The protests that have spread across the nation in the wake of the murder of George Floyd have attracted a diverse group of supporters that go beyond local Black communities and national organizations. At events in Washington, New York, Minneapolis, and elsewhere, community activists have been joined by allies, by groups supporting Latinos, Indian groups, and even groups of Mennonite farmers speaking out in support and showing up for protests.
But, with dozens of buildings burned and Donald Trump preparing to bring in the military, there’s a growing sense that the violence in many cases isn’t originating from within the local Black community. In multiple instances, there have been incidents that seemed to spring up on the periphery of peaceful protests, leading to violent confrontations and property destruction. And increasingly, there are reports that these events are not originating organically from the protests or from confrontations between protesters and the police. There is a very real feeling that white supremacists are using this moment to create incidents designed to justify still more violence and suppression.
With dozens of protests across the nation, not every event is the same. For example, it’s not hard to see what sparked this incident Atlanta, where a police officer slams a bicycle into a Black woman for having the audacity to wave a finger at him while saying “Don’t touch me.” It’s clear that the violence in this particular moment originated direct from the police.
— Brittany Miller (@Brittm_tv) May 29, 2020
But in some of the most publicized incidents across the nation, there seem to be a singular nature to some of those involved, as in this recording in which what appears to be a young white man in camo pants and military boots paints graffiti on a federal building.
The protest then headed to in front of the White House. A protester was taken by the USSS in front of Pennsylvania Ave into an adjacent federal building. Unclear what he did.A couple men then splintered off from the group and spray painted “F*ck Trump” on the building. @cbsnews pic.twitter.com/OVwPu0PF6X
— Fin Gomez (@finnygo) May 29, 2020
Or this group which is, reportedly, shown attempting to smash store windows in Minneapolis, with the group initiating this action appearing to be led by a number of white people.
This from @Mikel_Jollett
It shows the instigators clearly. They are white. Organized with walkie talkies. pic.twitter.com/zPhBoSg3fE
— Barbara Stiles (@Dovewoman1) May 30, 2020
And those on the ground reported similar events at other protests in many locations.
I was at Downtown Oakland protests a little while ago. Let me say something; the people breaking glass, breaking into windows & starting fires were WHITE men wearing all black. They had hammers and walkie talkies. They were organized. BLM protestors did not start the violence! pic.twitter.com/I2HOdzFoHd
— Asia (@AsiaJannelll) May 30, 2020
Repeatedly, from eye witnesses and from officials, have come claims that violence in the protests is originating not with those who live in the community, but with others who have appeared to take advantage of this moment.
Remarkable info coming out of this presser: Gov. Tim Walls, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and now MN attorney general Keith Ellison ALL alleging outside forces, domestic and possibly foreign, have post-Tuesday infiltrated the state, and are
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) May 30, 2020
And, as Vice reports, far right extremists are trying to use this situation in hopes of bringing about their much-desired “race war.” That effort involves both showing up at protests with guns, initiating violence, and taking to computers to urge everyone involved toward more tragic confrontations. Even the Hawaiian shirt-wearing “Boogaloo Bois” have appeared at some of the protests. The possibility of using these protests as a precipitating incident, and calls for white supremacist militias to confront protesters, are dominating discussion boards and social media for these groups.
This is also generating some genuinely bizarre events.
Atlanta has deployed a child militia at Lenox Mall fitted with riot shields and batons. What the actual fuck is going on? pic.twitter.com/zTtmw5mDTN
— Fox Wound (@foxwoundband) May 30, 2020
The extent to which those trying to instigate more widespread violence are behind the incidents of property damage and physical clashes remains unclear. What is absolutely clear it that white supremacists are hoping to leverage yet another example of violence against an individual Black man as an excuse to carry out a campaign of expanded violence against the entire Black community.
Following closely on the heels of the police murder of Breonna Taylor and the recorded lynching of Ahmaud Arbery—as well as decades in which police violence has been repeatedly excused—there’s no doubt of the weight of grief in the Black community, or the justified anger. But there are definitely those who are seeking to turn this moment from one in which those suffering injustice are finally heard, to one in which that injustice is “justified” and made worse.
And with Donald Trump calling Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people” and protesters in Minneapolis “thugs,” there seems little doubt about which side he is ready to join.