“I am a proud western chauvinist; I refuse to apologise for creating the modern world.”
This is not some sort of a white supremacist maniac’s rant on social media. This is actually the official oath one must take to join the Proud Boys, a militant group of white nationalists that came to prominence in 2020. And they are armed and ready to descend on Washington on Wednesday, along with other similar groups in what could be the US hard-core right-wing movement’s last stand in challenging the results of the presidential elections- to pressure Congress to reject Joe Biden’s win and vote in favour of President Donald Trump.
As evident by their in your face oath, the Proud Boys, founded in 2016 by Canadian-British right-wing activist Gavin McInnes, is basically a group of racist nut jobs. Their ideology revolves around so many ‘antis’- anti- immigration, anti- blacks, anti- gun control, anti- feminism and gender equality and anti- liberals. Sounds like a Trump campaign slogans!
Ironically, the group’s name is a reference to a song from the musical version of the Disney film Aladdin- a play that promotes tolerance and diversity. Members of the group often wear black and yellow Fred Perry polo shirts along with red “Make America Great Again” hats. They have a history of violence against minorities, particularly during the Black Live Matter protests last summer, which resulted in their designation as extremist group by the FBI.
Their name hit the news in two months ago when President Trump addressed them directly during one of the presidential election debates. During the debate, he was asked repeatedly by the moderator, Chris Wallace, to condemn violence by white supremacists and right wing groups, such as armed militias. A reluctant Trump asked for a specific group, Biden quickly named the Proud Boys.
For a moment, the President seemed hesitant only to say later: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by!” before adding: “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left.” Antifa refers to a coalition of anti- racism leftist groups. Many understood Trump’s comment as a tacit approval of what the Proud Boys do- attacking the leftists and liberal activists on the streets.
The prominence of this group, which is reportedly allied with the white- hooded group of cross-burning, anti- black group of fascists Ku Klux Klan, is just one example of the dangerous trend of race politics that has been evolving in America since Trump came to power four years ago. His apparent scorn of immigrants- building the wall, immediate deportations, entry ban on Muslim travellers to the US, has encouraged many of the right-wing groups to come out of the closet.
The Proud Boys will be the main feature at the expected pro- Trump protests on 6 January, called by the president few days ago to accentuate his claim that massive voter fraud was behind Biden’s election victory. While golfing in Florida over the weekend, Trump tweeted calling on his supporters to attend Wednesday’s rally against what he again described as “the biggest SCAM” in US history. “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it,” he wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence will lead a joint session of Congress- comprising both the House of Representatives and the Senate, to certify the Electoral College votes submitted by each state, which represent the results of the popular vote in the November 3 elections. He would open and read the certificates reporting the results from each state, and then declare the victor, which in this case is Joe Biden. The process has never gotten any attention before because it is just a formality. But as Trump continues to reject the results of the elections, the process has become an important date on Washington’s calendar.
The atmosphere, thus, is getting so tense that one of the oldest hotels in the city is closing its doors for three days- before, during and after the Congress session. The Hotel Harrington, since its opening in 1904, is popular among non-official visitors to the US capital. According to the Washington Post, the Proud Boys has made the Harrington “its unofficial headquarters when members come to the District”. Several hundred Proud Boys recently stayed at the hotel while in town for the 12 December protest of Biden’s election as president. In clashes during that rally, several people were stabbed, and dozens arrested. In a statement to the newspaper, the hotel said it will be closed on January 4, 5 and 6 for “concern and desire for everyone’s health and safety.”
It is kind of bizarre, not surprising though, that some in the Republican Party and also in the Trump circle would welcome the support of such hideous groups as the Proud Boys and other right-wing groups like Women for America First group and ‘StoptheSteal’ in this pathetic attempt to overturn the election results, after almost all federal and state courts dismissed the president’s legal challenges. If the anyone in the Washington establishment thinks that this type of protesters could pressure Congress to overturn or even question the results they are seriously out of touch with reality.
However, this absurd political scene proves what many had been warning of since the night of the 2016 elections- America is divided more than ever along racial and class lines. The Proud Boys and other similar groups would not have dared to come out of nowhere into the national political spectrum had they felt that the political and social environment would not tolerate them.
On 20 January, Biden’s presidency will be inaugurated. The new administration will take office. However, despite his many relative successes in the economy and foreign policy, Trump’s domestic policies will likely haunt America for years to come. It will take more years to bridge the racial divide. As a starting point though, America, and the Biden administration must ensure that the Proud Boys and their allies are put in their proper place- on the list of banned hate groups. They must go back into whatever rotten hole they crawled from four years ago.