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October Today in Terrorism

October 26, 1868: White supremacist riots in Louisiana, United States

Many were killed in a white supremacist riot against African Americans in the southern US in October 1868 in the aftermath of the civil war.

An unknown number of African Americans were killed by white supremacists in riots in Louisiana in October 1868.

LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES – White supremacist violence goes back a long, long way.

You would have to be living on a moon of Neptune to not be aware of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, Canada and other Western nations of late. Protest after protest has been held to point out what many see as biased approaches to black people by a certain sector of society – i.e. law enforcement for the most part.

That racism exists in law enforcement agencies should not be controversial: it can be found anywhere. Whether it is ‘systemic’ as many have claimed is something I have no intention of touching in a short blog post. Nevertheless, it is beyond argument that on occasion black people have been killed by those who held racist views, not limited to the law enforcement world.

Racism is also a core feature of what is loosely called the white supremacist community. Those who self identify as members of this group do not limit their intolerance and hate towards blacks of course. Jews, immigrants in general and even those from the LGBTQ communities are also seen as ‘undesirable’.

White Supremacists Were Ready for Violence in Charlottesville. The Police  Were Not. - The New York Times
What do we hate…we’re not sure but we really hate it!

It should come as no surprise that seeing another group as ‘the other’ is a very, very old blot on humanity. This is not a new phenomenon and today’s featured attack shows just that. This particular incident goes back to late October 1868, not long after the end of the US civil war, fought of course in part over the desire of many to maintain white supremacy over African Americans.

A riot broke out in St. Bernard Parish in the southern state of Louisiana when racists sought to suppress the recently emancipated voters in an effort to regain their way of life (which had been turned upside down by the Civil War and Reconstruction).

Casualty figures are hard to come by but it is estimated that at least 35 and as many as 100 were killed by the white supremacists. Many hid in sugar cane fields for days to avoid the rioters. Not a single violent actor was arrested or even questioned.

That not much has changed in 150 years is both sad and a testament that the problems we face have rarely moved over time. Maybe this is part of the human condition. None of this should mean we should throw up our hands in frustration: it just means that having a long view is helpful when we come up with ideas on what to do about it.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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