The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States has been one of the most contentious topics in the past five years. Proponents and opponents of President Trump have been holding protests and demonstrations across the United States in a wave similar to the Civil Rights movement.
However, none resemble historical marches quite like those held by the alt-right. As defined by Merriam-Webster, members of the alt-right “reject mainstream conservative politics and espouse extremist beliefs and policies typically centered on ideas of white nationalism.”
The alt-right is a distinct group from conservatives and Republicans. Scott Buchan, sophomore political science major and president of UMBC College Republicans, acknowledged that there are not many truly Republican protests. “UMBC College Republicans talks directly to constituents at events, and door knocking,” Buchan explained, adding, “I think that protesting is a lower priority to Republicans and that Republicans would be more likely to contact representatives, go to town halls or events, or speak with their vote.”
In contrast, the “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017, during which one counter-protester was killed, resembled nothing less than a Ku Klux Klan rally from the 1960s. Marchers, predominantly white and male, carried torches and shouted nationalist chants while traveling through the city.
Unite the Right participants carried Nazi and Confederate flags and held posters advocating for white supremacy. Traditional conservatives tend to focus on taxation and national spending. As possible topics for signs at a Republican protest, Buchan highlighted “[the importance for] America to keep her national sovereignty” and the need to “reduce spending to get the national debt under control.”
During the Civil Rights movement, white supremacist rallies were used to strike fear in the hearts of black people and discourage them from fighting for their rights. Contrasted with liberal marches like the Women’s March in January of 2017, which was very politically motivated, the Unite the Right rally was held only to incite fear.
However, in the age of social media, this technique backfires more than it causes panic. Many of the people photographed at the rally were quickly found on Facebook and Twitter. Doxxing, the act of publishing private information such as the name and address of a person, has become one of the biggest counter-activities that those who oppose the alt-right engage in.
In some cases, the doxxed person faces no retribution. In other cases, the person is fired from their job or ostracized from their family for their beliefs. While this result may seem harsh, consider the fact that the person in question was marching to end the rights of an entire group of people just for being different than them.
The “White Civil Rights Rally” planned for Aug. 11 and 12 in Washington, D.C. will likely end up the same way. The white nationalists who march will be vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters and their message of fear will not spread.
While free speech is protected by the Constitution, the only provisions are in reference to Congress making laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The first amendment does not say that other citizens cannot take issue with a person’s stance, particularly if the stance is hateful. White nationalist rallies and protests feel encouraged by the United States’ current administration, but so do rallies and protests by liberals and leftists.