Trump cult members and Boogaloo Bois are ready for the fight
David Atkins from the Washington Monthly, explains: “Trump sees violence as politically beneficial, a useful cudgel against Democratic nominee Joe Biden — even though the violence is happening while Trump himself is in charge, not Biden.”
Trump’s election theme is that Americans won’t be safe in a Biden presidency. The opposite is true. Americans won’t be safe as long as a white supremacist tyrant is leading a movement of bigots to incite a civil war, and attempting to ensure that the majority of Americans with cosmopolitan, egalitarian values remain politically disenfranchised and under the thumb of those who fear and despise them.
Trump’s campaign of racial authoritarianism and stochastic terrorism, as well as overt threats of “law and order,” resulted in a group of his supporters driving into Portland last weekend, armed with mace and paintball guns, to seek out confrontations with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protesters.
The protests were largely peaceful until Trump and acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf deployed federal police forces to the city in July. Their presence, as designed, escalated the tension and led to increasing levels of property damage and incidents of violence.
Previewing Trump’s plan for other parts of the nation, these federal shock troops made journalists and reporters a special focus of their violence. They also kidnapped protesters and other “enemies” of Donald Trump’s regime off the street as though they were operating in a banana republic.
Alexander Reid Ross is a doctoral fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right. His most recent book is “Against the Fascist Creep.” Ross has also completed new research that documents more than 500 incidents in which white vigilantes and other right-wing extremists have confronted Black Lives Matter protests. This includes hundreds of acts of intimidation and other threats as well as dozens of examples in which right-wing extremists have assaulted or attacked Black Lives Matter protesters.
Reid warns that Portland, the right-wing vigilante killings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the hundreds of other attacks by right-wing extremists on Black Lives Matter protesters is just a preview of the massive violence that Donald Trump and his movement may unleash before and after Election Day — perhaps including the arrest or imprisonment of prominent Democrats, journalists, and others deemed to be enemies of the state.
After almost four years of Trump and his regime’s authoritarian, neofascist behavior, some voices in the mainstream American news media now use that correct and appropriate language to describe the reality of the situation. Why was there so much fear and denial about the obvious? Even when they use the correct terminology, the coverage is largely superficial and avoids serious discussion of the dire implications.
Donald Trump attempting to rise to the level of a right-wing political strongman. Donald Trump is using classic authoritarian tactics that one does not often see in a healthy democracy. Donald Trump is deliberately undermining the Constitution by using federal law to circumvent local governments’ control over their police forces.
Trump and William Barr’s de facto secret police are literally disappearing people off the streets of Portland and in other parts of the country where the Democratic Party is in power. How do you explain what is happening to people who do not live in those communities? Who are not being targeted by Trump and his henchmen?
The specific federal forces involved are BORTAC — the Border Patrol Tactical Unit — and the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and others, under the coordination of the Department of Homeland Security. BORTAC has been in Portland shooting at people and launching tear gas. BORTAC is not trained for crowd or riot control. They are trained to engage in raids against migrants and to separate children from their mothers. That is what BORTAC does. They pride themselves on being the most militarized branch and a group of the U.S. law enforcement community. BORTAC members are extreme Trump supporters. What is happening in Portland and other parts of the country is the border closing in on the citizens of the United States.
BORTAC is loyal to Donald Trump and that’s why he is using them. He’s not using them because they’re the most skilled and adept at riot and crowd control management. That also explains why there are so many incidents of people being shot in the face and otherwise abused here in Portland and other places where BORTAC and other such forces are being deployed by the Trump administration. They don’t know what they’re doing at all.
BORTAC is being used because Trump feels that they are his most loyal forces. That is fully in keeping with the tactics of authoritarian leaders who cultivate secret police whose main function is to serve as the government leader’s private force, one that operates outside of any restraints such as an internal review.
The [former] Chilean dictatorship is explicitly supported by Trump’s own supporters, who wear T-shirts that say, “Right-wing death squad” and “Pinochet did nothing wrong.” The American mainstream news media is far too charitable with its narrative that “Trump is playing to his base.”
During the recent protests in Portland, were there moments where you feared that the federal forces were going to start shooting the crowd with lethal rounds?
The fear is very real and it’s constant. The federal forces have assault rifles. They are loaded with live rounds. There are protesters who were throwing fireworks and things of that sort at the courthouse. What if one of the feds has an itchy trigger finger? What if a firework explodes and they then open fire on an entire group of unarmed people?
Trump and their defenders and other apologists will just say, “Well, these poor agents have been overworked for 60 days and look at all the things that have been thrown at them” and so on and so forth. We know what the narrative will be. All a person can do when protesting is to act accordingly and stay focused.
The idea of these right-wing protesters and militia types being “anti-government” — again, a narrative circulated by the mainstream American news media — is very uncritical, a total misnomer. They are really pro-government. They are entirely in favor of the United States government as controlled by Donald Trump. Their claim to be “libertarians” is a joke.
Those right-wing militias and others sympathetic to them are arming in opposition to Democrats, liberals, and progressives.
Right-wing extremists and other terrorists, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, are also coordinating at times with the police.
They actually say that they are at the protests to “protect the police.” Think about that claim: They are “anti-government” vigilantes who promise that they are trying to protect the police. In essence, these right-wing militias and the like are American citizens who believe it is their role not to become police, but to guard the police. Such a claim is ludicrous. It is a paramilitary force. These right-wing forces are coordinating and positioning themselves to be able to launch a coup against American democracy and the Democratic Party if the latter gains control of the presidency and government.
The closest parallel with what we are seeing with Trump’s movement would be the “massive resistance” by white people against racial integration in the South during the civil rights movement. I am of the opinion that the United States has not seen such a mobilization of violent, far-right forces to this extent since the 1960s.
Recently, a Trumpist and right-wing militia supporter traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and involved himself in the protests there. He’s accused shooting three people, killing two of them. He crossed state lines illegally with a weapon he was not allowed to own. He was only a teenager and was radicalized online into right-wing extremism. He is now being valorized by the right-wing media machine. Trump has defended this young man as a hero who was fighting against “criminals” and “looters.” This accused killer now has hundreds of thousands of dollars pledged to his defense.
Trump has defended Kyle Rittenhouse with the claim he was firing in “self-defense” at unarmed protesters. In essence, Donald Trump supports the right-wing vigilante movement, which represents the disintegration of the rule of law.
We are witnessing an erosion of democratic norms in this country by Republicans. They accept breaking the law as being viable if it supports “traditional values” — meaning racism. As a practical matter, Donald Trump is spearheading the movement of the Republican Party into a full-on violent racist organization that encourages vigilantism.
In terms of engaging in the worst type of “both-sides-ism” and false equivalencies that helped Trump win and now keep power, the American mainstream news media is now advancing a “mutual combat” narrative in its coverage of Trump’s supporters and the violence in Portland last weekend. How does that narrative contradict what really happened in Portland?
The “mutual combat” framing is inane, legally a non-starter, and obviously supportive of the aggressive party, which is typically the Trump supporters. Their strategy is to provoke fights and then call for “law and order” intervention from a corrupt president.
What do you want to warn the American people about? What do you think happens next?
I am worried about crackdowns by Donald Trump and his forces against their direct enemies. This would involve dragging Democrats in front of kangaroo courts and starting to criminalize dissent such that the average American who has a bumper sticker or other affiliation with the Democratic Party or liberal or progressive causes becomes a target for Trump’s zealots. I worry that Trump will find some way to round up the leaders of the Democratic Party and put them in jail or execute them.
That is the future that right-wing conspiracists such as the QAnon people want. They are the crowd that Donald Trump is signaling to. I do not believe that there is much stopping Donald Trump from following through on his extreme impulses. At this point Donald Trump is desperate. If Trump wins again it will just be more fuel on the fire for his followers. The right-wing will follow through on his cues and start attacking regular people, not just protesters, who they believe are Democrats.
Edited from Chauncey Devega in Salon by way of Alternet