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Tag: far right terrorism

Saturday’s Far-Right Rally In Washington Expected To Flop

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The security fencing around the U.S. Capitol building has gone back up, and members of Congress have sounded off about their fears of potential violence, all in anticipation of Saturday's far-right "Justice for J6" protest in Washington, D.C., ostensibly a march to support the several hundred people currently facing federal prosecution for their roles in the insurrection.

However, the likelihood of any kind of significant outburst by Donald Trump's most ardent followers is so low this time around that residents have relatively little to fear. In contrast to January 6, there has been no promotion of the protest by Trump or his circle, and no congressional Republicans appear likely to attend—so consequently, there is very little buzz about it in right-wing circles. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects only 700 or so people to attend, in contrast to the tens of thousands who showed up the first week of January.

Nonetheless, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department will activate its entire force for that day, and specialized riot officers have been placed on standby. MPD officers will have "an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety," according to a spokesperson.

Capitol Police said Monday they had issued an emergency declaration that will go into effect at the start of the rally, one that allows Capitol Police leaders to deputize outside law enforcement officers. The agency also has obtained additional equipment and created an incident response plan.

The event creating all this upheaval is the brainchild of a former Trump campaign official named Matt Braynard, who has declared that 700 or so people charged in the January 6 insurrection are "political prisoners."

Braynard announced the event on the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, saying: "We're going back to the Capitol, right where it started. And it's going to be huge … We're going to push back on the phony narrative that there was an insurrection."

His organization, Look Ahead America, is discouraging would-be rallygoers from signs related to the election or any candidate, or wearing "MAGA gear."

"This rally is about protesting the treatment of these political prisoners. That has nothing to do with any candidate, nothing to do with the election," Braynard said. "It's not a pro-Trump rally, an anti-Trump rally. It's not a pro or anti-Biden rally. It's not political in that way and we don't anything to distract from that."

DHS spokesperson Melissa Smislova told NBC News that the agency has learned via social media that in addition to the Washington rally, similar protests are planned in other cities across the country. She said that in comparison to the "tens of thousands" who came out for the January 6 "Stop the Steal" event, DHS expects a much smaller turnout this weekend. She said the agency has been tracking publicly available information on protesters, U.S. Park Police permit applications for large gatherings, and hotel reservations across the U.S. in order to gauge the response.

Some members of Congress have spoken out. "Given the violent tendencies of the right-wing extremists who plan to attend, it is obvious that this rally poses a threat to the Capitol, those who work here, and the law enforcement officers charged with protecting our democracy," Democrats Tim Ryan of Ohio and Rosa DeLaura said in a joint statement. "We are pleased that the Capitol Police, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, appear to have developed a clear plan—based on careful intelligence analysis—to maintain order and protect public safety."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was even more scathing: "And now these people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill members of Congress, successfully causing the deaths—'successfully' is not the word, but that's the word, because it's what they set out to do—of our law enforcement," Pelosi told reporters Wednesday morning.

When a reporter asked Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy whether any GOP members would be making speeches on Saturday, as they did at the January 6 rallies, he responded: "I don't think anyone is."

One of the chief lingering concerns among intelligence experts and law enforcement officials is the fact that the person who placed two pipe bombs in the vicinity of the Capitol the night of January 5 has never been identified. Most leads have so far some up dry, and investigators working on the case reportedly have been unable to ascertain whether the suspect is a man or a woman.

Last week, the FBI released grainy surveillance video of the person they believe left the bombs in the hope of attracting new leads and information. The agency says the person wore a backpack over a gray hooded sweatshirt and had a face mask, as well as distinctive Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers in yellow, black, and gray.

The bombs—each about 1 foot long with end caps and wiring that appeared to be attached to a timer—were placed outside the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees between 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM on the night before the insurrection. They were not located by law enforcement until the next day, at about the same time the Capitol came under siege by the mob.

The September 18 event could attract a lone-wolf actor along similar lines. But it's also certain that it will not create the kind of mob scene that engendered the January violence. Extremism analyst Mike Rothschild, who monitors far-right groups' activities online, notes that this time around, "the chatter isn't there. Influencers who egged on the MAGA faithful then are waving them off now. People will show up, and it bears watching - but this isn't going to be Insurrection 2.0."

As terrorism analyst Jared Holt observes, the rhetoric around the event is largely hyperbolic, and it is expected to draw neither a large nor a violent crowd capable of another Capitol siege. However, it could be significant in the way that "it lays patchwork or groundwork for those kinds of events to happen in the future in D.C., or maybe in state capitols going forward."

One of the ways it can set a foundation is by providing openings for similar forms of insurrectionist violence elsewhere, such as at state Capitol buildings, as DHS' assessment warned. Clint Watts, a former Joint Terrorism Task Force member, told MSNBC that he was far more concerned about the spread of these events to state-level venues than with the Sept. 18 rally itself.

"There will be, I'm sure, some who show up there, but I don't think it will be a Jan. 6 moment. What I'm much more worried about, though, is state Capitols and local municipal buildings," he said.

"They're much less defended, and in some discussion spaces you hear—it may be just a small number of people, but you hear people talking about going to rallies closer to home, in up to 10 different states. Those could be particularly troubling for those with smaller law enforcement, and don't have the resources like we have at the nation's capital."

New Texas Law Shields Online Hate Speech, Terror Threats, And Holocaust Denial

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's been a busy couple of weeks for the one-star state. In addition to gaining the cooperation of the Trump-flavored Supreme Court to strip away women's rights, Gov. Greg Abbott has been right on top of the threat to the coronavirus, promising to protect COVID-19 from any effort to slow its spread. It's that kind of dedication that has allowed Texas to both seize the top spot from Florida in new cases and hospitalizations, and support the local mortuary industry with more than 400 deaths per day.

Truly, for Texas energy speculators and mortuary truck rentals, Abbott has brought on a golden age. But even though the governor spent much of his day complaining that President Joe Biden insisting that people get vaccinated was a violation of the rights of businesses—unlike executive orders that forbid companies from requiring that people get vaccinated—he did have time for other things.

One of those things was signing HB 20, a bill that severely limits the ability of large social media platforms to remove disinformation, harmful propaganda, hate speech, and incitement of violence.

This bill is a response to the mythical claims that social media sites are somehow suppressing conservative speech, despite repeated analysis that shows that these sites actually selectively promote conservative voices and place conservatives in positions of power, while actively soliciting for more Republican content. Despite all this, Republicans are certain that, were it not for some "shadow banning" and other devious actions, the brilliant words of conservative tweeters would surely be getting many, many more likes.

And since modern Republican statements are indistinguishable from disinformation about an ongoing pandemic, shot through with vile racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, the bill makes sure that all of those things are protected.

On first reading, the text of the bill might seem to be offering some level of protection. For example, here's what it says about the kind of things that social media can remove. Platforms can take down or edit material that is:

"the subject of a referral or request from an organization with the purpose of preventing the sexual exploitation of children and protecting survivors of sexual abuse from ongoing harassment; directly incites criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group because of their race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, sex, or status as a peace officer or judge; or is unlawful expression."

That long list at the end of this passage—including color, disability, sex, etc.—might seem as if it's offering the kind of protections usually afforded when platforms take down hate speech. But look again. All of those other words are just window dressing. The bill actually allows sites to remove such speech only if it "consists of specific threats of violence." This is the very narrowest definition of incitement to violence. It's the kind of very narrow requirement that has protected both KKK leaders and Tucker Carlson when calling for violence or other harmful acts against groups, without making a specific threat,

By prohibiting social media platforms from removing text that doesn't feature a specific threat, they have created a "must carry" situation, one in which the social media platforms that fit their definition (which seems to be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and Snapchat, but could expand to Google, Apple, and others thanks to some broad language) can not remove hate speech or disinformation, no matter how malignant.

To see how intentional this result is takes no more than looking at the amendments that were rejected.

  • Here's one that would have allowed sites to take down posts that promoted "any international or domestic terrorist group or any international or domestic terrorist acts."

That amendment was rejected.

  • Here's another that would have at least allowed sites to take down a post that "includes the denial of the Holocaust."

That amendment was rejected.

  • Here's a third that would have allowed sites to remove information that "promotes or supports vaccine misinformation."

Of course that amendment was rejected.

Seriously. Texas just passed a law (and Abbott just signed it) which prohibits social media sites from removing hate speech, or posts that promote terrorism, or intentional misinformation about vaccines, orholocaust denial.

And it doesn't stop there. Because Texas doesn't just require that sites leave these posts intact: the state also prohibits platforms from "censoring" these posts in any way. That includes "demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to ..." That requirement means that not only do sites have to carry a post, no matter how vile, they have to promote it and pay for it equally with other posts.

So, if someone in Texas were to post a YouTube video that was full of holocaust denial, revived every antisemitic claim in history, and called for driving Jews out of the country and burning down synagogues—but didn't mention a specific time and place for people to gather with torches—YouTube would not only be forbidden from removing it, they wouldn't be allowed to add any warning, would have to promote it equally with other videos, and would have to pay the creator if it got enough racists to watch.

As the tech industry group Chamber for Progress puts it: "This law is going to put more hate speech, scams, terrorist content, and misinformation online."

Naturally, platforms and organizations have already announced lawsuits, mostly focused on the idea that the Texas law redefines social media platforms as "common carriers." It's unlikely that any of these platforms will ever be bound by this law.

Even so … it gives great insight into the type of speech Republicans are really out to promote.

House Panel Dramatically Expands Jan. 6 Investigation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Just two days after demanding a massive trove of records from the federal government, the bipartisan House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack is indicating it is expanding its investigation even further. On Friday Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) sent letters to 15 social media companies requesting a massive amount of data on disinformation, extremism, and foreign influence.

The letter details a list of 14 topics to be included, including data and documents on "Misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation relating to the 2020 election"; efforts to overturn the certification of the election; "Domestic violent extremists"; and "foreign malign influence," among many other topics, according to Forbes' Andrew Solender.

Among the 15 companies or platforms are Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, Telegram, Tik-Tok, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube, Solender adds. Also included are message boards 4chan and 8kun that have been popular with QAnon cultists and other conspiracy theorists, and thedonald.win, a pro-Trump message board that has since been scrubbed of its content. And Zello, a walkie-talkie app which "hosted far-right groups who stormed Capitol," The Guardian reported earlier this year.

Solender posted the letter. Click on each of the four images to expand:

Poll: Americans More Worried By Domestic Terrorism Than Foreign Enemies

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

More Americans are worried about threats from domestic extremist groups than foreign ones, according to a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and NORC at the University of Chicago.

The poll, which was released Thursday morning, found that 65 percent of respondents said they are extremely worried about threats from domestic extremist groups. Seventy-five percent of Democratic respondents said they were very worried about the domestic extremism threat, while 57 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of independents also said they were very worried about threats posed by those groups. But just 50 percent of overall respondents said they were worried about threats from extremist groups outside of the United States: 49 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans, and 41 percent of independents.

There was a steep increase in violence from far-right extremist groups during the Trump administration. The number of incidents peaked in 2020 to the highest levels shown since the data was first collected in 1994, according to an analysis of data from the Washington Post. The Post found that the rise in far-right extremism was mostly driven by white supremacists, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-government extremist groups.

Nearly 600 individuals have been charged for their involvement with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capital led by far-right extremists and supporters of Donald Trump. And experts warn that actions taken by the FBI and law enforcement to hold individuals accountable are not the end of far-right extremist violence. They say it could even get worse, especially with a Democrat in the White House.

Daryl Johnson, the former lead analyst for domestic terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security, told the American Independent Foundation, "It's under Democratic administrations where these groups proliferate. So, for at least the next four years... we're still gonna see a period of heightened activity."

In early August, a leaked Department of Homeland Security document warned of a "modest but increasing threat of violence" from people and groups who believe 2020 election conspiracy theories.

And in recent weeks, popular extremist and white supremacist channels on encrypted social media apps including Telegram have been exploiting 2020 election conspiracy theories, anti-government sentiment over coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates, 2020 census data, and most recently, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in order to recruit new people into their ranks.

On Saturday, shortly after the capital city of Kabul fell to Taliban control, far-right extremist channels were praising the Taliban and drawing comparisons to the conservative agenda in America.

"The Taliban is going to ban abortion, vaccines, and gay marriage... maybe we were fighting on the wrong side for 20 years," Nick Fuentes, an anti-Semitic and ultra-right vlogger posted to Gab.

Messages also showed people praising the Taliban — in particular, how they were able to take over Afghanistan so quickly. According to Buzzfeed News, one influential far-right vlogger with ties to a violent neo-Nazi group wrote, "the Taliban is epic. The US had to invade in the early 2000's and stay over 20 years, spending $1 trillion dollars, and dozens of American lives to hold them back. As soon as we left, the Taliban takes over the whole country in like 12 hours. LMAO."

Sara Kamali, an extremism researcher and scholar, told Buzzfeed News that the political backlash over the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan "has been leveraged by white nationalists to support their claim of the illegitimacy and ineptitude of the Biden administration as well as calls to reinstate Donald Trump as president." She worries that this rhetoric could be used as a recruitment tool for extremist groups.

Just Thursday afternoon, law enforcement arrested a man in Washington, D.C., who barricaded himself in a truck parked outside of the Library of Congress, claiming he had a bomb. The man, who was identified by police as Floyd Ray Roseberry, posted videos of himself to Facebook railing against President Joe Biden and Democrats while threatening to blow himself up to start a revolution.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Far-Right Evangelicals Joining Up With Violent Proud Boys

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The latest twist in the Proud Boys' evolving post-insurrection strategy—in which they have shifted their efforts toward insinuating themselves into local right-wing protests and causes, hijacking them along the way—has been taking shape in the Pacific Northwest -- and it's an ominous one that portends the merging of far-right street-brawling forces with evangelical "Dominionists" seeking to displace democracy with fundamentalist authoritarian rule.

The strategy was on display this week in Salem, Oregon, when a Dominionist group organized a monthly gathering they call The Church at Planned Parenthood (TCAPP) in front of the local women's health clinic, and were joined by a "security" crew comprised of Proud Boys, including several notorious figures from the Portland scene. There were counter-protesters—including local clergy—and some minor brawls, but it all eventually broke up amid clouds of pepper spray.

Proud Boys 'security' turns Salem 'Church at Planned Parenthood' protest ugly www.youtube.com

Independent journalist Alissa Azar was one of the only reporters on the scene, which went uncovered by the local and regional press, and she recorded much of the day's events in a live thread on Twitter. As she noted, the first to arrive at the clinic was a group of counter-protesters who were there to support health care freedom, carrying a banner reading: "Hate Has No Home Here."

Proud Boys—including Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, who had just participated in street violence while leading a group of the far-right brawlers in Portland a couple of days before—began assembling on a grass berm across from the clinic a little while later. The counter-protesters included a small number of "Black Bloc" activists, but largely comprised unaffiliated community members present to stand up against hate. As CenterSquare reporter Tim Gruver documented, these included Salem area "clergy witnesses" wearing blue vests designating them.

These TCAPP protests—organized monthly in Salem by a far-right Dominionist group based in eastern Washington—have drawn Proud Boys "security" at previous events, notably a July 14 gathering outside the clinic at which there was a heavy police presence mostly keeping them separated from counterprotesters. According to Its Going Down News, when a group of Proud Boys attempted a flanking maneuver to attack them, police stopped them and arrested two of their members. Shawn Christopher Davidson, 30, of Salem was arrested on suspicion of second-degree disorderly conduct, while Ricky Dale Clark, 64, of Beaverton was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault, second-degree disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.

The anti-abortion TCAPP events are the brainchild of Ken Peters, the founding pastor of Spokane's Covenant Church, the reins of which Peters handed to far-right former Washington Republican legislator Matt Shea in 2019 after Shea left the state House under the cloud of a report connecting him to domestic terrorist factions. (Their partnership recently crumbled for unexplained reasons, with Shea departing to form his own church.)

Peters is a rabidly pro-Trump pastor who has appeared onstage in recent months with Mike Lindell, the "My Pillow" conspiracy theorist who claims Donald Trump was the victim of election fraud. Peters also spoke to the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 5 at a pre-rally for the next day's "Stop the Steal" protest that devolved into the Capitol insurrection.

As Frederick Clarkson and Cloee Cooper explained in a recent overview in Religion Dispatches of the Dominionist scheme to seize political power in the interior Northwest, the purpose of the monthly protests—which the organizers insist are not protests but "church gatherings" outside the clinics—is to spark conflict as a way of imposing their political beliefs:

Peters pioneered the tactic of staging events they call TCAPP, which takes the form of worship services in front of the Planned Parenthood centers that are obviously intended to interfere with clinic patients and staff. The Patriot Churches have continued to organize these disruptive actions and have made their intentions clear. "As we grow," they declared, "the number of services around the state and nation will continue to grow."

The website for Peters' organization declares:

The Church at Planned Parenthood is NOT a protest. It's a worship service at the gates of Hell. The Church at Planned Parenthood is a gathering of Christians for the worship of God and the corporate prayer for repentance for this nation, repentance for the apathetic church and repentance of our blood guiltiness in this abortion holocaust.

Its appeals to potential recruits promise that "The Worship is Non-Confrontational Spiritual Warfare," but also tout the virility of the enterprise: "Creates a Toughness. Gets us out of the Soft Pews and Into the Elements."

Far-right pastor Ken Peters describes origins of 'Church at Planned Parenthood' strategy www.youtube.com

Peters kicked off the TCAPP strategy in late 2018, reportedly inspired by a sermon from anti-abortion protest movement leader Rusty Thomas. He told an interviewer that Thomas had talked about the "importance of fighting for the unborn," which led Peters to wonder, "What would I be doing if they were killing five-year-olds, if families were driving up clinics with their five-year-old in the booster seat, coming out, walking into a clinic, and then leaving while Planned Parenthood disposed of their five-year-old? How would I be acting as a pastor?"

He continued: "I thought, why not plant my church right there at the gates of hell?"

The gatherings in Spokane were deliberately noisy and disruptive. Bands and musical acts performed loudly, and the preachers who showed up to denounce abortion and Planned Parenthood were just as loud. Planned Parenthood reported that the amplified sermons and condemnations from TCAPP would leak through their clinic walls and that, according to their attorney, "patients and caregivers cannot hear each other speak even when sitting right across from each other."

Peters acknowledged that this was the plan. "We want to get as close to Planned Parenthood as we can, because the closer we are, the bigger the statement that it makes," Peters said. "It makes a statement that we disagree with what they're doing."

Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, told Northwest Public Broadcasting that the noise was harmful to the health of clients. Patients and staff, he said, were able to hear the songs and sermons even inside exam rooms, leading staff to shuffle patients to different rooms just to be able to provide care.

"It's really, really frustrating and should not be allowed to happen, when the laws are very clear in Washington state and the city of Spokane about interference with health care facilities," Dillon said. "It's extremely unnerving for the patients at Planned Parenthood."

The initial TCAPP gathering in Spokane in October 2018 attracted only about 150 people. However, over the ensuing months, it grew to over 400 by Planned Parenthood's count. (TCAPP claimed there were over 700.)

So Planned Parenthood sued, noting that Spokane had a noise ordinance prohibiting such loud activity in the vicinity of a medical facility—one that Spokane police had declined to enforce, regardless of how loud and disruptive the services became.

"In fact, it is the impression of both the staff at Planned Parenthood and the church itself that the police are on the side of the church," Kim Clark, an attorney with Legal Voice, the firm that represented Planned Parenthood, told Northwest Public Broadcasting.

The organization won. A local judge ordered TCAPP to stop holding protests at Planned Parenthood during its operating hours. Peters called it a violation of his First Amendment rights.

"The injunction is totally unconstitutional. We completely disagree with it," he said. "But it's Washington state. Washington state is run by leftists."

TCAPP turned up the next month at its regular protest time in a show of defiance against the ruling. However, its members did not begin making any protest noise until after the clinic had closed for the day. Planned Parenthood filed a request with the court this summer to make the injunction against TCAPP permanent.

Frustrated in Spokane, Peters' attention in 2020 turned to making TCAPP a national phenomenon and organization, particularly since he had also become the pastor of the Patriot Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He formed an alliance with another Dominionist pastor in Tennessee, Greg Locke, which rapidly took on an openly political bent.

Peters also began holding TCAPP services in Knoxville, the first of which was on December 29, 2020. Less than a month later, on January 22, someone blasted apart the glass front door of the clinic's offices with a shotgun, prompting an FBI investigation. No suspect has been arrested or identified, and a Knoxville police spokesman told CNN there has been no indication of any connection between the shooter and the TCAPP service.

Peters denounced media reports linking his service to the attack: "I am the most nonviolent person on the planet," he said. But others weren't so sure.

"There have been protesters before, though they had always been small and peaceful," Aimee Lewis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, told CNN. "But Peters, with his rhetoric of 'warfare' and 'battlefields,' is really setting an example and encouraging extremism among his followers. It's virulent in a way we haven't seen before."

Both Peters and Locke are rabidly pro-Trump pastors, and over the course of 2020 engaged in a range of hyperbolic attacks on Joe Biden and defenses of Trump. After Trump lost, they immediately swung to promulgating the gamut of conspiracy theories claiming fraud in the election. In late December, Peters told his flock:

In the recent election, we know something crooked went on. There's actual evidence. We've seen the evidence, there's video. We've seen them run ballots through over and over. We've seen them pull ballots out of, out of—from underneath tables. Everything shut down. I went to bed. I thought, "Trump's got it easy." Went to bed, woke up in the morning, found out Biden won. In the middle of the night, like a thief in the night.

Both men urged their followers to go to Washington, D.C., on January 6. Locke was especially incendiary in doing so, waxing prophetic about what was going to happen that day:

They think they got this whole thing wrapped up. I don't care what happens on the 6th, and I don't care what happens on the 20th. I'll tell you something: God Almighty is about to dethrone Nancy Pelosi. It's about to happen. (Audience rises and cheers)
He's about to dethrone that baby butchering mongrel! About to dethrone that woman. God's gonna bring the whole thing down. It's all going to come toppling down. We about to see some exposure of these bunch of pedophile sex-trafficking rings. Been popping up in Hollywood! Been popping up in the White House! Been popping up overseas! God's about to expose all of it, I tell you right now: He's going to expose every bit of that mess.

Peters flew out to D.C. on Lindell's private jet and boasted about it on social media. The next day, Peters' speech was typically incendiary, and fit well with the mood of incipient violence among the gathering crowd:

But I see a bunch of people here that will say, "No, no." We are not going to allow the enemy to destroy this beautiful and great land that our forefathers gave to us. We will rise up in this time and say like Paul Revere, "The leftists are coming! The leftists are coming! The leftists are coming!"

The insurrection also may have been the moment when the evangelicals first linked arms with the Proud Boys. During his speech at the rally, Locke offered a prayer on their behalf:

And we do pray for Enrique (Tarrio), and we pray for his organization. And Lord they may get a bum rap on the news media but we just thank God that we can lock shields, and we can come shoulder-to-shoulder with people that still stand up for this nation, and still love the rights and the freedoms that we have. Because Lord, we've got to recognize the fact: If we don't have convictions worth dying for, we don't even know what living really is.

The alliance with the Proud Boys has become explicit since then. The Salem protests, along with last weekend's Portland violence revolving around evangelical Christians' anti-masking protests, follow both the TCAPP recipe for creating confrontations and the Proud Boys' strategy of aligning themselves locally with other right-wing activists, particularly of the "Patriot" stripe.

Peters welcomed the Proud Boys on Facebook after their first appearance at a TCAPP event in Salem in July. "We are not affiliated with them, and we did not invite them, but they literally saved our lives," he wrote in an approving Facebook post. "Thank God they were there. They put up a wall of protection between us and the Antifa/leftist mob while we worshipped. They met the mob head on and kept them away from us. I thanked them profusely after we were done."

On the ground, it makes for a jarring combination. Despite the supposedly Christian nature of the gathering, the Proud Boys shouted obscene and lewd threats at protesters and observers. One Proud Boy jeered at Azar about his admiration for her ass, and joked with a buddy about raping her. Another told her to "go back to Syria."

As Azar's coverage showed, Tuesday's event began to break up when one woman affiliated with the Proud Boys was shoved aside by a couple of members when she apparently began trying to instigate a fight. Eventually, one of them sprayed her with mace—which then sparked a rush of Proud Boys charging with their own cans of mace and spraying the counter-protesters. Some counter-protesters were able to retaliate with their own pepper spray, but the crowds quickly broke apart at that point, and people began to leave.

As they were departing, one car full of Proud Boys shot paint balls at counter-protesters from their car doors. Rubber projectiles were reportedly also launched.

They left in a mostly leisurely fashion, unharried by police. They knew they would be back for more in a few weeks, or days, or however long it takes for someone to concoct a right-wing cause for them to "support."

The Capitol Riot Aftermath Bodes Ill For Democracy

Someday, the past year or so may be remembered as a bout of temporary insanity among a large share of the American people. This group refused to take basic precautions against a devastating pandemic, swallowed the lies of a president who had lost an election, and excused a violent mob that attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe this period will be known as the time when we lost our bearings for good, dooming us to a catastrophic national unravelling.

The rise in insanity is hard to overstate. A recent poll found that 20 percent of Americans — including half of those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 — believe the inoculation implants a microchip that the government can use to track them. Nearly half of Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated.

Even as the Delta variant fuels a surge in infection, governors in some red states have rejected mask requirements in public schools, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."

Right-wing politicians and their media allies have spread the preposterous claim that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of reelection. A May Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that 61 percent of Republicans believe it. An April Reuters-Ipsos poll found that a majority of them agree that "the January 6 riot at the Capitol was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad."

It gets worse. A poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the lunatic QAnon movement has gained a significant following, with 23 percent of Republicans affirming that "the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have praised QAnon.

This week's hearings on the Capitol insurrection were another reminder of the alarming radicalization of the Republican Party, something exploited and encouraged by Trump.

The mob set up a gallows, chanted "Hang Mike Pence," forced both Republican and Democratic members to flee for their lives and savagely beat police officers. But congressional Republicans now want to move on, treating it as a minor incident grossly exaggerated by Democrats and the media — rather than an extremist effort to block a legitimate transfer of power.

GOP senators blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Republicans tried in vain to stock a House committee with Trump henchmen who could be counted on to disrupt the inquiry.

Many Republican politicians are too infatuated with Trump — or too afraid of him — to admit the terrifying scope of the danger the insurrection represents. The party's elected officials have become a coalition of crazies and cowards.

It fell to a lonely pair of GOP conservatives, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to join the House investigative committee and decry the events of January 6 as a horrific attack on the nation and the Constitution.

Kinzinger did something else, debunking the pernicious claim that the Capitol attack was not as bad as the riots that erupted in cities last summer over the police murder of George Floyd.

"I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman," he said. "I condemned those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-government was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime — even grave crimes — and a coup."

In Tuesday's hearing, Kinzinger struck a hopeful note: "Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days."

But the response of Republicans to the attack is even more ominous than the attack itself. The aftermath offered a moment for them to confront the cancer that has embedded itself in the party and act to cut it out. They refused.

The majority of GOP voters have insisted on rationalizing or defending the insurrection while staying loyal to the defeated president who did so much to incite it. By indulging them, Republican leaders are inviting more of the same — and worse.

What kind of democracy is defined by its bad days? A dying one.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Proud Boys Resurface To Infiltrate Local Communities

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

While you might get the impression that the Proud Boys largely vanished from the public radar in the weeks following the January 6 Capitol insurrection in which they played a central role, the reality is that the proto-fascist street-thug organization has been popping up all over recently—but operating on a purely local level, consistently hijacking causes and events organized by local activists and communities.

This appears to be their latest strategy, as imprisoned Proud Boy Ethan Nordean had suggested in his pre-arrest Telegram chats: Namely, to scale down their operations and spread their recruitment by focusing on local issues. Over the past several weeks, as Tess Owen observes at VICE, they appear to be enacting it in places like Nashua, New Hampshire; Miami and Tampa, Florida; and Salem, Oregon.

The strategy mostly appears to entail identifying local grievances that can provide opportunities for Proud Boys to involve themselves. In Miami, for instance, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio turned up uninvited with several cohorts, offering "support" for a protest by the Cuban-American community backing dissidents in Cuba.

"Since January 6, members of the group have steered clear of large-scale rallies, and instead attempted to build grassroots support in their communities by latching onto hyper-local culture war dramas and ginning up tensions," Owen writes.

In Nashua, as Owen reports, Proud Boys turned up at school board meetings, masked and wearing their uniform shirts, to protest "critical race theory" in local schools. Their presence riled local residents.

"Proud Boys come to our board meetings for what? For what? What is the purpose of them being here? Are they here for our children? I think not," said board member Gloria Timmons, who doubles as president of the Nashua chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Nordean's pre-arrest chats with his fellow Proud Boys about how to proceed after January 6 promised this kind of strategy. "I'm gunna press on with some smart level-headed non-emotional guys and create a game plan for how to approach this year, we aren't gunna stop getting involved in the community, especially with the momentum we have," Nordean wrote.

He later added: "Yeah, this is just to organize and prepare for when we do decide to get active again. At the very least there's lots of good excuses to just get out and do meet n greets with the public, raise money, community service, security for events etc ... but we can work on an effective process so we look more organized and have properly vetted members who are representing the club."

This is consistent with Proud Boys' proclaimed self-image as just normal American guys, their belief right up to January 6 that the police were on their side, and their ongoing denials of being racist or extremist. The localized issues are often the same right-wing grievances being ginned up nightly on Fox News, as with critical race theory in New Hampshire schools. The common thread among the issues being hijacked by Proud Boys is that they are congenial to (if not fueled by) conspiracism, and primarily revolve around concocted enemies.

The first post-insurrection Proud Boys event of note was an early May rally at a city park in Salem, Oregon, at which journalists were threatened and ejected and guns were on broad display. It was also notable for the remarkable absence of any kind of police presence. However, another Proud Boys event held in Oregon City on June 15 was shut down by police when they declared it a riot.

Most of the Proud Boys' reappearances have occurred over the past month:

  • July 3, Buhl, Idaho: A Proud Boys float, featuring uniformed marchers walking alongside, was among the 100 or so entries for the town's annual Sagebrush Days parade. The polo shirt-wearing Proud Boys carried both an American flag and a black flag emblazoned with the organization's logo.
  • July 10, Grand Rapids, Michigan: A local Proud Boys chapter announced that it planned to hold a rally in a local park to "honor the lives lost to antifa & BLM racist mob violence," but nobody from the organization showed up at the appointed time and place.
  • July 10, Tallahassee, Florida: A group of about 100 protesters that included a large number of Proud Boys rallied on the lawn of the Historic Capitol Museum to demand the government release the January 6 insurrectionists. They flashed signs at passersby and chanted, "Let them go." It was hosted by Luis Miguel, a Republican senatorial candidate from St. Augustine, who described the arrested indictees as part of a patriotic brotherhood: "They're not insurrectionists; they're not traitors; they're not terrorists. They are heroes," he said.
  • July 11, Miami, Florida: As demonstrators assembled en masse around Miami to support nationwide anti-government protests in Cuba, Tarrio arrived with a pack of Proud Boys to offer their backing. One of the Proud Boys asked Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo why he hangs out with "Marxists" and "Communists." Acevedo also had a hostile exchange with Tarrio.
  • July 14, Salem, Oregon: A group of about 20 Proud Boys, armed with holstered handguns, paintball guns, bats, and body armor gathered to protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic to protest abortion laws, and were met by a crowd of at least 40 counter-protesters. The opposing sides ended up brawling, and Salem police arrested two people.
  • July 14, Helena, Montana: An ostensible "fundraising event for veterans" sponsored by a local Proud Boys group was canceled after being publicized locally. A "Proud Boys Poker Run" was supposedly intended to dedicate funds to a wounded veterans fund, but the person who originated the event punted when he was exposed: "the poker run for the 24th is hereby officially cancelled due to snow-flakes," he wrote on the event's website. "unfortunately a few uninformed sheep started causing problems at the hub sorry for any inconvenience and hope yall have a great summer."
  • July 17, Los Angeles, California: A crew of black-clad Proud Boys descended upon the scene outside Wi Spa, which had attracted a crowd of protesters and counter-protesters in a dispute over the business' policies regarding transgender members. As Left Coast Right Watch's on-scene reporting showed, a handful of fights turned into an outright street brawl. Police clashed mostly with left-wing protesters, using batons and riot munitions, and the scene was declared a riot and cleared.
  • July 19, Red Bluff, California: A number of Proud Boys showed up to rally outside a court hearing for a local tavern owner facing assault charges, reportedly flashing white-supremacist hand gestures. The tavern, the Palomino Room, has become "kind of a Mecca for right wing extremism, given the owner's outspoken views regarding those awful, oppressive mask mandates," reported the local news outlet. "From there it has been surmised that the Proud Boys might have vandalized the Wild Oak store by firing a paint ball at it and attaching a State of Jefferson Proud Boy sticker in front of a 'Black Lives Matter' sign."
  • July 20, Scotland, South Dakota: Local Proud Boy David Finnell applied on behalf of the group to sponsor a street dance from noon until midnight in mid-September, and the local city council approved the request, which would have closed a section of the city street, as required for alcohol consumption and food vendors. However, after the announcement produced a torrent of disapproval, Finnell pulled out, saying the Proud Boys were dropping sponsorship of the event "out of concerns for safety."
  • July 26, Tampa, Florida: An anti-COVID-19-restriction rally, billing itself as a "Worldwide Freedom Rally," attracted a large contingent of Proud Boys supporting the cause. Some of them carried yellow "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden banners, as well as signs declaring that "Trump won," and demanding the government "free political prisoners"—that is, the January 6 insurrectionists.
  • July 30, Boise, Idaho: Some anonymous Proud Boys hung two large banners bearing their logo from two heavily trafficked freeway overpasses in the city. Police removed the banners, and said it was unclear who hung them.

One of the more insidious aspects of the Proud Boys' strategy is how it manipulates small-town environments to insinuate themselves within them, and once there, how it divides and creates turmoil within those communities where little existed previously. As a local account in Mainer News demonstrated, the Proud Boys' gradual takeover of a small old tavern in Portland, Maine, alienated and angered local residents, who blamed the tavern owner for permitting it.

The owner, as the report explains, wasn't necessarily sympathetic to the Proud Boys, but really had little idea about their background. "'Oh, they're not that bad,'" the man reportedly told his longtime bouncer, who quit over the situation.

"They're bad as the fuckin' Klan, Bobby!" the bouncer replied. He then pointed at a group of Proud Boys across the street, and added: "Yeah, I'm talking about you motherfuckers."

Under Trafficking Probe, Gaetz Likens FBI To ‘Worst Days Of Soviet Union’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) compared efforts by the FBI to combat violent extremism to actions taken by the former Soviet Union, which he called a "repressive security state."

Gaetz appeared on the conservative Newsmax TV's Cortes & Pellegrino to discuss a recent tweet that was released by the FBI.

In the July 11 tweet, the FBI wrote, "family members and peers are often best positioned to witness signs of mobilization to violence" and gives advice on signs to look out for to "prevent homegrown violent extremism."

Gaetz criticized the tone of the tweet.

"This harkens to a darker day," said Gaetz. "Back during the worst days of the Soviet Union, 1 out of every 3 of the folks in that country was providing some sort of information to a centralized governing authority and so snitching really is a tool of the repressive security state."

Gaetz also claimed later in the interview that the tweet wasn't "really a sincere attempt to engage in law enforcement" and "is an attempt to identify people based on their politics."

Despite Gaetz's allegations, neither the FBI's tweet nor the document the tweet links to suggests reporting people over their political beliefs.

The agency is currently in the midst of a massive investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, when several violent extremists supporting former President Donald Trump breached the building in an attempt to overturn Trump's loss in the 2020 presidential election. Over 500 people have been arrested and charged with federal offenses.

In recent months, Gaetz has repeatedly attacked the FBI. Along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), he has even pushed a baseless claim that the agency organized the Capitol attack. He has also suggested that the FBI was to blame for the COVID-19 viral outbreak.

Gaetz's attack on the FBI comes at the same time that he has been under federal investigation relating to the possible sex trafficking of an underage girl.

Gaetz has not been alone in attacking the FBI for investigating violent extremism. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TX) recently described the tweet in question from the FBI as "over the top."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.