Proud Boys answer Trump's call to 'do something about antifa and the left'

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The violent far-right hate group responded quickly that they were 'standing by, sir.'

Donald Trump gave his white supremacist supporters a target during Tuesday night’s first presidential debate: "antifa and the left."

The moment came when debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to condemn white supremacy. 

"I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace," Trump said. "What do you want to call them? Give me a name."

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Wallace named "white supremacists and white militia."

"Proud Boys," Trump's rival, former Vice President Joe Biden added. 

Trump demurred. 

"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by," he said. "But I'll tell you what, I'll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem."

The Anti-Defamation League has referred to the Proud Boys as "hard-core white supremacists," while the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified them as a hate group. The group, which routinely claims it is not affiliated with white nationalists, has repeatedly expressed white nationalist sympathies. Its members, who organize to spark violence at events across the country, have frequently appeared alongside other white supremacist groups, including at the infamous 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Following Trump's comments Tuesday night, Proud Boys' online channels were elated. According to NBC News, the group responded from its official Telegram social media account, writing, "Standing down and standing by sir."

The group also posted two video responses, including one with the caption "God. Family. Brotherhood," in which a man is seen howling at the television in response to Trump's comments.

Trump has often used dog whistles to rouse his far-right supporters. 

After white supremacists marched with tiki torches in Charlottesville, Trump insisted there were "very fine people on both sides." One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed at that rally, after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

More recently he has attempted to set them on others, including designating anti-racism protesters "thugs" or "terrorists," and pledging that "at some point, there's going to be retribution because there has to be." 

In August, Trump praised supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy — which claims high-profile Democrats are engaged in cannibalism and a global child sex trafficking ring, and are trying to undermine Trump's presidency — saying "they like me very much which I appreciate." The FBI has deemed QAnon a domestic terror threat.

And after a group of his supporters descended on Portland, Oregon, shooting at counterprotesters with paintball guns and pepper spray, and at times running into them with their trucks, Trump insisted, "These people, they protested peacefully. They went in very peacefully."

In one particularly dark moment, Trump even defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenager charged with killing two people at an anti-racism protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last month.

"That was an interesting situation," he said when asked about it in an interview. "You saw the same tape as I saw, and he was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like. And he fell. And then they very violently attacked him."

Video footage of the incident shows no such thing. Footage in fact shows Rittenhouse running from the scene after shooting one protester, and several others chasing him to take away his rifle, one of them holding up a skateboard to hit him.

In Tuesday night's debate, Trump also summoned his supporters to the polls by telling them to "watch" the polls. 

"I'm urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that's what has to happen. I am urging them to do it," Trump said. "As you know today, there was a big problem in Philadelphia they went in to watch ... they were thrown out. They weren't allowed to watch. You know why? Bad things happen in Philadelphia."

The Trump supporters at that polling station were in fact removed because they weren't approved to be there, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported

Additionally, a legal ruling in Pennsylvania says poll watchers are not allowed to watch polls from counties in which they don't reside. Trump supporters would be breaking the law if they flood Philadelphia from outside of the county.

In some cases, even permitted poll-watchers could be acting illegally. In the past, some Trump supporters have shown up to polling locations in order to racially profile voters.

"Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure … I'll look for … well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American," Steve Webb, a 61-year-old Trump supporter told the Boston Globe back in 2016. "I'm going to go right up behind them. I'll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous."

As Time notes, federal law in fact prohibits any form of voter intimidation.

"While each state has its own laws on voter intimidation, four federal civil and criminal statutes forbid a fairly broad range of activities," the outlet wrote in 2016. "According to the Brennan Center for Justice, poll watchers are prohibited by federal statute from 'directly confronting' voters, using 'insulting, offensive' language, or even 'raising voices' against voters."

Published with permission from The American Independent Foundation.