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Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies

Conspiracy Theories Prompting Action: Richard Poplawski

Anti-government conspiracy theories seem clearly to have played a role in April 2009, in Pittsburgh, when a young man named Richard Poplawski allegedly gunned down three Pittsburgh Police Bureau officers responding to a 911 domestic disturbance call at his residence.

Richard Poplawski's conspiratorial belief led him to allegedly murder three Pittsburgh police officers and wound another

Poplawski was a budding white supremacist who became angry after the election of Obama. Like Nancy Genovese, a New York woman whose conspiratorial beliefs led to her arrest for trespassing on an Air National Guard base, Poplawski paid attention to Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists. He, like Genovese, became concerned about issues like gun confiscation, the military being used against citizens, and FEMA concentration camps. And, like her, he also purchased an assault rifle.

Poplawski began studying the government he feared. In February 2009, when Pittsburgh residents flocked to the streets to celebrate the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl victory, Poplawski went into the streets, too. However, Poplawski was there not to celebrate but to observe the Pittsburgh police, and how they engaged in crowd control. As he watched the police use buses to help manage crowd control, Poplawski later wrote that he imagined government buses transporting people to FEMA facilities.

Poplawski, though, went further than mere surveillance. When his mother called 911 after the two argued, Poplawski readied himself for a showdown, donning body armor and grabbing his weapons. When police arrived at the home, Poplawski allegedly opened fire on them, killing all three, and began a standoff, which ended in a shootout that left a fourth officer wounded before Poplawski was subdued. He currently awaits trial on murder charges.

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