“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by” Donald Trump ordered the white supremacist all-men group, during the dispiriting presidential debate of September 30. When asked to condemn the rightwing militia, Trump, as is his custom, could only come up with this highly controversial line. This lead to a tremendous shiver of excitement for all far-right activists, whilst we could hear the rest of the audience gnashing its teeth. Calling themselves ’Western Chauvinists’ and identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys bear a name sadly associated with violence and hatred. A few moments after the injunction of the president, the Proud Boys’ chairman Enrique Tarrio immediately ordered t-shirts for the whole crew that said: “PROUD BOYS STANDING BY.” A few days later, facing the fait accompli, the actor George Takei wanted to restore the image of the word ‘pride.’ He proposed that gay couples would post wholesome pictures of themselves on Twitter, using the hashtag #ProudBoys. As the social platform filled up with more than 88,000 tweets containing the hashtag, he temporarily successfully plunged those words into goodness.
“Let’s replace the hashtag with images of love, positivity and true PRIDE” tweeted Carlos G. Smith, a member of Florida’s House of Representatives, posting images of him and his partner in their happiest moments. On the other side, the founder of Proud Boys Gavin McIness, leads a completely different fight. He confidently affirmed that the President “was saying I appreciate you and appreciate your support […] if Antifa starts burning down cities again, go in and fight them.” His opinion is followed by the founder of the neo-Nazi website of the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, who was thrilled to hear that Trump “is telling the people to stand by. As in: get ready for war.” The words from Donald Trump dangerously gave those right-wing extremist groups the feeling of being “validated” by the government, analyzed Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University in North Carolina who specializes in online extremism. Since the authorities hazardously endorsed the movement, climate activist Peter McCartney appealed to the love spreading of the LGBT community saying that “we need to … make it so they can’t hold events in public, organize online, actually take those spaces away from them so they can’t recruit people.”
This movement is one out of many, that try to peacefully re-shape segments of society that rely on rejection and brutality. Facing such violence, the solution rests in the actions that have been taken with #ProudBoys as well as with many retailers, including Amazon, Teespring, eBay and later Etsy, who quickly deleted from their platforms items ordered by the hate group. Indeed, the Canadian novelist and LGBT activist Danny Ramadan stated that “it’s really not about sending a message to the Proud Boys … it’s about drowning their hateful voice.” The key is to underline to the widest audience that their defamatory remarks and violent acts are not accepted and such hatred should not exist.
Designated by the FBI as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism,” the Proud Boys swore loyalty to the US President and promised that they will continue to fight for him. No matter what.
Not knowing what the future holds for them, many American voters are more than ever determined to express their opinions in the hope of greater unity on certain subjects. The presence of such groups is a source of division and uncertainty in a time where unity is the most needed in the United States. To that, the LGBT community simply says, keep lovin’.
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