Last weekend the Texas-based white supremacist group Patriot Front took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to rally in the nation’s capital.
About 150 people marched to the National Mall with a battle call to “reclaim America” as counter-protesters shadowed them while denouncing their form of nationalism as hate-mongering and bigotry disguised as patriotism.
Law enforcement was on hand to make sure no one from either side lashed out and disrupted the peace.
On Saturday, May 13, the self-styled patriots were lined up in rows wearing boots, tan pants, blue shirts, white face masks and tan dad caps with the logo of the organization in the center as they presented themselves for their demonstration. According to videos that circulated on social media, various members carried upside-down American flags, shields, and drums as they walked.
The signs bore their mantra, “Reclaim America,” and the members chanted “life, liberty, victory.”
The Washington D.C. branch of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement expressing its disgust at the rally.
“We are disgusted by the actions of Patriot Front today in DC. This white supremacist group known for its flash demonstrations marched on the National Mall carrying banners spewing their hateful rhetoric,” the civil rights organization stated. “Since 2019, Patriot Front has been responsible for the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributions in the US. The group has neo-Nazi roots and held four large demonstrations in several cities in 2022. We strongly condemn their presence and messages of hate.”
Also in 2019, the FBI established the Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell, a division created to combat domestic terrorism in the country and fight for justice for victims of hate crimes.
The ADL published a report in March that showed a 38 percent rise in white supremacist activity from 2021 to 2022. This number represented over 6,700 incidents that transpired over the year span, according to Newsweek.
Fueling the rise is a belief in the “replacement theory.” Some 66 percent of white Christian nationalism sympathizers and 81 percent of adherents believe immigrants are “invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.”
Religion and white nationalism have been twin spirits for over a hundred years, with many early white supremacist groups considering their missions sanctioned by God.
The University of Chicago reported in 2017 the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, America’s oldest hate group, in the 1920s. was rooted in “fierce religious bigotry” and “xenophobia.” Those themes echoed those that inspired the group’s founding during Reconstruction, when many whites believed the newly emancipated Blacks were going to take over their nation, drive crime up, and infect the nation (and white women) with their sexual depravity.
Like the Patriot Front, the KKK lived by a concept of “one hundred percent Americanism.”
Kelly Baker, an essayist on the topic for the university’s religion and culture forum, said, “Religion remains a prominent part of the Klan … though many would like to pretend that it’s not.”
“The changing social climate in the U.S., including immigration, urbanization, and the migration of African Americans, made the Klan’s white, patriotic, and Protestant message appealing to white men and white women,” Baker added. “Their popular nativism was a backlash to the changing demographics and the changing culture of the nation.”
Ultimately, Baker says The Klan’s appeal is because it tells “a story of the importance of white Protestants from the nation’s founding until the 1920s, and their artifacts—the robes, the fiery cross, and the American flag—materialized the order’s commitment to Protestantism, white supremacy, and 100% Americanism.”
Like its masked social descendants the Patriot Front, the KKK also marched on Washington D.C. almost 100 years ago. In 1925 and 1926, the Klan organized two parades to canvass Pennsylvania Avenue. Reports say thousands attended both marches, with 30,000 being the accepted number for the latter demonstration.
Saturday’s Patriot Front march was considerably smaller.
The Patriot Front was founded in 2017 by Thomas Rousseau in Texas. Members of the organization “define themselves as American fascists or American nationalists who are focused on preserving America’s identity as a European-American one.”