremacist violence, documented by multiple organizations and the Department of Homeland Security? Here to discuss Thursday's events at the Library of Congress, and the interpretive frame used for understanding those events are Nicholas Wu, Congressional Reporter for POLITICO. Welcome, Nicholas.
Nicholas Wu: Hi there.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Lecia Brooks, Chief of Staff for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Welcome back to the show, Lecia.
Lecia Brooks: Thanks for having me, Melissa.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Nicholas, just get us up-to-date. What has happened since Mr. Roseberry was taken into custody on Thursday afternoon?
Nicholas Wu: Since he was taken into custody, the Capitol police gave the all-clear, and so far as we know right now, it seems that there were no other bombs around the city and there was no actual bomb in his car. This bomb threat that he had called then, it was just that a threat [unintelligible 00:03:30], and Capitol staff are slowly returning to work in the buildings.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I was going to ask if that all-clear meant that on Friday morning, that folks were able to have a normal workday?
Nicholas Wu: As normal as things are right now, absolutely.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now Nicholas, the chief for the Capitol police during the press conference, said that he had already spoken with the suspect's family. I was surprised to hear that, but maybe that's normal procedure. Do you have a sense of that?
Nicholas Wu: I think it's pretty normal procedure during these kinds of negotiations for the authorities to reach out to the families. You saw that news organizations reached out to the family of Roseberry as well. I think the idea is just to get a better picture of what kind of person they're dealing with, how serious the threat could be, and where the person's really coming from as they try to negotiate and talk the suspect down.
Melissa Harris-Perry: That's helpful. Lecia, I want to come to you on this because I am hearing there from Nicholas that this is part of the process. You're faced with this standoff. You got to try to get through it, but I was surprised to hear the chief actually evoke this kind of individual's experiences of loss and grief as a potential motive for Thursday's events. What was your reaction to that?
Lecia Brooks: Thank you for the question. My reaction was similar to yours in the setup in your introduction. It's interesting that we see this happen repeatedly with white male suspects engaged in acts of domestic terrorism, offered a different frame for their actions. It's also interesting that the chief seemed at a loss to identify the motive for his actions when I think Mr. Roseberry clearly stated what his motives were. He repeatedly evoked images of the Confederacy, talking about the rising South, calling it a revolution, and he's directing his words directly to President Joe Biden. I think was really, really clear. In all that he said and all that he did over those hours, it's quite interesting to me that the chief would land where he did.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Again, I don't want to give the chief individually too hard a time for this. I'm sure that in these moments it's quite tense, but I will say that like you, I was surprised at the idea that there wouldn't be a mention of politics, of race, of the sort of Southern identity aspects, because it was Mr. Roseberry himself who said all of those things we're not imputing that.
Lecia Brooks: That's absolutely correct. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for years we've watched people who have been radicalized into the anti-government movement take these violent actions, and so we're not at all surprised that Mr. Roseberry like other anti-government extremists have personal issues related to their health or finances. What is interesting is that these extremists often craft plots to seek justice or revenge against the government. The Southern Poverty Law Center's research shows that this typically occurs more frequently after a Democratic president is elected.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Nicholas, I'm wondering as a Congressional Reporter, as someone who is obviously knows what's happening in the post January 6 moment that Capitol Hill is living in. Initially, if you were hearing from folks about either their sense of fear, or and as I will say this word, their sense of terror about what was unfolding?
Nicholas Wu: Yes. Capitol Hill is very much on edge after what happened on January 6, and after what happened in March too, when there was a car attack on the Capitol, but it's always a tricky situation because the Capitol is a very high-profile place. You have these kind of suspicious incident reports phoned in all the time, and often it's nothing very serious. Someone [unintelligible 00:07:48] unattended and the like. Every now and then, it does escalate to something more serious, and that was the real fear that you saw among staffers yesterday. Was this going to be just a suspicious vehicle that was parked in the wrong spot, or was this something much more serious? As we go into more throughout Thursday morning, we really started to grasp how potentially severe of a situation this was.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Building on this, Nicholas. Lecia, I want to come to you, but I want to play something for you. It's a little bit long, but I think it might be informative here. Back on July 30th, I had a wide ranging conversation with Former Capitol Police Chief, Terry Gainer. I asked him about the 2014 incident when Capitol police shot and killed Miriam Carey, who is an African-American woman, whose infant child was strapped in a car seat in the car. I want to play what Chief Gainer said to me.
Terry Gainer: We did and do have different procedures when we believe a car is improvised explosive device vehicle, the way to deliver that. Unlike police departments across the United States that have pretty much stopped saying, you do not shoot a moving vehicles for any reason, even if the vehicle is coming at the officer, we don't shoot, but on the Capitol Complex and other areas, if there's a thought that you are going to deliver a bomb, you are authorized to use force likely to cause death. I know some of the blowback on that and frankly, I think there should have been much more transparency and people should see that now.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Lecia, I want to be really clear. I applaud the Capitol police for not escalating this and making it a violent circumstance, but I got to say between having just talked to Former Chief Gainer about the authorization to use that kind of force. Hearing from Nicholas about how on edge the Capitol is right now, and then I just can never get Miriam Carey, a woman who was unarmed, African-American woman who just had a baby was shot dead, and this gentleman was rightly allowed to gather more information.
Lecia Brooks: No. I too applaud the actions of the Capitol Police they were protecting public safety. It could have been because Roseberry told them that if they were to shoot into the vehicle that there would be another explosion. I want to give them that. The point that you raise with respect to how people are treated differently in their engagements with law enforcement it's just a fact regardless of policies or procedures. We see this time and time again how individuals based on racial demographics for sure are treated differently.
You had to know that Roseberry, I just have to mention this because as you said, the way we're painting him now we're losing the fact that this person was radicalized. We know that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of American citizens have been radicalized over the last several years. Mr. Roseberry belonged to Facebook groups like White Lives Matter. He also liked hate groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA which are anti-immigrant. The beliefs that they propagate were referenced in his own words as you said.
We also have to-- He had a YouTube account where he said, "If Trump speaks you listen." The fact of the matter is that-- Once again I think that we can lay this at the feet of the former president because this is directly connected to the insurrection of January 6. It's just more evidence of increased radicalization across the country.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Just so that I get a yes or no on this. Is it possible for someone to both be suffering from a mental illness and to be radicalized by white supremacist hate groups?
Lecia Brooks: Of course, they're certainly more susceptible. Yes.
Melissa: Lecia Brooks is chief of staff for the Southern Poverty Law Center and Nicholas Wu is congressional reporter for Politico. Thank you both for joining me.
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