On Thursday, writing for The Daily Beast, Kelly Weill reported that President Donald Trump's nod to the Proud Boys at the first presidential debate has election officials worried he is opening the floodgates for vigilantes to engage in voter intimidation — or possibly violence.
"During the debate, Trump appeared to tell the far-right paramilitary group the Proud Boys to 'stand by' and urged fans to 'go into the polls and watch very carefully' for voter fraud, an exceedingly rare phenomenon Trump has crafted into a cornerstone of his political identity," reported Weill. "If the prospect of election-related violence was already looming over the first presidential contest since Trump effectively welcomed the paramilitary far-right into the Republican Party, the debate made the alarm bells ring even louder."
"The Proud Boys capitalized on Trump’s comments even before the debate’s end, putting his words on memes and t-shirts. But the far-right glee at the prospect of presidential permission for election-related violence wasn‘t confined to one group," continued the report. "Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, wrote a post-debate blog post that reiterated Trump’s baseless claims that Democrats would attempt election fraud, and claimed that 'Trump is ready for a war in the streets.' (Anglin cannot personally participate in said war on the streets because he has gone AWOL while avoiding an ongoing lawsuit and tens of millions in civil penalties from previous lawsuits.)"
Experts warn that this is a dangerous development.
“During Reconstruction, after the Civil War, during the 1920s, during the Civil Rights movement, attempts to keep people from exercising their legal right to vote were as intrinsic to white supremacy and white power groups as a burning cross,” said University of Chicago history professor Kathleen Belew. “It’s one of the textbook, central strategies.”
“Given the Trump orbit’s connection to the Proud Boys and given his advisors’ connections to previous voting meddling efforts,” said Institute for Research & Education and Human Rights executive director Devin Burghart, “there is certainly a concern both for violence on Election Day coming from groups like the Proud Boys and, should there not be a clear victor on November 3, for potential violence and meddling in the electoral process after Election Day.”
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