Roaming bands of white supremacists trawled the streets of Washington D.C. on Saturday, setting fires to Black Lives Matter banners and getting into stabbing fights in what appeared to be a free-for all outpouring of racist rage.
Earlier in the day, MAGA supporters gathered in the nation’s capital for a rally to protest the election results, where the Washington Post reports they heard from Alex Jones and Michael Flynn (who was recently pardoned by Trump for lying to the FBI).
Videos posted on social media show a band of diminutive, pinch-faced, red-hatted white men chanting that they will “destroy the GOP” because the party has not ensured Trump stays in office—though he has absolutely no valid claim to do so because he undeniably lost the election.
By that evening, members of the white nationalist Proud Boys group began spreading out across the D.C. area, pulling Black Lives Matter signs off of historically Black churches and destroying them—including by setting the signs afire:
“Last night demonstrators who were part of the MAGA gatherings tore down our Black Lives Matter sign and literally burned it in the street,” said the Rev. Ianther M. Mills of Asbury Methodist Church, one of the institutions whose sign was taken by the marauding MAGAs. “For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.”
Rev. Mills added that the church would “move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to shout the truth without ceasing,” but said that he found it alarming that the incidents were not being denounced at the highest levels.
President Trump notoriously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the presidential debates in September, and it appears that they have consequently responded to the statement as marching orders in light of their leader’s electoral loss.
At some point last night, the white nationalist group also clashed with counter protestors in physical fights in which multiple people were stabbed.
From the Washington Post:
At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, a gathering point for the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism.
The victims were hospitalized and suffered possibly life-threatening injuries, D.C. fire spokesman Doug Buchanan said. It was not immediately clear with which groups the attackers or the injured might have been affiliated.
The violence escalated after an evening of faceoffs with counterprotesters that took place near Harry’s, Black Lives Matter Plaza, Franklin Square, and other spots around downtown. At first, officers in riot gear successfully kept the two sides apart, even as the groups splintered and roamed. In helmets and bulletproof vests, Proud Boys marched through downtown in military like rows, shouting “move out” and “1776!”
Though this year we’ve seen riot cops employ pepper spray and use their batons wantonly against people during protests for racial justice, the police present in D.C. last night appeared unprepared to sufficiently stem the clashes happening on the streets, which left at least eight people injured and hospitalized two officers. The police said 23 people were arrested from Saturday’s violent gatherings.
As darkness continues to fall quicker across the country during the winter, it remains to be seen just how far these white “protestors” will be allowed to take out their rage at losing the election, and when any leader—Republican or Democrat—will have the courage to speak out and condemn them unreservedly.
Updated: 12/13/2020, 4:15 p.m. ET: The D.C. police say that they are investigating the Proud Boys’ burning of Black Lives Matter signs taken from the Ashbury Methodist Church and Metropolitan AME Church as possible hate crimes. “We take these offenses very seriously,” said a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department in a statement to The Root. The MPD is asking anyone with information about the incidents to call 202-727-9099 or text 50411.