When a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, right-wing extremists, white racists and neo-Nazis around the world spread hatred and cheered the violence. Experts are now warning that attacks like last week’s attack on the US Congress or the attempt to storm the German parliament in August could take place in the next few days.
When the House of Representatives voted for impeachment for an unprecedented second time on Wednesday, Trump released a statement urging calm. “In view of reports of further demonstrations, I urge that there be NO violence, NO violation of the law and NO vandalism of any kind. … I call on ALL Americans to ease tension and calm their minds, ”he wrote.
But for extremists watching the chaos in the United States, this news may be too late. Samantha Kutner, a fellow at the Khalifa Ihler Institute, told BuzzFeed News that far-right groups around the world are viewing the insurrection as a “mass recruitment effort” and a “struggle to protect white supremacy.”
Since the uprising, BuzzFeed News has been monitoring the social media accounts of nearly three dozen far-right groups and leaders outside of the United States. Members of extremist groups such as the Scandinavian Nordic Resistance Movement, CasaPound Italy, the Ukrainian Azov Movement and the Australian and British Proud Boys, as well as lesser-known but no less dangerous organizations, have called for more bloodshed.
A neo-Nazi channel on the messenger app Telegram called on its hundreds of subscribers to take up arms and “enjoy the deadly carnival to come”.
Another such channel on the platform shared a post in which it urged its thousands of followers to believe in their “accelerating fantasies” because “you are in one”.
Other extremists on Telegram and Gab, another social network popular with the far right, sponsored a “Million Militia March” on January 20, urging supporters to join armed marches in state capitals starting Saturday.
Although mainstream social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have begun removing accounts associated with Trump supporters and far-right, and Apple and Google have completely shut down the fringe right-wing platform Parler, countless violent and ominous messages remain .
“I expect foreign far-right groups to feel encouraged by January 6,” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an extremism researcher and author of Hate in the Homeland, told BuzzFeed News. “After the failed right-wing extremist attack on the German Bundestag four months ago, this is an example of ‘success’ for the global right-wing extremists and is celebrated as a victory by many groups.”
In August, during a demonstration in Berlin against the federal government’s coronavirus-related restrictions, hundreds of right-wing demonstrators broke a cordon and tried to storm the country’s legislature. While she was shocked, the police managed to fend off the crowd within minutes.
As of January 6, most extremist channels have grown by dozens, if not hundreds, of members, many of whom have first started sharing their messages.
Jason Blazakis, a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, told BuzzFeed News that there has long been some coordination between right-wing extremists overseas and US-based extremists. But after last week’s uprising, “these ties could harden because of what is perceived as a success for the extreme right,” he said.
Sergei Korotkikh, a Belarus-born neo-Nazi and leader of the Ukrainian Azov movement, described by the Foreign Ministry as a nationalist hate group, hailed the attack in racist terms on his Telegram channel. “The whites have finally decided to act and take over the Capitol,” he wrote to his almost 23,000 followers. “That is good, even if this time it may not lead to anything. But I think that gives us a chance. The whites are still here and we know what to do. “
In another post, Korotkikh shared a picture in red, white, and blue text that read, “Make America Hate Again.”
Azov has worked hard for the past five years to forge links with European and American white racists. One of them is the American white racist Robert Rundo of the violent Rise Above Movement. Rundo and other RAM members participated in the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. At least one of Rundo’s RAM cohorts, Vincent James Foxx, was reportedly seen during the Capitol riot.
However, Rundo was not there. He currently resides in Serbia to avoid prosecution in the US for alleged crimes in Charlottesville and California. He hailed the violence on his Telegram channel and said the riots could boost white supremacy.
“Many of us have talked endlessly about possibilities as we see them today. For everyone who has always wanted to take a stand … it could be the day today, ”he wrote to his more than 4,000 subscribers.
This was an opinion echoed by one of his close comrades, Russian mixed martial arts fighter and neo-Nazi Denis Nikitin, who lives in Ukraine. Nikitin, whose White Rex clothing company is popular with white nationalists in the United States, compared the uprising to a 1925 Ku Klux Klan march on Pennsylvania Avenue.
While it looks like international extremists are only providing moral support to the people of the United States for now, Blazakis said they could do more soon.
“I can imagine that foreign actors will in the future support right-wing extremist actors based in the USA materially – if this is not already happening,” he said. “Since there are no right-wing extremist terrorist groups that are sanctioned by the US government, nothing stands in the way of this financial flow. That is a big weak point. “
Kutner found that US-based extremist groups raised money to help those involved in the uprising. BuzzFeed News saw at least four foreign far-right accounts on Telegram sharing links to these crowdfunding campaigns.
Miller-Idriss said that unless authorities in the United States are held accountable to the Capitol rioters and those who incited them, including Trump, more bloodshed would be possible – in the US and abroad.
“It is absolutely vital to send a strong message that this type of violence is treasonable and that it will be fully prosecuted,” she said.