US must fight its own terrorists and elsewhere against democracy

19 January 2021



NEW videos surfacing from the siege of the US Capitol show how the attack was both chaotic and coordinated. Some of the rioters wore earpieces to communicate with one another. In one clip, a woman with a bullhorn discusses the building floor plan with men in camouflage and tells them what glass needs to be broken to gain entry into another room.
But what was the originator of this mass riot? Groups like the Proud Boys who were among the many who attacked the Capitol describe themselves as "Western chauvinists", by which they mean "men who refuse to apologise for creating the modern world". The Anti-Defamation League describes the group as "misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration".
Some members espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups, though the membership is not exclusively white and the group's leaders protest any allegations of racism. Beyond a resolute hatred of the left, members are not ideologically homogeneous.
In 2018 the FBI had designated the Proud Boys as "an extremist group with ties to white nationalism" and warned that it was contributing to escalating political violence in university campuses and US cities. The civil rights protest that spread across the US after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020 galvanised militant right-wing groups. The Proud Boys were seen at counter-protests and street brawls alongside other right-wing paramilitary groups, such as the Oath Keepers, a militia comprised largely of former military veterans and law enforcement officials.
These armed far-right groups see themselves as essential to restoring "law and order" to US cities, a view encouraged by Trump, the right-wing media and branches of law enforcement. A blurred line was created between actual federal forces and armed vigilante groups. The killing by US marshals of Michael Reinoehl, an anti-fascist accused of killing a member of the far-right Patriot Prayer group, which is closely affiliated with the Proud Boy was in effect an extrajudicial killing yet the US attorney general, William Barr, celebrated it as a "significant accomplishment to restore law and order" and Trump described it as "retribution".
So we can see quite clearly the trajectory by which the far right groups found the courage to march on to the Capitol--they were, in every step, directly encouraged by President Trump, members of his administration, and members of the right wing media and law enforcement.
It was extraordinary that a group which the FBI had said was contributing to escalating violence was asked by Mr Trump to stand back and stand by when asked to condemn their activities. Such tacit support from the highest levels all contributed to the situation on January 6th --- but the fear remains that more domestic violence is yet to come. What is most shocking is that the attack on the Capitol was perpetrated not by members of ISIS or Islamist groups but by groups which had the direct support of the US President.


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