angry mobs

President Trump’s rallies may no longer be carried live by mainstream cable networks, but the President of the United States still succeeded in making headlines in one recent rally describing leftist protesters as “angry mobs.

Trump was specifically referring to the nonviolent crowds of (mostly) women in the lead-up to Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote in his “mob” comments, and tried to cast the Republican Party as the party of “law and order, fairness, freedom and justice.”

But President Trump, as of this writing, remains silent about the actual angry mobs of his own supporters wreaking havoc in American streets on both the East and West Coasts.

This weekend, in both New York City and Portland, Oregon, the “Proud Boys” — designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — engaged in street brawls with anti-fascist counter-protesters. In both cities, no Proud Boys were arrested. And in New York City, attorney Rebecca Kavanagh tweeted that the only people arrested were three anti-racist protesters. After the brawl, the New York City Proud Boys took a photo holding up the “white power” hand sign (which is also a form of trolling the left).

Both brawls are hard to watch. In the New York City attack, Proud Boys are heard calling the people they’re beating homophobic slurs. One of the Proud Boy participants in the brawl later described his excitement at beating up an anti-fascist counter-protester.

“Dude, I had one of their fuckin’ heads, and I was just smashing it into the pavement!” The Proud Boy said.

And in Portland, freelance livestreamer Mike Bivins documented a march in which the “Patriot Prayer” group and the Proud Boys clashed with anti-fascists. Just before the brawl, the Proud Boys, along with Patriot Prayer leader Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, were all seen chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” before a member of the group shoved an anti-fascist protester.

Several blows were exchanged, and both groups pepper-sprayed each other. Then, an anti-fascist was thrown through a plate glass window, and Toese was seen running up to a counter-protester on the ground and kicking him. Another right-wing protester stomped on him before police dispersed the chaos. The Portland Police Bureau acknowledged that while violence did break out in the streets and less-than-lethal ammunition was used to break up the fighting, no arrests were made.

While angry mobs carrying out acts of violence in the streets against people for their political ideology should never be condoned from either the left or the right, the Proud Boys have made it an explicit goal to brawl with anti-fascists. Proud Boys founder (and VICE media co-founder) Gavin McInnes has said as much in public statements, once saying in February 2017 that he “cannot recommend violence enough,” adding, “It’s a really effective way to solve problems.” The SPLC also found that the Proud Boys encourage street violence as a way of moving up the organization’s hierarchy.

“[I]n order to enter the 4th degree, a member needs to “get involved in a major fight for the cause.” “You get beat up, kick the crap out of an antifa,” McInnes explained to Metro. Though he claimed in the interview he was ready to “get violent and beat the f–k out of everybody,” he later backtracked in a Proud Boys Magazine piece, assuring the public the fraternal group was opposed to “senseless violence.” “We don’t start fights, we finish them,” McInnes wrote.

While most political observers hesitate to invoke Godwin’s Law, the similarities between the Proud Boys and the Sturmabteilung (SA) of Nazi Germany — more commonly known as the “brownshirts” — are striking. Historian Daniel Siemens wrote extensively about the SA in his book Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts, and how they played a role in creating the conditions leading to Adolf Hitler’s rise to absolute power.

In his review of Siemens’ book, The Weekly Standard’s James H. Barnett described how Siemens deconstructed the myth of the SA not as “a group of rowdy young psychopaths looking to brawl,” but as “a million-member organization that flourished by promising young German men a world of hypermasculinity, camaraderie, and egalitarianism—with genocidal undertones.”

“[N]ot only were the Brownshirts more representative of German society than previous historians have recorded—they included a large number of students and young middle-class professionals—but that their dominance in the bloody street battles between fascists and leftists that epitomized Weimar political culture also accelerated the erosion of liberalism and delegitimization of German democracy, paving the way for Hitler’s rise.”

Barnett’s description of the SA as a group that fostered “hypermasculinity, camaraderie, and egalitarianism — with genocidal undertones,” is remarkably similar to how the Proud Boys describe themselves. In August of 2017, Gavin McInnes wrote on the official Proud Boys website that his organization was little more than “a men’s club that meets about once a month to drink beer.” Members are told to swear an oath identifying themselves as a “proud Western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.

Of course, the Proud Boys aren’t a million-member organization and don’t openly call for genocide of marginalized groups. However, Brian Brathovd, co-host of the Daily Shoah — one of the leading anti-Semitic podcasts according to the SPLC — thinks the Proud Boys are a neo-Nazi group disguised as a casual men’s club in order to get mainstream appeal.

“Let’s not bullshit,” Brathovd said in one episode. “[if the Proud Boys] were pressed on the issue, I guarantee you that like 90% of them would tell you something along the lines of ‘Hitler was right. Gas the Jews.’ ”

Groups of people brawl in public with protesters in order to increase their rank can only be described as “angry mobs.” President Trump’s refusal to condemn this weekend’s violence in Portland and New York can only be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of the Proud Boys and their actions. If the president truly wants American discourse to be free of angry mobs, he has to start with his own supporters.

 

Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *