The true motivations behind the anti-lockdown rallies are just as concerning for minorities as the spread of COVID-19.
While the press brings attention to anti-lockdown protests happening across the country, many Americans have been focused on not just the idiocy of armed rallies against policies benefiting the public’s health, but the white privilege behind rallygoers screaming about their civil liberties being violated after years of howling when Black folks, Latinos, or other people of color have done the same.
If it feels like there’s more to these protests, that’s because there is.
As you know, the first large anti-government hate-rally took place in Lansing, Michigan. It was dubbed “Operation Gridlock” by the primary organizers of the event, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a far-right group with various ties to known extremists and extremist groups as well as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. These not-so-good-spellers welcomed extremist groups to attend their rally helping boost their numbers — and expose as many people as possible to COVID-19.
The ensuing chaos of “Operation Gridlock” resulted in members of the Proud Boys — who are always outraged about protests against police brutality by people of color — blocking traffic to the front of Sparrow Hospital, causing issues for emergency services despite the denials of the participating groups. In fact, they are all blaming each other right now which is hilarious.
It’s also worth noting that the Michigan Conservative Coalition, despite claiming moral purity, had recently posted on Facebook a cartoon attacking lockdown orders as a social control scheme. The cartoon was drawn by a well-known neo-nazi who promotes conspiracy theories and bigotry against Jews, women, immigrants, Black folks, and LGBTQ people.
As most hate groups do, the Michigan Conservative Coalition denies the racist element of their neo-nazi daycare program. However, they regularly feature white nationalist memes and echo white nationalist talking points on their Facebook page. The group also recently hosted Michelle Malkin who is closely associated with the far-right’s nationalist agenda.
The appearance of hate groups is not surprising. Historically, hateful extremists have always been at the forefront of white people protesting supposed attacks on their civil liberties (sorry white folks, it’s true). Much like today, the KKK once joined in on protests that weren’t specifically about white supremacy. Instead, the focus was on a set of shared ideals by a broader community of white folks (segregation, against inter-racial marriage).
It was there that they would recruit new members; just as modern-day groups do now.
They ditched the robes and milled about the crowds feeling out potential recruits. The target was (and always will be) white young men exhibiting insecurities or a sense of social or racial anxiety. From there they can be radicalized into joining hate groups like the Proud Boys. They are coaxed by seemingly innocuous rhetoric (family, patriotism, community) that inevitably graduates into more extremist language (misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, white nationalism).
Groups such as the Proud Boys have seen tremendous success in their recruitment efforts — as noted by their exponential growth over the last two years. There are also many heavily-armed racist militias attending these rallies despite having ideological differences with some other groups. Focusing on their commonalities opens the door to establishing relationships with others; thus expanding their reach resulting in additional growth.
When we discuss the commonalities in the motivations of the various groups who attend these rallies, the conversation needs to go much deeper than recruitment numbers. Whether they are racist street-fighting groups, religious fundamentalist groups, right-wing militia groups, or other elements of the far-right subculture, their common interests revolve around hate.
From homophobia to xenophobia to anti-Semitism to misogyny to white supremacy, they can align themselves under the same banner because they all share the common vision of America where white people (white men in particular) maintain dominance over everyone else. That’s the reality of what we are seeing unfold in cities across America. That’s who these people are.
The notion that these protests began once news broke of minorities being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus is not lost on me.
Remember, we are talking about groups of people who largely believe white genocide is a thing. There is no way in hell they’d be out there if they thought they were in danger of dying from COVID-19. This is not to say that they don’t believe the coronavirus is real. In fact, most of them acknowledge that it’s real. But what they think and what they know are two different things.
“Time to get our freedom back.” — Laura Ingraham
It’s clear they think they can survive COVID-19 better than the rest of us; noted by their constant statements along the lines of “let the weak die to save the economy.” In case you haven’t noticed, we are “the weak” in this dog-whistle. Indigenous, Latinos, and Black folks. The communities hardest hit by the coronavirus. It’s not that these hatemongers don’t think they’ll contract the virus either, in fact, many are expecting to catch it. But they aren’t concerned because, well, they’re white.
And they have access to better healthcare.
They think their bodies are superior to ours and I believe one of the driving factors (if not the main driving factor) for these anti-lockdown protests is to see minorities suffer. These racist white people think they’re just going to go back to their ho-hum lives as if nothing happened. They see it as an opportunity for them to “cull the herd” of non-white people — or so they think.
Just wait for it though. La ‘Rona is coming for them too.
We see the characters on TV. Typically overweight dudes wearing entirely too much gear for their out-of-shape asses and carrying a bigger gun than they could handle in a real war type of scenario. I see those guys and I think, “the minute bullets start flying, they’re going to cower in fear and shit themselves.” Seriously, I can’t help but laugh when I see them acting tough.
The thing is, individually these guys are clearly cowards. But as a group, their rhetoric and in numerous cases, their actions, have proved dangerous to marginalized communities. We’ve seen far too many cases of so-called lone-wolves — who we know to have been members of hate groups — take murderous actions against minorities.
A far too common occurrence that has greatly escalated since Trump took office.
While it may be quiet now, these hate rallies and their cheerleaders are firing people up in a scary way. Again, dog-whistles from the president of the United States — directed at militias and hate groups — to “liberate” states agitates the psyche of those waiting to “rise up” when called on to do so. Trump’s not-so-coded language along with his Klan-ish cheerleaders at Fox News and Breitbart are helping drive these ideas that will cost lives in one way *cough* or another.
This loud minority on the frontlines of the anti-lockdown protests not only fits the profile of the typical all-American bigot, but they also represent their population numbers with near-precision.
While they complain about their civil liberties being violated without ever citing precisely which of their rights have been lost, the reality is they know we are being disproportionately affected and therefore want to open the economy back up since, by their logic, they are at much less risk of dying than non-white Americans. To them, COVID-19 is just another flu (that kills minorities).
“Many are willing to take the risk of contracting the virus” — Laura Ingraham
There are many players in these hate groups. From cops and judges being members of the Proud Boys to political associations with known Klan members to politicians who regularly espouse hate speech, these beliefs and the groups behind them are far from fringe. They are loudly and proudly in our faces and our legal system does nothing about these groups despite their near-constant threats against the State, law enforcement, and minority groups.
Needless to say, if people of color acted this way they would destroy us both rhetorically and legally as they employ the legal system to find ways to prosecute us. But if you’re white, not only are you allowed to carry any firearm you want, you’ll be greeted with open arms as the guardians of the white supremacy allow you to enter government buildings armed for war.
Besides “Operation Gridlock” being co-hosted by the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group that is overseen by the DeVos Family, there are many more people of great wealth that pour money into hate groups. It’s because of this massive influx of cash that these groups continue to proliferate in American society. Such has been the case for many generations.
While most of the old-school Klansmen have died, the newer suit-wearing, clean-cut, David Duke styled white supremacist runs the show now. Pay attention to some of the people mentioned here, how they dress, how they talk. They’re as slick as a Cadillac salesman selling cars to the mafia by pointing out how many bodies fit in the trunk. It’s imperfect, but it works.
The influencers and financiers of old may be gone, but the newer generation has more money, is much smoother, and has more tools available to them than any other time in history. If it feels like hate groups are popping up everywhere, it’s because they are. Below is a list of some of the most prominent names behind the spread of hate and the backers of modern-day hate groups.
Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice Media, is the founder of the Proud Boys. While McInnes was forced out of Vice early on for his white nationalist views, his wealth and “hipster” fame provided him with the platform he needed to spread those views while recruiting more members into his sexist/racist club. His views are shared by people such as Richard Spencer and many other prominent neo-nazis.
McInnes says he’s no longer affiliated with the group. It’s a claim many doubt.
Robert Mercer invested heavily in Breitbart — the platform for the alt-right according to Steve Bannon. He and his daughter, Rebekah, are known to have used the outlet to push their own views and interests alongside those of bigoted and racist writers such as Milo Yiannapolous and so many others. Mercer also invested in Yiannapolous’ failed media venture “MILO” after he was expelled from Breitbart for defending pedophilia in an interview.
Mercer himself has his own personal issues with race. David Magerman, who worked at Renaissance Technologies (RenTech) for 20 years, filed a lawsuit alleging Mercer harbors bigoted views. Mercer made his fortune as the CEO of RenTech, a hedge fund that uses algorithms to make investment decisions.
The lawsuit also alleges that Mercer excluded Black folks from high-paying positions.
Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, and Donald Trump’s biggest financial supporter regularly donates millions to anti-Muslim groups through private funds and foundations. He along with many far-right evangelical groups are ideologically aligned and involved with vast networks of Islamophobic groups who fuel anti-Muslim hate in politics and society today.
Nina Rosenwald, the Sears heiress, used her tax-exempt Abstraction Fund to funnel $3.2 million to anti-Muslim groups. She also pumped $1.9 million into the conspiracy theory peddling Gatestone Institute which she founded and where former National Security Adviser John Bolton was once chairman. The Gatestone Institute is regarded as a publisher of literal fake news.
Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer and founder of Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE), has donated $32 million to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) which was founded by Sekulow and televangelist Pat Robertson. The ACLJ spreads anti-Muslim propaganda and also provided legal support for Trump administration’s 2017 Muslim travel ban.
Aside from the individuals mentioned here, there are many documented cases of non-profit groups who maintain “dark money” transactions with hate groups. As it stands, many donations pass through these organizations undetected because they are mostly handled through anonymous donor networks known as Donor Advised Funds (DAF).
Many hate groups also receive donations via DAF funds that pass-through companies such as Fidelity, Schwab, Vanguard, and Donors Trust through anonymous charitable gift funds.
Don’t believe for a second that the anti-lockdown protests are solely about the civil liberties of angry white folks. The rallies are about so much more than that. These yahoos can scream “tyranny” all they want but it’s painfully obvious that that the real motivation has everything to do with minorities suffering more than they are right now. I think that’s about to change though.
Additionally, the protests being funded by billionaires such as the Mercer and DeVos family — among so many others — is reminiscent of the Tea Party movement. Like the white nationalist movement we see today, the Tea Party was backed by big money from the same people and groups mentioned here. Including the Koch Industries funded Americans for Prosperity.
Finally, don’t let anyone compare this to protests in history that brought about tangible solutions that moved our country forward. Comparing these barely capable gun-owning rednecks to Rosa Parks, Colin Kaepernick, the Civil Rights movement, or Black Lives Matter is an exercise in elementary false equivalence. Don’t waste your time with such idiocy.
American civil rights icons didn’t whine as these privileged babies do.
Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd who started his career in writing after suffering a stroke at the age of 40. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three young men. He is a regular contributor to Latino Rebels. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here see the links below or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.