Emboldened By Trump, Armed ‘Neo-Confederate’ Racists Form Militia To Defend From ‘Leftist Chaos’
Radical right extremists in the South are starting a new militia to defend their way of life
A neo-Confederate group called League of the South (LOS) has issued an order forming the “Southern Defense Force,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported. The so-called “defense force” marks a new militant stage in the group’s activities.
While LOS has tried to form a paramilitary group before with the hope of leading a new Southern secessionist movement, the Trump administration is creating an atmosphere that is more welcoming for white supremacists and right-wing extremists to operate openly. His candidacy was built on a platform of scapegoating immigrants and Muslims, including refugees fleeing wars the U.S. promoted and perpetuated. LOS has stated that “in a free & independent South, Islam would be banned, Muslims deported, and all mosques closed down.”
The rhetoric of his campaign and his new administration has already led to an increase in hate crimes and a spree of pro-Trump vandalism across the country featuring swastikas and other Nazi and white supremacist symbols.
It also led to a “Trump bump” of membership in white supremacist groups, as reported by Politico. The success of his campaign has effectively legitimized far-right and white supremacist beliefs, making it possible for more of those groups to recruit publicly and engage more directly in the political process. Leaders of these groups have said that Trump’s rhetoric about minorities has “successfully tapped into simmering racial resentments long ignored by mainstream politicians,” according to the same Politico article. Trump’s campaign emboldened former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to run for Senate. While he lost, it was Trump’s candidacy for a major party that made him believe he could openly campaign for office, given his white supremacist views.
The SPLC has tracked a proliferation of right-wing extremist groups, and says that Trump’s demonization of Latinos and Muslims “electrified” the radical right and led to them calling him “Glorious Leader.”
Seen in this context, LOS’s Southern Defense Force is just another step in the process of normalizing the demonization of minority groups and increasing justification for violence against them. During the campaign, Trump offered to pay the legal fees of supporters who attacked protesters. While he walked that promise back, since entering office he has decided that a long-standing counter-extremism program that included white supremacist and right-wing extremist groups should instead focus exclusively on countering Islamic extremism. This is despite the recent shooting in a Quebec mosque and Dylann Roof’s racist mass murder highlighting the dangers of white, right-wing radicals.
In other words, radical right groups like LOS and their new militant organization will face even less scrutiny at a time when they are becoming increasingly bold in their actions. It’s a trend Americans can expect to continue while the president and his staff normalize white supremacy and far-right nationalism.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.