Activists Brace for Far Right Violence as Trump’s Diehard Backers Flood DC
UPDATE: Vice President Mike Pence has been ushered out of the Capitol building after pro-Trump protesters breached the building. The offices of the Madison and Cannon buildings have been evacuated as Trump supporters continue to clash with police on Capitol steps.
After staging a candlelight vigil that video confirms was peaceful at the Virginia home of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), activists are continuing to rebuff false claims by the senator and other Republicans accusing them of “leftwing violence” while bracing for the fallout of today’s anti-democracy March for Trump — where the real threat of violence looms.
“Tonight while I was in Missouri, Antifa scumbags came to our place in DC and threatened my wife and newborn daughter,” Hawley wrote on Twitter late Monday. “They screamed threats, vandalized, and tried to pound open our door.”
But the video shows a different story: A group of about 15 people associated with ShutDownDC, a progressive direct action group, held candles and signs reading “Protect Democracy” in protest of Hawley’s plan to object to the Electoral College results during a joint session of Congress today. They chanted through a megaphone, wrote in chalk on the sidewalk and rang the doorbell as they left a copy of the Constitution on Hawley’s doorstep.
The video shows police responding to the scene and asking protesters to lower their volume but taking no further action. Hawley’s wife apparently opened the front door to complain that she has “neighbors and a baby,” and a neighbor is also seen complaining about the protest.
Since Monday’s protest, organizers say they have been targeted online as those on the right mass report service term violations on their social media channels. Indeed, the group had one tweet taken down after allegedly posting the addresses of several Republican politicians.
“We were such a little threat that security identified us as such. [Hawley’s] claims about us would be laughable, except that it is consistent and representative of the way the right wing has been abusing the truth and portraying folks like us who are standing up for democratic principles as improper citizens,” ShutDownDC organizer Nadine Bloch told Truthout. “The true terrorism is on the side of the right wing that is currently in Washington, D.C., [for the March for Trump], blatantly brandishing weapons, calling for harm against ordinary people, activists and police.”
Thousands on the right, ranging from far right hate and militia groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to QAnon conspiracy theorists are expected to join Republican officials and pro-Trump celebrities at today’s anti-democracy protests in the nation’s capital. The marches is scheduled to coincide with that joint session of Congress where lawmakers will vote to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Senator Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) plan lead about a dozen GOP senators in objecting to the Electoral College votes, but the maneuver has no chance of overturning the election.
National Guard troops have been activated in the district after the Pentagon approved a request by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Police arrested six pro-Trump protesters Tuesday night on charges ranging from carrying a pistol without a license to assault of a police officer.
ShutDownDC organizers say their protest at Hawley’s house was necessary not only to defend democracy but also because Hawley’s efforts to overturn the election have also emboldened far right Trump supporters on the ground in D.C. today to endanger district residents by putting them at risk of violent clashes.
Case in point, Bloch and other D.C.-based organizers say, is the Monday arrest in D.C. of Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the far right group, the Proud Boys. Tarrio was charged with destruction of property after admitting to the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner that had been taken from the historically Black Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church last month during protests in the nation’s capital.
Tarrio is facing additional weapons charges after police found him in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines emblazoned with the Proud Boys’ logo. He has since been released after pleading not guilty to the charges but has been ordered to stay out of D.C. Tarrio has said online that the Proud Boys “will turn out in record numbers” today but would “spread out incognito.” Authorities have linked multiple shootings and plots targeting elected officials this summer to far right movements.
The Metropolitan AME Church filed a lawsuit Monday against Tarrio and the Proud Boys for “engaging in acts of terror and vandalizing church property in an effort to intimidate the Church and silence its support for racial justice” during the December 12 protests that resulted in four stabbings and 33 arrests after far right protesters and anti-fascist counterprotesters clashed downtown.
“We will use civil rights law as a way of sending a message to extremists that they are not above the law and will be held accountable for their dangerous, toxic and dark actions,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Democracy Now!
ShutDownDC is not calling for activists to be present in downtown D.C. today. Instead, the organization is working alongside other D.C. groups, including Black Lives Matter DC, to engage in a strategic street art campaign and pressure local leaders and area hotels and restaurants to close their doors during the protests.
“If you’re facing an enemy that outguns you, literally, it makes a lot of sense not to directly engage and rather use more innovative, creative and dispersed tactics, and a lot of groups are calling for people not to go downtown out of an abundance of safety concerns for their own folks,” Bloch said. “We’re not in a position to keep people safe in this situation, and so we have to be really honest about how we can confront these right-wing supremacists without putting a lot of people at extreme danger.”
The group has trained hundreds of activists in “street smarts” and other defensive tactics this season and continues to work with alongside other D.C.-based progressive groups to share resources and organize safe houses, as well as with medic collectives to address the health and safety needs of activists.
D.C. organizers have condemned the city’s and local police response to the influx of Trump supporters this week, including a recent statement by the D.C. Council urging residents to avoid the downtown area. The district’s response, organizers say, fails to protect unsheltered people who live on the district’s downtown streets or those who need to use public transit to get to downtown jobs who could be targeted by far right extremists based on race, religious garb, gender nonconformity or other visible identifiers.
“It’s not [the district’s] responsibility to issue [protest] permits, but I think there’s always more that people in leadership in D.C. could do beyond saying, ‘Stay out of downtown’ because that is not an option for a lot of us,” ShutDownDC organizer Hope Neyer told Truthout. Moreover, organizers say, the far right can exploit the district’s lack of voting rights and representation to sow chaos and provoke a military or martial law response.
ShutDownDC formed in 2019 after climate activists shut down traffic in the District with blockades at key intersections during the youth climate strikes that year. While the group is embracing more of a culture jamming approach for today’s anti-democracy protest, organizers aren’t condemning other D.C.-based activists who decide to be present in the streets throughout the day and into the night.
If allied communities are attacked by the Proud Boys, Bloch says, a number of organizations and coalitions stand ready to come together to provide aid and support, just as they have before. “We’re not going out there, and we’re not going to be peace keeping, or peace policing anything that’s happening,” she says.