FBI Warn White Supremacist Activity in Pittsburgh Among Highest in Country

Experts have warned that white supremacist activity in the Pennsylvania city of Pittsburgh is among the highest in the entire country but authorities are still limited on how they investigate it.

John Pulcastro, a supervisory analyst at the Pittsburgh FBI, described how Pittsburgh has become a "hub" for the far-right and neo-Nazi groups during a "When Hate Hits Home" Zoom presentation presented by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute.

"It's important to understand that it is here," said Pulcastro, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pulcastro warned that groups such as Patriot Front—described as an "image-obsessed organization" who rehabilitated the "explicitly fascist agenda" of Vanguard America with extremist patriotism by the Southern Poverty Law Center—are among those holding events and recruiting in the city.

The group recently took part in a rally down Pittsburgh's Boulevard of the Allies protesting against refugees entering the country, the Post-Gazette reported.

"They believe they are being invaded," Pulcastro said. "They are training for an invasion."

Pulcastro added that the group is one of a number of far-right organizations preparing for a potential civil war in the country.

Pulcastro said other groups such as the Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan and the National Alliance are also attempting to recruit in the area.

Prior to the election, police in Greene County, Pennsylvania, launched an investigation after flyers linked to a Ku Klux Klan group encouraging people to "vote pro-white" were distributed to local residents.

The flyer told people to "Kontact the experts," the Loyal White Knights—a KKK-affiliated group which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as one of the "largest and most active Klan groups" in the U.S.

Pulcastro said that the FBI is currently limited on what they can investigate as a lot of what white nationalists are saying online can be protected under the First Amendment.

He said the goal of the agency is still to stop violence and not react to it after it happens, and for this they need public support to report of any potential issues or threats they see.

"This is a 'we' problem," he said, adding the bureau "cannot proactively data-mine social media for hate activity."

Even if the public brings a potential case forward, there needs to be a threat of violence, proof of ideology and federal crime under which to bring a possible prosecution before the FBI can investigate.

Even then, Pulcastro said that it is not a case of "investigating and prosecuting our way out" of the issue of the increase in white supremacist threats in the country.

"Dialogue is the best tool to stop violence," he said.

The City of Pittsburgh has been contacted for comment.

Pittsburgh is the scene of the worst far-right attacks seen in the country after 11 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018. It remains the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in America's history.

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(File photo) Members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) rally near City Hall on April 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The FBI have warned that Pittsburgh is a "hub" for white supremacy and extremists. Getty/David McNew