White supremacists are using anti-lockdown protests to recruit new members

“They are being very effective in capitalizing on the pandemic”

By Tom Boggioni
May 3, 2020 10:48PM (UTC)
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Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story

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According to a report from the New York Times, anti-government white supremacists are actively searching for new recruits from among the anti-lockdown protesters who have taken to the streets at Donald Trump's urging.

The report begins by noting that, while racists have always used the internet to find like-minded people to bring into the fold, the street protests have become new and fertile ground for recruitment.

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"Although the protests that have broken out across the country have drawn out a wide variety of people pressing to lift stay-at-home orders, the presence of extremists cannot be missed, with their anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic signs and coded messages aimed at inspiring the faithful, say those who track such movements," the report states, while noting, "April is typically a busy month for white supremacists. There is Hitler's birthday, which they contort into a celebration. There is the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, the domestic attack 25 years ago that killed 168 people and still serves as a rallying call for new extremist recruits."

According to Devin Burghart, who runs the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, "They are being very effective in capitalizing on the pandemic."

The protests have drawn a mixture of Americans who believe the coronavirus lockdown is another example of government overreach as well as conspiracy-minded anti-vaxxers, making it a hotspot of those who might be easily persuaded.

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"What success the groups have had in finding fresh recruits is not yet clear, but new research indicates a significant jump in people consuming extremist material while under lockdown. Various violent incidents have been linked to white supremacist or anti-government perpetrators enraged over aspects of the pandemic," the Times reports. " Embellishing Covid-19 developments to fit their usual agenda, extremists spread disinformation on the transmission of the virus and disparage stay-at-home orders as 'medical martial law' — the long-anticipated advent of a totalitarian state."

"Extremist organizations habitually try to exploit any crisis to further their aims. While not monolithic, a spectrum of organizations — from anti-immigrant groups to those with a variety of grievances and those that overtly espouse violence — found something to like about the coronavirus," the report continues with Megan Squire, a professor at Elon University in North Carolina adding, "They view it as a chance to turn people."

Singling out so-called "accelerationists" who anticipate a race war in the near future, the report notes, "Some label their expected second civil war 'the boogaloo,' and experts have tracked a spike in interest in the term on social media, plus a proliferation of advice on how to prepare.The name is a pop culture reference derived from a 1984 movie flop that became a cult classic called 'Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.' It went through various mutations and emerged sometimes as the 'Big Igloo' or the 'Big Luau.' That is why adherents sometimes wear Hawaiian shirts, say those who track them. Many such shirts were in evidence when armed protesters stormed the state capital in Lansing, Mich., Thursday and they have appeared in rallies across the country."

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Tom Boggioni

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