Social media’s role in organizing Trump supporters to confront protestors in Kenosha and Portland

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Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump stand in flag-adorned pickup trucks during their caravan through Portland, Oregon, U.S. August 29, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Mathieu Lewis-Rolland.

Joe Biden delivered a speech in Pittsburgh today, blaming President Trump for violence that recently broke out in Wisconsin and Oregon. One person was shot and killed in Portland during a violent clash between Trump supporters and counter protesters over the weekend. Also in LA this weekend, a pro-Trump caravan traveled from Woodland Hills to Studio City.

“I’m not saying that caravans of people who support the president or the GOP are malicious or terroristic. ... We’re seeing these kinds of mushrooms of meeting places pop up on social media. But they’re not just organic. Oftentimes, they’re local political leaders, or some kind of event planner or political folks involved,” says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

He says these gatherings sometimes become cesspools for conspiracy theories and armed people. 

Levin says Portland in particular is interesting because that’s where left is producing sustained violence. “In that place, we had a coalescence of more hard left activists. … This is the first hard left extremist … suspected homicide that we’ve seen. The alleged suspect posted, ‘I’m 100% Antifa.’”

He continues, “So what we’re seeing is white supremacy, far right. And then populism kind of reached into the mainstream from the right. And we’re also seeing some instances from the hard left of folks trying to glom onto peaceful demonstrations and political rallies.” 

Credits

Guest:
Brian Levin - director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino - @proflevin

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin