On Monday, November 23, 2015, a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota were shot at—leaving five wounded. Shortly afterward, the police made four arrests, and it became clear that those allegedly involved in the shooting were influenced by the Hard Right Patriot movement. The day before the shooting, in a video that went viral on social media, two of those who were later arrested recorded themselves making racist comments and flashing a gun while driving to the #4thPrecinctShutdown, an Occupy-like encampment that had sprung up in the wake of the police shooting death of Jamar Clark.
This most recent shooting fits into an escalating pattern of confrontation between social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, and the Right, both in terms of terror attacks and in mainstream discourse. This reality played out in Olympia, Washington in September, when neo-Nazi skinheads and White nationalists took to the streets (but were quickly driven from them) in support of the police, who faced protests after officers shot and wounded two young men accused of shoplifting alcohol. Harkening back to their heyday of the 1990s, the Racist Right is brazenly gathering in public.
Only four days after the shooting in Minneapolis, a Hard Right activist opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing three and injuring nine. Planned Parenthood, which provides free and reduced-cost medical care to poor and working people (including abortions), has already faced a series of cuts in Colorado and other states, as well as media attacks from the anti-abortion movement and the Republican establishment. The recent video from The Center for Medical Progress, which generated much of this aggression, features doctored videos of Planned Parenthood staff discussing the donation of fetal tissue for purposes of medical research. The videos falsely characterize this as the “illegal sale of baby parts,” and many believe they helped set in motion a string of arsons, protests, and attacks against clinics across the U.S. What’s more, the alleged gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, after surrendering to police, is reported to have stated “No more baby parts,” in apparent reference to the manipulated videos.
The recent shooters may be different in terms of motivations and targets, but they may also be joined by radicalization via internet as well as a social movement. It could be said that the keyboard is the new gun show.
The recent shooters may be different in terms of motivations and targets, but they may also be joined by radicalization via internet as well as a social movement. It could be said that the keyboard is the new gun show. For instance, the shooters in Minneapolis were part of —and met through—the infamous internet message board website 4chan, which they also used to organize their armed “disruption” of the BLM encampment. Launched in 2003, 4chan is an internet image sharing and message board website, that has helped to launch key players on both the Left and Right, including the “hacktivist” group Anonymous. Likewise, Robert Dear may have been driven to act by the right-wing campaign this summer that went viral due to a YouTube video, although it is unknown if he actually watched the video itself. It is important to note, as Naomi Braine pointed out in her Public Eye article “Terror Network or Lone Wolf,” those taking part in these “lone wolf” actions, like Dylann Roof in Charleston, are tied to and influenced by larger movements and aboveground groups, although they may only interact with them from afar.
But while the internet continues to be a fertile recruiting ground, segments of the Hard Right are also acting in a context where their discourse continues to push into mainstream and is magnified around Donald Trump’s campaign trail. From making heinous comments about Latinos and immigrants, telling protesters to “go back to Africa,” retweeting neo-Nazi sound-bytes, declaring that all Muslims should be barred from the U.S., to proclaiming that Black Lives Matter demonstrators should have been “roughed up,” Trump has encouraged a new generation of White nationalists—much like David Duke did in the late 1980s. It is no surprise, then, that the Minneapolis shooters were reported to have fled the scene while yelling, “Donald Trump 2016” and “Race War!” Like the shooting in Minnesota, other collective acts of violence across the U.S.— from beatings in the street to confrontations at Trump rallies—have all been given steam by “The Donald’s” campaign. This is not to mention the shot in the arm White nationalists have received thanks to Traditionalist Worker Party leader Matthew Heimbach getting invited to do media interviews on White working-class voter dissatisfaction. Indeed, at the most recent Stormfront—a popular White nationalist message board website—convention, undercover anti-racists reported lots of pro-Trump paraphernalia.
Trump is quick to distance himself from violence, while at the same time feeding off its promotion. Likewise, anti-abortion Republicans were largely silent on the Colorado slayings. In so doing, these leaders seek to obscure the connections between this “lone wolf” and the broader right-wing movement.
This is true in the Right’s backlash against the movement for Black lives and advances in LGBTQ rights, as well as in the attacks, both in legislatures and on the ground, against Planned Parenthood. This reality continues to stack up the corpses of everyday people, gives support to the ramping up of government repression, and fosters and deepens systems of oppression and exploitation.