proud boys anti-vaccine rally

Speakers at the Defeat the Mandates rally led by anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. presented a dystopian vision of totalitarian control in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Sunday that attracted extremist groups like the Proud Boys and alongside prominent figures in the effort to subvert the 2020 election.

"Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps; you could hide in the attic, like Anne Frank did," Kennedy said in a speech that devolved into a rant that leapt from resentment against public health measures to paranoia about Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as the mastermind of a global surveillance regime.

"Today, the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run and hide," Kennedy continued. "Within five years, we’re going to see 450,000 low-orbit satellites. Bill Gates and his 65,000 satellites alone will be able to look at every square inch of the planet 24 hours a day. They’re putting in 5G to harvest our data and control our behavior — digital currency that will allow them to punish us from a distance and cut off our food supply."

A large InfoWars flag — representing the conspiracy theorist platform that has pumped out anti-government messaging for decades and amplified false claims of election fraud in 2020 — fluttered in the wind near the Lincoln Memorial. Joe Flynn, the brother of retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who helped promote disinformation to discredit the election, rubbed shoulders with uniformed firefighters in Operation Freedom of Choice. Patrick Byrne, the CEO who went to the White House in December 2020 with Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell to try to persuade President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act in December 2020, was also at the Defeat the Mandates rally on Sunday.

A dozen or more Proud Boys in traditional colors staked out a position at the end of the Reflecting Pool, joined by two men wearing skull masks, camouflage jackets, khaki pants and work boots. The two men attached to the Proud Boys group took turns carrying a backpack bearing patches of the Confederate battle flag and another national colors and emblem of Ukraine. A small group of counter-protesters chanted on a nearby knoll, and at one point, the Proud Boys went over, but left quickly without a confrontation. Dozens of Proud Boys face federal charges, including conspiracy to obstruct the electoral count, for their involvement in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

Shekinah Hollingsworth, a self-described "Groyper" — part of a movement that follows white nationalist Nicholas Fuentes — chatted with an activist carrying a sheaf of anti-vaccine signs promoting Turning Point USA, the conservative group headed by Charlie Kirk. Hollingsworth told Raw Story that the Groypers "seek to bring back a real identity: net-zero immigration, revere our founders, against critical race theory, which seeks to diminish American identity."

Hollingsworth, who identifies as biracial, told Raw Story she doesn’t see a problem with white nationalism, justifying it as equivalent to other racial groups advocating for themselves.

"Groypers don’t make a distinction between people who support the cause," she said. “There are Black Groypers. America was founded by white people. It’s through building coalitions with other minorities that we’re able to enjoy the benefits of American society.”

When speakers mentioned Gates and Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president, rally attendees broke into chants of, "Lock him up!"

Other speakers attacked the news media, responding angrily to accurate reporting that conveys that vaccines are safe and effective while reducing the rate of death and hospitalization from COVID.

"There are people on this stand that went to journalism school, and now they are shilling for Big Pharma," Dr. Ryan Cole said. "They are censoring. When you woke up in the morning, CNN, did you say I’m going to cancel and censor doctors today so people can die’? We hold you responsible, too. Look into your hearts and say, ‘I have been wrong, I will be humble. I will do my job as a journalist and learn the truth — that people have immune systems, that Vitamin D saves lives."

"We are being starved of critical information media ignores us," complained Dr. Pierre Kory, who has described ivermectin as a "wonder drug" and testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee at the invitation of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). The Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that the agency has received multiple reports of patients requiring medical attention, including hospitalization, after using ivermectin, a medication designed to treat infections caused by parasites in horses and other large animals.

"It’s about the war on repurposed drugs," he said. "We’re trying to win that war. And we are winning that war. And we will win that war. I see all of you guys. I am so grateful to see America showing up. That’s what we do. We are Americans and we resist tyranny! Enough with the medical tyranny!"