The rise of right-wing or white nationalist groups in the Northwest is not new for those who remember the militia groups of the early 1990s – or the killing of Bob Buchanan Jr. by neo-Nazis in an Olympia train tunnel.
No one should be surprised by a resurgence, either. The so-called alt-right or white nationalist movement backed the election of President Trump, who in turn described a North Carolina rally last year with Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi participants as having “very fine people on both sides.’’
Against such a backdrop, it is unsettling to see Northwest affiliates of the “Proud Boys” group raising their profile. The group was implicated in a May ruckus at the Vancouver Mall in Southwest Washington and at a June parade in Portland, according to a Seattle Times report (reprinted in The Olympian).
The Proud Boys group was founded in 2016 by a co-founder of Vice Media. Its Northwest leader is an American Samoan who has spoken at alt-right rallies hosted by the Patriot Prayer group from Vancouver, which is founded by a candidate for U.S. Senate this year.
Both groups’ members have clashed with anti-fascist activists. But sometimes there is fault to go around.
In the Vancouver incident, an African American teen boy yelled an obscenity at two Proud Boy members flying a Trump flag on their truck, reported the Times. The youth was chased then pulled to the ground briefly by the two men.
Security officers handcuffed the boy on allegations of trespass and striking the officers. After the boy was placed in Clark County detention as a threat to public safety, complaints were lodged, and the county prosecutor dropped charges.
During a Patriot Prayer parade in Portland last month, Antifa or anti-fascist counter-protesters threw eggs, firecrackers and partly filled water bottles in an incident police described as a riot, according to news reports.
Obviously, this kind of ugliness shouldn’t happen anywhere. Just as obviously it can happen almost anywhere.
Right-wing and left-wing activists clashed on the street near Olympia City Hall in 2015 after two black men were shot by a city police officer.
The obvious message is to chill out.
But the middle ground is nonexistent for some activist groups that are all about getting attention and inciting fear in those who disagree with them.
That leaves it to police to find a difficult balance between allowing free speech and keeping public order.
Though their work is quieter and less likely to capture media attention than confrontational protesters, individuals also are working to promote understanding, nonviolence and justice for all of society’s diverse groups .
Those who do this reaching out deserve our thanks and encouragement.