Trump’s mention of the Proud Boys, a right-wing group that promotes anti-immigration rhetoric, appears to have “legitimized and encouraged the group,” according to Richard Moon, a University of Waterloo law professor specializing in hate speech and freedom. expression.
“It’s incredibly disturbing,” Moon said. “The group’s reaction was excitement… after what the president said, it feels like they matter and have a role to play.”
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During the presidential debate, Trump was asked if he condemns white supremacists.
The president then referred to the Proud Boys.
“Proud Boys, take a step back and stay away,” he said, before focusing on Antifa.
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Members of the Proud Boy took note of Trump’s remarks.
At least one organizer of Proud Boy celebrated the group’s mention on the Talking social media platform, saying, “President Trump has told the proud boys to get ready because someone has to take care of them. ANTIFA… well sir! we are ready!! “According to screenshots posted by a New York Times reporter on Twitter.
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, on Twitter called Trump’s response “astonishing.”
“Try to determine if it was an answer or an admission. @POTUS owes America an apology or an explanation. Now, ”Greenblatt wrote, tagging Trump’s official Twitter account.
“They got the message loud and clear here, too, posting pictures with messages promising they are ‘on hold’ for Trump. It has also given them a boost – people are wondering how to join them, ”Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told Global News.
“His order to activate them… will also spur Canadian groups to act,” he said.
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Who are the Proud Boys?
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys were formed in 2016 and were founded by Gavin McInnes, a British-Canadian right-wing activist and co-founder of VICE Media.
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The group is made up of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” who “deny any connection with the racist alt-right” and call themselves “a fraternal group disseminating a program of anti-political rectitude and anti-white guilt” declared.
They have multiple chapters across Canada, including Brantford, Ontario, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Calgary, Alberta and Winnipeg, Manitoba, according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
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The legal group classifies the Proud Boys as a hate group, and the Anti-Defamation League calls them “die-hard white supremacists.”
The Proud Boys dispute these descriptions. However, the group has been banned from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for their hate speech posts.
“The group has been described as misogynistic, xenophobic and white supremacist,” Moon said. “He was also involved in street violence. And we know Trump knows it.
In 2018, McInnes announced he was disassociating himself from the group, saying he was following the advice of his legal team.
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Did Trump think so?
Speaking to reporters a day after the debate, Trump said he did not know the group at all.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are, you’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are,” Trump said Wednesday. “I can only say they have to step back, let the law enforcement do their job.”
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It is also a change of message from what the Trump campaign team said.
Jason Miller, senior presidential campaign adviser, told the New York Times on Tuesday that Trump was “very clear he wanted them to be brought down.”
Moon wondered if Trump meant “stand by” in another context.
“Did he mean that actually? Or did he intend to say “resignation”? Even though he intended to say something else… he could have corrected himself now, but he didn’t, ”Moon said.
He said Trump’s use of the phrase “stand by” is of particular concern because it suggests “command” to an organization that is ready to follow him.
“It suggests a relationship,” he explained.
“What does it mean if the president appears to be in communication with a racist and white supremacist organization, saying they should ‘stay away’? Does that mean they are waiting for events to follow? Or the election itself? It really raises the question of what’s going to happen, ”Moon said.
Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Cente, told the Washington Post that Trump’s recognition of the group was a “pretext” for heightened white vigilance.
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“This is a group that has organized street brawls using social media, that has targeted people in their homes and now believes their crusade against the protesters is legitimate,” she said.
Moon said he was concerned Trump’s remarks could lead to violence, as groups like the Proud Boys have gained “confidence” as the “message” comes from the president.
Balgord agreed, saying he expects more violence to ensue, as many groups, even in Canada, are very loyal to Trump and expect some to “bustle” around the election. .
“The Proud Boys will see an increase in recruiting in the United States and here [Canada], ” he said. “They’re going to feel more encouraged to use violence, especially when Trump tells them to launch the attack.”
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