Campfire Colorado recently had the opportunity to speak about domestic extremism and political violence with Kevin Klein, the director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in the Department of Public Safety. Klein is also the designated homeland security advisor to Governor Jared Polis.
In the next ten days, three important events will occur in Colorado. Our state’s primary election will end on June 28th, a decision concerning Roe v. Wade will be announced from the Supreme Court, and the Denver Pride Parade will take place on June 26th.
Following the recent leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision concerning Roe v. Wade, two Catholic Churches in Colorado were vandalized with anti-Catholic messages.
More recently in Idaho, a planned attack by 31 men on a Pride in the Park event was disrupted by law enforcement officials at almost the last moment as the men were on their way to allegedly riot.
With these recent acts of domestic extremism here in Colorado against Catholic Churches, and a potential act of domestic extremism thwarted in Idaho, we wanted to ask Colorado’s Homeland Security Chief whether Colorado was prepared for potential acts of domestic extremism surrounding these upcoming events in our state.
On the question of whether his team had concerns for any potential security threats to Pride events here in Colorado like those that occurred in Idaho, Director Klein responded, “well yeah, so we do, and we do a threat analysis on it and we really ramped this up following the Pulse Night Club shooting and then worked with the community on helping ensure a safe Pride Festival in Denver. So, the answer is yes, we’re looking at that and we’re looking to see what groups are saying that they’re going to meet and things like that.”
We also asked Director Klein whether he considered the recent attacks on Catholic Churches in Colorado to be something that falls within the category of a hate crime or domestic extremism.
Klein responded, “well, yes to both, right. It was signaling out a group of individuals based on their religious affiliation, so it’s identity-based violence that was there and so we’re concerned about that and frankly the rhetoric on both sides, about going after abortion doctors and things like that has been just amped up because of the Dobbs decision.”
Considering the elevated level of rhetoric and domestic extremism here in Colorado following the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision, we also asked Director Klein whether his team was paying extra attention to what the security situation would look like in Colorado following the release of the Supreme Court’s opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Director Klein responded, “Definitely we’re thinking about it and we’re at a heightened level of alert I guess you could call it. Specifically, because of the Dobbs decision. Now, ironically, I think the leak may have been a blessing in disguise because a lot of the protests have happened and continue to happen as things are going on. So that may have been a little bit of a pressure relief valve instead of all of a sudden boom the decision comes out.”
“There will definitely be lots of protests going on when Dobbs comes out no matter what the final opinion is. It would be highly unlikely it would be anything vastly different from what was in the draft, but that level of rhetoric gives us concern that some people will act out on that and those are the types of things that we see particularly with the rhetoric leading to right wing violent extremism and that’s kind of a new, well I don’t want to call it new, it’s been around, political violence has been around since the founding of the nation, but where we are now is people existing in echo chambers on both the right and the left. Living in two parallel universes and ironically, when you talk about American values, they all value the same stuff, but somehow the other political party is an existential threat and that then spills over into what we worry about, and that is more violence related to those politics.”