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The harrowing, homegrown American threat connecting Jan. 6 and Pride Month

The domestic terrorism that led to the Jan. 6 attack hasn't abated.
Image: Back of a person handcuffed being escorted by police officers.
Police search members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front who were arrested outside of McEuen Park in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho on June 11, 2022.Jacob Lee Green / Zuma

Those of us concerned about the future of our nation’s democracy have been riveted by the revelations from the Jan. 6 House committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Over the course of the three hearings that have aired, the committee has revealed startling, never-before-seen footage of the insurrection itself, while also using that evidence to craft a compelling narrative about the underlying lie that fueled that day’s violence and is still wreaking havoc on our politics.

It's important to connect the white nationalist undertones that led to the insurrection to a rash of events that threaten marginalized communities.

While the committee has not yet made this point — and may never make it — it’s important to connect the white nationalist undertones that bolstered former President Donald Trump’s election and the insurrection to recent events that threaten marginalized communities and suggest more violence to come.

Thirty-one members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front were arrested June 11 near a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on suspicion of, authorities say, conspiring to riot. Those arrested reportedly came from multiple states — some from as far away as Virginia — and were, according to police, carrying shields, riot gear and a smoke bomb. The Southern Poverty Law Center says it's noticing a coordinated right-wing effort to carry out such attacks during Pride Month, an annual celebration of the 1969 Stonewall uprising that helped birth the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Patriot Front, which the SPLC describes as a hate group, emerged after the Unite the Right rally in 2017, but it isn’t the only such group to emerge in that time.

The week before the Patriot Front members were arrested, leaders of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist organization, were indicted on seditious conspiracy charges for what a federal grand jury says was the group’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. This indictment follows that of the Oath Keepers, another white nationalist organization that’s also facing seditious conspiracy charges.

The White House has called domestic terrorism one of the biggest threats facing the country, and we can see it for ourselves, as neo-Nazis, armed militias and vigilantes organize not only in the attempt to seize the control of the government, as they did on Jan. 6, but also to target people of color and queer people in the attempt to erase their political influence and even their presence.

We’ve already seen the violence these radicalized individuals and groups can cause: The mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 Black people dead, has been deemed a federal hate crime, and the shooter has been charged with multiple counts. The shooter published a racist screed that peddled the white supremacist idea that white people in America are being replaced by people from marginalized communities. Other mass shooters have spewed the same increasingly mainstream theory. A recent poll by the AP-NORC found that one in three adults in the United States believes that there’s a coordinated effort “to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains.”

While that belief is misguided — demographic changes have nothing to do with replacement and everything to do with a country that’s aging — it’s a dangerous one that could dictate the future of our politics.

In recent months, state legislatures have been doing everything from banning books by and about queer people to outlawing gender-affirming treatment to forbidding trans children from competing in sports leagues. It’s an all-out legislative assault on the community our country purports to celebrate this month, as lawmakers refer to children and their elders as “groomers” and treat them as threats.

While these incidents may seem isolated, they can be threaded by a single needle: As the United States approaches its destiny of being a majority-minority country, those still clinging to the nation’s “founding” — i.e., its elimination of Indigenous Americans to create a white, conservative ethnostate that uses the labor of enslaved Black people to build its wealth and global power — are willing to go to extreme lengths to preserve their warped view of America. In their dream world, every citizen is straight, every citizen with the ability to vote is white, and every woman is in a partnership with a man who strips her of her agency.

The mindset that the United States belongs to a few and not to the collective runs through the violence that faced those shoppers in Buffalo and drag queens in libraries.

In that dystopia, we only read the books that the ruling class deems appropriate. We don’t have access to abortion. We don’t have access to the ballot box, and if we do, it’s only for the sake of preserving the veneer of America as a democracy. And, worst of all, these conditions are reinforced through violence designed to ensure our obedience to the new social order.

The Proud Boys allegedly outlined its Jan. 6 plans in a nine-page document titled “1776 Returns.” The group reportedly planned to force a new election in part by occupying the Supreme Court, the Russell Senate Office Building, the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Hart Senate Office Building, the Cannon House Office Building, the Longworth House Office Building, the Rayburn House Office Building and CNN. The document reads, in part, “These are OUR buildings, they are just renting space. We must show our politicians We the People are in charge.”

The mindset that the United States belongs to a few and not to the collective runs through the violence that faced those shoppers in Buffalo and faces drag queens reading to children in libraries. It’s the same mindset that fueled Trump’s racist rhetoric and ensured that it would land, especially in the days after the 2020 election, when his campaign wrongly targeted predominantly Black cities such as Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia for “rampant voter fraud.” That isn’t accidental; it’s all designed to make it seem as if Black people, queer people and people who’ve immigrated from other countries aren’t legitimate Americans — and therefore, their participation in the electoral process shouldn’t count.

Yes, this might sound like an episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but we’re closer to that dystopian reality than we’ve been at any point since the Civil War. White nationalists are storming the U.S. Capitol, shooting Black people and planning to disrupt Pride Month events. They’re radicalizing young people to believe that people from marginalized communities are “replacing them” and because we have lax gun laws, those young people can easily arm themselves in hopes of carrying out their mission of stopping America from reaching its inevitable fate as a more diverse place.

Coeur d’Alene’s Pride celebration continued as planned after the Patriot Front members were arrested. Similar celebrations are still planned across the country, even in the face of cruel policies designed to strip LGBTQ+ people of their dignity and their right to exist. It’s in that spirit, a spirit that’s existed since that 1969 uprising, that Pride Month continues — to speak truth to power, to commemorate, to celebrate, and to say: We’re here. Our spirit can’t be extinguished. And, as the Jan. 6 hearings continue, it’s a reminder that the spirit of those fighting for a government by and for the people can’t be extinguished either.