The far-right rallies were reportedly disrupted as activists infiltrated their online groups, leaked chats to the media, and used the information to organise counter protests.
Several neo-Nazis and far-right extremist groups coordinated on Telegram groups over the last month to organise ‘White Lives Matter’ rallies across the United States on Sunday. Organisers of the protests said the rallies would make “the whole world tremble,” yet hardly anyone showed up, NBC News reported.
Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in North Carolina, who tracks online extremism told NBC news that Sunday’s protests were destined for failure. Protesters were not aware of North Carolina state laws that have disallowed firearms, they were also not savvy with Telegram and were unable to identify “obvious trolls in their midst”, she said.
The far-right rallies were reportedly disrupted as activists infiltrated their online groups, leaked chats to the media, and used the information to organise counter protests. Analysis of the leaked chats by NBC News revealed that the rallies were being organised by Proud Boys, a far-right group that promotes and engages in political violence.
NBC News also reported that two of the largest Telegram channels dedicated to organising the protests in Philadelphia and New York City were actually created as “trap groups” by anti-fascist activists.
In Philadelphia, counter protesters held a picnic; in NYC, counter protesters stood across from the Trump Tower where a ‘White Lives Matter’ rally was expected. In New Mexico and Texas, police had to form circles around lone ‘White Lives Matter’ protesters to separate them from dozens of counter protesters.
The events were live streamed and photos and videos were also shared on Twitter. Counter protesters were heard chanting, “Unity and community” “Black Lives Matter” and even “Go home, Nazis.”
Experts say that extremist movements in the US are at breaking point as potential participants are being discouraged due to the negative press, especially following the prosecution of right-wing protesters post the Capitol attack.
Some members of the extremist groups also lost their jobs after their personal identities were revealed by antifa groups.
Brain Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University told NBC News, “Some extremists continued a whack-a-mole migration underground to encrypted, affinity-based platforms, while others have exited these movements altogether.”
He adds that the risk now is in “loners and cells, who act on their combination of hatred and idiosyncrasies often cobbled together from a constant all-you-can-eat- buffet of stereotyping and conspiracies that still populate online discourse.”
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