Case Study Black Lives Matter

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#BLM IN 2020

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COMPARATIVE PROPAGANDA

ANTI-BLM PROPAGANDA

PRO-BLM PROPAGANDA


SAMPLE STORY

On June 27, 2020, a few violent confrontations erupted at Art Hill in St. Louis, Missouri, as different groups of protesters clashed over whether a statue of King Louis IX should be removed from that site. No serious injuries were reported. When videos of these incidents started to circulate online, they were frequently accompanied by the claim that praying Catholics had been attacked by Black Lives Matters protesters.

VIDEO USED FOR ANTI-BLM PROPAGANDA

This is a genuine video of an incident that occurred on Art Hill. However, labeling this video as if it shows Black Lives Matter activists attacking Catholics who were simply praying mischaracterizes the nature of these altercations.

Black Lives Matter Versus Catholics?

We’ll go into detail about what transpired in St. Louis, but let’s address the general claim right at the top. These videos don’t show “Black Lives Matter” activists beating up “Catholics” who were just praying at the feet of a statue of King Louis IX. Claims using this language omit some key details.

The group described as “Catholics,” for instance, was partly comprised of individuals who align themselves with hate groups (such as the Proud Boys) and other white nationalist ideologies. Also, this prayer event was organized by the proprietor of a far-right conspiracy website. While there were certainly Catholics who attended this event in good faith, describing this entire group only as “Catholics” omits some very important and relevant details about who exactly was involved in these altercations.

Furthermore, while the politics of the people who organized the counter-protest may align (at least in part) with the Black Lives Matter movement, and while there were Black Lives Matter activists present at this event, this was not an official BLM protest. This counter-protest was organized by Muslim and Jewish activists who wanted the statue taken down in part because of King Louis IX’s persecution of Jews in the middle ages.

MAELSTROM

There's a whole bunch of groups - some coherent, some loose affiliations - competing for attention in and around Black Lives Matter.

WHITE SUPREMACISTS?

A handful of white supremacists have shown up at Black Lives Matter rallies around the country.

At least one member of small neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club (aka 131 Crew) distributed the group’s stickers around Boston during unrest there over the weekend. Meanwhile, members of the group’s Tennessee chapter hung a sign that read “JOGGER” on the Alex Haley statue in Knoxville, Tennessee, “amid BLM riots nearby,” according to their Telegram channel. The word “jogger” is a newly coined, derogatory white supremacist term for a Black man, and references Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered while jogging in his Georgia neighborhood.

On May 29, in Denver, Colorado, an apparent neo-Nazi was photographed giving a Hitler Salute, and allegedly shouted “Heil Hitler” from a vehicle after threatening peaceful protesters near the 16th Street Mall.

Some white supremacists are using violent images and videos as recruitment tools. 131 Crew members posted a video of a white person being assaulted in Dallas, Texas, purportedly during the protests, accompanied by the words, “This could be you – join a local crew #131.”

White supremacist Nick Fuentes, who runs the American First podcast, chanted “Groyper” during an ABC news video report of protests in Tampa, Florida. The so-called “Groyper army” is a white supremacist group that presents its ideology as more nuanced than other groups in the white supremacist sphere.

Online, white supremacists are reacting to the ongoing chaos with a mixture of glee and anger. What follows is a small sampling of what we’ve observed online.

Some, especially those in the accelerationist camp, are celebrating the prospect of increased violence, which they hope will lead to a long-promised “race war.” They are extremely active online, urging other white supremacists to take full advantage of the moment:

This accelerationist Telegram channel suggests murdering protesters, then spreading rumors that law enforcement snipers are doing the killing: “It's Friday and if you live in the west it's even still early. Consider crimemaxing [sic] tonight if you have nothing to do. I'm far from Minneapolis but the first thing I want to do when I see footage of those areas is sit far back with a suppressed subsonic round and drop some joggers while also using social media to spread rumors of police snipers taking out specific rioters….”

Others want to further exacerbate racial tensions. “Good time to stroke race relations” and “post black live’s don’t matter stickers,” a user posted to Reformthestates’ Telegram channel.

Meanwhile, a poster on Vorherrschaft Division’s Telegram channel referenced Siege, a white supremacist term for race war: “The time to get started is now white man. Prepare yourself for what is to come. When the black militias come to your door and start knocking you'd best be prepared to deal with it. Siege is coming, it's right around the corner.”

A user on ThirdPosition’s Telegram channel appears to be reveling in the chaos: “The chimps are doing our work for us. When the ashes settle we will be there to rebuild the world in our favor. Hail Final Victory!”

Other white supremacists are angry that white people are being blamed for violence and property destruction: “…No matter what we do, they will scapegoat us regardless. Why should we sit idly by if it’s going to happen anyway?”

"BOOGALOO" AND MILITIA GROUPS?

Right-wing anti-government extremists have also reacted to the protests and violence following the killing of George Floyd. In particular, strong reactions have come from adherents of the embryonic “boogaloo” movement and from extremists associated with the militia movement.

Boogaloo and militia reactions have generally been quite different in nature, though neither faction is unanimous in its opinions. Boogalooers in particular have embraced and supported the protests, with many even participating in them, especially the protests of May 30.

“Boogaloo” is a slang term for a future civil war; boogalooers (or “boogaloo bois, as they are sometimes called) variously anticipate, prepare for, or embrace such a violent struggle. Some white supremacists have also adopted the boogaloo concept, but most boogalooers are not white supremacist. Rather, their orientation is anti-government and vehemently anti-police, a fact that has largely shaped their reactions to the protests against George Floyd’s killing.

Many boogalooers have seen the protests as an opportunity to further their anti-police crusade and make common cause with others angry at police. One boogalooer on Instagram explained, “Even if some of the demonstrators don’t support our movement, they will learn in time our intention is pure and…we are all in the same sinking boat.”

In sharp contrast to the boogalooers, members of the militia movement and allied groups (including the III%ers and Oath Keepers) have expressed very little empathy with the protesters. Their reaction has been far more hostile, in part because the militia movement views the protests as organized by the extreme left for nefarious purposes, but also because (unlike the boogalooers), the militia movement strongly supports President Trump.

Rather than making common cause with protesters, the militia movement has issued calls against them. “These organized protests are not about any issue other than promoting hate by socialists,” claimed a West Virginia participant in the My Militia forums. “These are hired domestic terrorists bought and paid for by the socialist conglomerates in America.”

Boogalooers and militia groups’ on the ground activity in cities nationwide underscores their divergent positions on the protests. On May 30, people wearing shirts bearing the logo for the III% movement were photographed standing outside the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina.

THREE PERCENTERS

On May 30, self-described “Boogaloo Boy” Paul Miller posted an Instagram video of himself “reporting” from the protests in Brooklyn, New York. During the video Miller wore an igloo facemask, a reference to the “Big Igloo,” one of the phrases Boogaloo adherents use. Boogalooers were also photographed joining protests in Norfolk, Virginia and Dallas, Texas. In Richmond, Virginia, a small, armed group of individuals dressed in militia-style garb joined protesters on May 30. One member of the group told protesters, “We are here to help you guys. We need to come together as one.”

ANARCHISTS?

Some anarchists are opportunists and view societal unrest as a chance to destroy a “corrupt” system. They are less attached to any particular cause (antiracism, etc.) than they are to the fundamental dismantling of the state.

Brooklyn anarchist group The Base (not to be confused with the white supremacist group) tweeted its endorsement of continued “rebellion,” and threatened action against both “peace policing” and “liberal counterinsurgency” efforts.

There are also reports that antifa (anti-fascists) have shown up at the protests. Focused on social justice issues, antifa are a loose collection of groups, networks and individuals who believe in active, sometimes aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements. They have been especially active since the 2016 presidential election.