The San Diego suburb of Santee became the latest flashpoint in a nationwide debate over transgender rights, an issue that is now the central rallying cry for far-right extremists across the country. Meanwhile, the FBI warns white supremacists are increasingly targeting the nation’s power grid, and an attorney for the Proud Boys says former President Donald Trump should be blamed for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
It’s the week in extremism.
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Anti-trans protest in Santee
Last week, a 17-year-old made a speech to the city council of the San Diego suburb of Santee, claiming she had seen a transgender woman in the locker room of the local YMCA and had hidden in a shower in fright. Footage of that speech soon went viral, far right-wing media coverage (much of it inaccurate) erupted, and Tucker Carlson weighed in. A resulting rally at the YMCA on Wednesday saw local politicians denouncing trans rights while local white supremacist thugs clashed with anti-fascists nearby.
Of note: I was at Wednesday’s protest. While it was mostly peaceful, it was also attended by a who’s-who of San Diego white supremacists, Proud Boys and other assorted far-right extremists. That contingent spent about an hour engaging in screaming matches with a small and vocal group of anti-fascists. There were a few scuffles, and some pepper spray was sprayed, but mostly it was just shouting.
- San Diego has a history of violent confrontations between far-right extremists and anti-fascists. In 2021, a few days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, the groups clashed on the streets of the Pacific Beach neighborhood. Only anti-fascists were ever charged in the ensuing prosecution, and that case has become an important benchmark in defining how “Antifa” is defined by the law, as I outlined in this story last year.
Special report:How the battle over one issue is tearing at America
- All-ages drag shows in particular have been a magnet for anti-trans activism and far-right extremist activity, but controversies like the one in Santee have also attracted extremists.
- More context: A fatal shooting at an LGBTQ-friendly Colorado nightclub in November was charged as a hate crime. This is a pattern experts say is far older than the current controversy. “Any community that is considered a threat to the way of life of the population is then targeted as a group to be stopped,” Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism told me in November. “That, in turn, leads people to marginalize that group and then act.”
Proud Boys lawyer: Blame Trump for J6
In a surprise moment late last week, Sabino Jauregui, an attorney for Enrique Tarrio, the former national chairman of the extremist group the Proud Boys, claimed former President Trump, not his client, should be held responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection. The statement came in the opening statements of the trial of Tarrio and four other Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy.
- “Too hard to blame Trump, too hard to bring him to the witness stand with his army of lawyers … Instead they go for the easy target. They go for Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys,” Jauregui told the court.
- Tarrio and four others are facing the most serious charges brought against Jan. 6 rioters. A similar seditious conspiracy case against members of the extremist group the Oath Keepers resulted in guilty verdicts.
- Tarrio wasn’t in Washington, D.C. on Jan 6. But prosecutors argue that his actions leading up the insurrection are tantamount to sedition.
- “To these men…(the election) was a fraud,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said in the prosecution’s opening remarks. “And they were there to stop it.”
- My colleague, Ella Lee, is covering the trial. Follow her on Twitter here.
FBI: Neo-Nazis targeting nation’s power grid
White supremacists and neo-Nazis are increasingly targeting the nation’s power grid, warns an FBI memo obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting and outlined in this story Thursday. The story comes after a string of attacks on power substations in Oregon, Washington State and elsewhere last year that resulted in widespread power outages.
- “The individuals of concern believe that an attack on electrical infrastructure will contribute to their ideological goal of causing societal collapse and a subsequent race war in the United States,” the memo states.
- Extremism experts call this philosophy “accelerationism.” It’s based on the concept that attacks like these will “accelerate” the approach of dystopia and speed up the coming race war.
- The OPB investigation confirmed 15 attacks on power substations in the Northwest alone.
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