In just four months, groups connected to white nationalists have disrupted 11 official public events, according to an analysis by The New York Times. From the fringes of the conservative right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are channeling their animus toward activists of President Trump’s party and their counterparts, chanting “Merry Christmas” and “Trump 2020” from the sidelines of events and manhandling and attempting to physically intimidate those public officials who oppose them.
In April, a masked gunman armed with a fake weapon stormed the welcome center at the Ohio State University, where the American Society for Asian Pacific American Affairs, or ASAPAA, was planning a panel discussion, with an apparent endorsement of its politically conservative view of identity politics. The attacker, identified as a member of the anti-immigrant militia group, Cinco de Mayo 31, was eventually arrested and charged with attempted murder. ASAPAA is a white supremacist group, but organizers at the event said they had not known of its true affiliations, suggesting that the attack had originated from a far-right source.
In August, what was described as a small gathering by the American Vanguard, a neo-Nazi group, at Virginia State University resulted in the worst outbreak of civil unrest of the year, with campus police hauling away five people who tried to break the law. While Robert E. McSwain, the new president of Virginia State, was not targeted for his views or ethnic origin, fellow school officials, including Charlottesville’s former mayor, quit their jobs to voice their solidarity with him.
During the melee, as students and campus officials surrounded the American Vanguard group, a Trump campaign supporter — dressed in a red Make America Great Again hat — rushed the scene, trying to free a man accused of attacking police with a flagpole. The aggressor was caught and taken into custody by police, but not before students shoved and shouted obscenities at him. “I thought he was our guy!” one student exclaimed. “Good, not good,” replied the other.
The man accused of assaulting officers in February also returned to campus at the end of that month, scuffling with anti-fascist protesters. At a D.C. rally, he was tackled by security guards and held overnight in jail on a charge of assaulting a police officer. At the White House, he tweeted.
That Trump would allow anyone involved in violence in the nation’s capital to experience presidential protection became a point of contention after that incident.
As the events at Virginia State unfolded, nearly 50 prominent names from across the political spectrum went on record to say they were offended, disgusted and angered by the violence. Some of them belonged to the same party. With connections to the president, some were even members of his Cabinet. And no one was spared. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, called the Charlottesville violence “barbaric” and said he would no longer travel to D.C.
The night before McSwain arrived in Charlottesville, several members of the alt-right group, Law Enforcement for Empowerment, attacked at a Breitbart Nightbeat event with sneering taunts toward The Rebel, a white nationalist website. Their first choice to “produce a speech” was the keynote speaker, a civil rights activist with suspected white nationalist connections, Victoria Jackson, best known for her role as an alien in Star Trek: The Next Generation. At one point, the group’s leader suggested that Jackson be sexually assaulted in the media tent of the Republican National Convention in 2016.
“Now is the time for you to come up and push somebody,” he told Jackson, according to the Daily Beast. “It’s too late to hide. Everybody’s seeing us.”