The Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday announced a decrease in hate groups across the United States, but warned that the threat – and growing cooperation – from far-right activists was increasing.
SPLC noted in its Year of hatred and extremism report that there were 838 hate groups active in the United States, ranging from white supremacists to far-right anti-government militias. It was 102 less than in 2019, but researchers said at a press conference Monday that it reflected a lack of need for hierarchical groups and a shift towards a generalized social movement reinvigorated by former President Donald Trump .
Trump’s refusal to condemn the Jan.6 insurgency that was aimed at keeping him in power and was based on refuted allegations of voter fraud has alarmed researchers. He “even praised the rioters, calling them” patriots “, saying” we love you “and” you are very special, “” the report notes.
Michael Edison Hayden, investigative journalist and spokesperson for the SPLC, told the press conference that the Capitol uprising came about as a “collapse of those soft barriers that once existed in the Republican Party, or around the Republican Party, in a way kept violent, of the extreme right. extremists ”.
The shift to a social movement comprised of mainstream politicians and people of color may present challenges for the public perception of the far-right movement, shaped by the 2017 white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia and elsewhere.
Images of people of color involved in the insurgency indicate increased cooperation between groups espousing racial supremacy and far-right movements that are not explicitly racist, including the QAnon conspiracy theory and militia movements.
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, leader of the predominantly white, pro-Trump Proud Boys Proud Boys, a far-right group that presents itself as “Western chauvinist”, is of Afro-Cuban origin. He was ordered to leave DC before the riot following a felony arrest.
Cassie Miller, a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center who focuses on the far right and accelerators within the movement, told Al Jazeera in an interview that the presence of people of color in the far right movements was not not new.
“The far right is not just a movement based on maintaining white supremacy, but authoritarian ultranationalism that promotes multiple forms of hierarchy that reinforce each other,” Miller said.
“A group like the Proud Boys, where misogyny is a fundamental principle, might attract some men mainly because they want to consolidate the privileged status conferred on them by patriarchy.
But the blurred lines between the far right and mainstream politics dominate beyond the Proud Boys.
Although Trump has been widely criticized for his ‘racist’ rhetoric during his 2016 presidential campaign and in office, he has seen a noticeable increase in support from voters of color, including a jump of about six points in men. blacks and a five-point increase in Latin American women, according to exit polls.
These gains are in part attributed to strong, right-wing views on the economy during his tenure and socially conservative movements – which critics have called misogynist – like the rapid appointment of anti-abortion rights, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
These moves, along with the perception that Trump has defied the liberal political establishment and unfounded electoral fraud plots, have opened up a collaboration with the far right in an unprecedented way, Heidi Beirich, co-founder and chief strategy officer from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. , told Al Jazeera.
In particular, the non-racist armed militias who believe that the rights of American citizens are violated by liberal elites and the ascendant QAnon conspiracy movement are open to collaboration.
The militias “don’t come across as white supremacists – that’s not their role,” Beirich noted, “but they have certainly become more anti-immigrant and more anti-Muslim in recent years.
QAnon members believe that a wide range of conspiracies centers on the unfounded notion that Trump was chosen to defeat a cabal of liberal “deep state” elites engaged in child trafficking and harvesting their blood to stay young.
But the movement has not used overt racism since it first emerged in the dark corners of the internet in 2017, although many see anti-Semitic code words in its theories.
“The fact that there are no explicit racial statements in the QAnon movement and in the militia world means they can mix more,” Beirich said.
The militia movement, which is predominantly white, has a history of members of color. For example, JJ Johnson, who is black, founded the Ohio Unorganized Militia and was known for his anti-politician rhetoric as a member of the Militia Circuit in the 1990s.
“The most important reason you can’t go out here and shoot [law officers, politicians] This is because ammunition is just too expensive. And don’t hang them either. The rope is too expensive, ”Johnson was city as grassroots environmental group Klamath Forest Reliance said.
Some black Republicans who ran for office in 2020, including Philanise White in Illinois and Angela Stanton King in Georgia, have expressed support for QAnon.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is white and is currently facing calls being kicked out of Congress for QAnon-related theories and allegations she supported violence against her House colleagues is perhaps the best example of the movement’s rise to the mainstream.
These movements are now “more directly linked to Trump and election theft, and hatred of the ‘deep state’,” Beirich said.
Years to come
Miller said it’s important to note that far-right groups can use people of color to “protect themselves against accusations of bigotry. It can also allow them to be accepted into more traditional political arenas, ”which strengthens the movement and gives it threatening power.
Federal authorities published a bulletin last week warning of the lingering threats of domestic extremism driven by electoral fraud plots, anti-immigration, racial tensions and more.
To combat this threat, the SPLC said it supported the passage of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, passed in the House last September, which would provide resources for increased law enforcement cooperation to fight far-right extremism and fund anti-prejudice education initiatives.