(AP/Beth Nakamura)

Right-wing "free speech" rallies are a potent breeding ground for homegrown terror

Jeremy Joseph Christian is a case study in how "free speech rallies" can attract the violent fringe


Alexandra Rosenmann
June 12, 2017 11:00AM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet

The disturbing ramblings uttered by Jeremy Joseph Christian as he entered the courtroom May 27 drew on a horrifying trend in America: Rallying behind the right to so-called free speech, both figuratively and literally, to justify white supremacy and its violent acts.

Advertisement:

"Get out if you don't like free speech," Christian said. "You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die."

Christian, 35, was arraigned on charges of aggravated murder of Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23. Both men were stabbed and killed by Christian on a Portland light-rail train when they tried to defend two young women Christian was harassing with anti-Muslim slurs. Christian was charged with the attempted murder of a third stabbing victim, Micah Fletcher, 21, who survived and was present in the courtroom.

"If there is a central theme to Christian’s ravings leading up to the attack, it’s his tendency to articulate a volatile synthesis of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and white supremacy," Jack Jenkins, a senior religion reporter at ThinkProgress, reported the day after Christian's first court appearance.

"In addition to calling for violence against Muslims on his Facebook page," Jenkins added, "Christian reportedly attended a 'free speech' rally in April, where he shouted the n-word at protesters and offered up Nazi salutes."

According to Willamette Week, "Christian arrived at an April 29 'free speech' march in Southeast Portland wearing a Revolutionary War flag as a cape. He carried a baseball bat. He threw Nazi salutes and shouted racial slurs in a Burger King parking lot. Twice, left-wing demonstrators grew so infuriated with his antics that Portland police officers formed a barrier to shield him."

Advertisement:

Even the "alt-right" marchers were divided on Christian's behavior.

"Some of them, leather-clad bikers, told him to shut up and tried to kick him out of the rally," added Willamette Week reporter Corey Pein. "Others seemed fine with him expressing himself: Unpopular speech was the point of the event."

Advertisement:

Eight days after the Portland murders, another "free speech" rally took place in the City of Roses, where 14 were arrested. Similar right-wing free speech rallies have been popping up in other blue-state cities from Berkeley to Boston, while a Washington D.C. version is planned for late June.

In addressing President Trump's overwhelming prioritization of fighting Islamic extremism, Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, announced at a Senate Intelligence hearing on May 11, "Homegrown violent extremists remain the most frequent and unpredictable terrorist threat to the United States."

Advertisement:


Alexandra Rosenmann

MORE FROM Alexandra Rosenmann


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Alt-right Alternet First Amendment Free Speech Free Speech Rallies Jeremy Joseph Christian

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •