Stripped of Internet megaphones and Viewing their backs, far-right extremists plan to steer clear of Inauguration Day protests

Online gathering spaces for your far-right have been shuttered or are sputtering under a flood of new users. And thousands of National Guard troops are brought in to protect the nation's capital.

15 January 2021 Friday 06:39
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Stripped of Internet megaphones and Viewing their backs, far-right extremists plan to steer clear of Inauguration Day protests

In the middle of it all, leaders of far-right, extremist factions are telling their followers to avoid protests planned throughout the country this weekend and on Inauguration Day.

"We're going to have a chill pill," Enrique Tarrio, chairman of this far-right street gang that the Proud Boys, stated in an interview. "I feel like this part of the battle is over."

Other prominent figures on the far-right, who helped bring massive audiences to the funds on Jan. 6, prompting his message to avoid.

"Of course this should go without saying but steer clear of this Money on January 20th," podcaster and far-right provocateur Nicholas Fuentes wrote on Twitter. "They're deploying 25,000 soldiers to the inauguration and the state of emergency will still be in effect. I am not going and that I won't be coming back to DC to get a longlong time!"

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Pros on far-right extremism concur that, unlike the days before the Jan. 6 insurrection, the online ecosystem utilized by President Donald Trump's most outspoken fans has been muted, with few signs that large audiences will gather in Washington or state capitals for protests planned Sunday and Wednesday, Inauguration Day.

But, they cautionedthat does not mean there's no chance of violence.

Federal authorities consider the aggressive pursuit of suspects in the Capitol attack and also the early show of power to secure the Inauguration may have prompted some extremists to reconsider returning to Washington to take part in violence, an official familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said some suspects who had planned to reunite have retained lawyers and turned themselves in rather than risk joining demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere.

The official cautioned, however, that the threat level remains high because most extremists aren't a part of organized groups, like the Proud Boys, together with designated leaders.

The FBI warned earlier this week that protests are planned in all 50 states, and experts worry that country capitols could establish softer targets for domestic terrorists, armed paramilitary groups, or simply massive crowds of mad Trump supporters.

"Nothing's going to happen in D.C., however I fear about state capitals," said Daryl Johnson, a security consultant and former senior analyst for domestic terrorism in the Department of Homeland Security. "They ought to be beefing up security"

'Time to dust off those tools':' Armed'militias' are prohibited. Will authorities crack down if they show up at state capitals following week?

Clamping down on insurrectionists

As of Thursday morning, dozens of individuals who participated in last week's riot have been arrested.

Safety in Washington, D.C., was ramped up immediately following the insurrection. It's reached extraordinary levels, with tens of thousands of National Guard troops pledged to protect national buildings and public spaces.

The message to prospective protesters is apparent: Unapproved mass gatherings and violence will not be tolerated. And it seems to be resonating among the far-right.

"Before Jan. 6, I always said it was stupid to rally in D.C.," Tarrio said. "You can not start carry (a firearm) at D.C., therefore the whole idea of a'Million Militia March' was dumb from the beginning."

The attack on the Capitol, coupled with electronic intellect, has also exposed several agitators to law enforcement, stated Jonathan Wackrow, chief operating officer of consulting and advisory firm Teneo Risk and also a former Secret Service agent.

"Not only do we understand what their aim is, we also know who the players are."

A movement scattered online

From the days leading up to the violent rally, far-right personalities needed a welcoming platform to urge followers to show up: the short lived social networking site Parler.

Parler gained millions of new users after the presidential elections, a lot of them Trump supporters frustrated with attempts to kick conspiracy theorists and extremists away Facebook and Twitter.

An easy-to-use platform, Parler was ideal for classes marketing their intention to descend on Washington to intervene in Congress' certification of the Electoral College votes -- the final, formal step required before Joe Biden might be sworn in as president.

The Proud Boys, promoters of this QAnon conspiracy theory, far-right agitator Alex Jones and many others utilized Parler to post fliers for the rally and urge supporters to attend.

Parler was taken offline on Sunday, hobbling far-right extremists' ability to reach their followers. Lately, Twitter eliminated over 70,000 accounts linked with QAnon. Other sites, like the streaming platform DLive, removed far-right activists. Fuentes, who had raised cash on DLive, was one of them.

"You sort of limit their ability to cast a broad message," said Brian Gerber, co-director of Arizona State University's Center for Management and Homeland Security. "That creates some problems in tracking them but it also limits their scope of activities as well."

With no Parler, extremists struggle to achieve followers online
Extremists and far-right Trump supporters have been scattered across the world wide web to less user friendly forums. On the encrypted messenger agency Telegram, a channel initially called"Parler Lifeboat" gained almost 16,000 new subscribers within 24 hours.

It operates like a discussion board and more like a group chat, using a firehose of remarks which new users can discover overwhelming.

Incoming Telegram users discovered themselves face-to-face with neo-Nazis and white supremacists that have used the stage. They tried to spread anti-Semitic and racist propaganda to the influx of Trump fans.

The"Lifeboat" group is getting a confusing mess of conservatives arguing with hardcore white supremacists as they fight to access and post content on the platform.

Compounding the chaos, potential far-right protesters now lack the guiding light of the movement: tweets from Trump.

Since Trump was banned from Twitter on Friday, he has been forced to send text messages to his followers and post announcements about the official White House site.

The president has urged calm from his supporters while acknowledging for the first time that Biden will eventually become president next week.

"Deplatforming him certainly makes it harder for his supporters to rally around some message he's giving them" Gerber said.

Violence still possible

While massive, violent protests are not unlikely in the country's capital, lone terrorists or small groups nevertheless could attempt to create a mark on the Inauguration.

Wray said Thursday that national authorities remain"concerned about the potential for violence" during the Inauguration, adding that armed protesters might seek"close proximity" to government officials and buildings. He warned that violence could be aimed at state capitals.

Johnson, the security expert, is concerned about bombs being pushed into Washington as well as snipers targeting Biden fans at the Inauguration itself.

Wackrow, the former Secret Service official, said the huge efforts to secure Washington should not produce a false sense of security. The amount of publicly accessible, online action by extremists is a fraction of what's going on in the dark corners of the world wide web, '' he explained.

"One person with the right means, opportunity and intent can considerably alter background," he explained. "But that will give the extremists the win they require."

Followers of the disproven QAnon conspiracy theory believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is pitted against Trump, who will eventually ruin them at a military activity known as"The Storm." They have taken solace from the buildup of troops,'' said Travis View, a researcher and podcaster who has studied QAnon.

"These individuals are overjoyed by the large numbers of military troops," View said. "They believe that they're there to stop Joe Biden from getting over the presidency, so they are saying,'Love the show, get the popcorn ready.'"