UPDATED: 4:00 p.m. ET —
The racist, violent social media videos showing a far-right group vandalizing Black churches during a protest in Washington, D.C., against the presidential election results evoked imagery of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) burning crosses, one of the churches’ pastors said.
The Proud Boys were in the nation’s capital to support the president during the day, but when night fell they turned violent. Clad in military apparel along with bulletproof vests, Proud Boys members skulked the streets of the District of Columbia before coming upon the Asbury United Methodist Church and the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church — both historically Black churches in Northwest Washington.
Pro-Trump Proud Boys are ripping BLM flags *off of churches* in DC. pic.twitter.com/geWpDpzIKR
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) December 13, 2020
Not only did the Proud Boys violently rip pro-Black Lives Matter signage off of the Asbury United Methodist Church, but they also lit it on fire in a ceremony likened to one of the KKK‘s signature intimidation tactics historically used against Black people.
Proud Boys and other white supremacists burn a Black Lives Matter sign from the Asbury United Methodist Church in D.C. while dousing it with lighter fluid to intensify the flames. This public act is intended to terrorize and send a message to Black people. pic.twitter.com/0YNsTDaVqF
— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) December 13, 2020
This flag was ripped off of Asbury United Methodist Church, a historic Black church in D.C.
Nazis are literally in the streets burning banners from Black churches. This is who Trump told to "stand back and stand by." https://t.co/PJaow16jI1
— African American Policy Forum (@AAPolicyForum) December 13, 2020
On my sabbath, I wake up to the disgusting image of #ProudBoys ripping down a #BlackLivesMatter banner from my church. Will #Trump , who held up a bible in front of a church, bless not condemn this racist vandalism against Metropolitan AME Church ❓ @ap pic.twitter.com/yHy3N4X5rq
— Cornell William Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) December 13, 2020
Asbury United Methodist Church’s lead pastor said it reminded her of what the Klan used to do.
“It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames,” the Rev. Ianther M. Mills sad in part of a statement tweeted out by Religion News Service reporter Jack Jenkins. “For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.”
The pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in DC responds to the burning of the church’s Black Lives Matter sign last night by people who appeared to be affiliated with Proud Boys.
“For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.” pic.twitter.com/eX3aAE7qTJ
— Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) December 13, 2020
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called out the Proud Boys for their flagrant displays of racist hatred.
“In no uncertain terms, we condemn the Proud Boys and other white supremacists who targeted historically Black churches in D.C. with acts of violence” Clarke said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Their Klan-like actions harken back to the days of Jim Crow and their destruction of Black Lives Matter signs are nothing more than modern-day cross-burnings intended to intimidate and terrorize the Black community. These historically Black churches are important institutions in D.C. that have a long history of standing against oppression and providing a safe haven for communities of color. We call on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately open a federal civil rights investigation under the Church Arson Prevention Act to hold accountable those responsible for these racist and violent acts.”
Police in D.C. said the acts of apparent racial intimidation were being investigated, according to the Washington Post.
There were multiple stabbings reported near a bar that is popular among Proud Boys members. Out of the estimated thousands of protest attendees, nearly two dozen people were arrested. Two police officers were hospitalized.
The Proud Boys have been an increasingly racially and politically divisive collective designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They were the same group who rose to infamy during the so-called “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that included Nazis who Donald Trump referred to as “good people.”
The president would go on to parrot that sentiment a few years later during a nationally televised debate against Joe Biden in September. After refusing to condemn white supremacists, Trump had some kind words of encouragement for the Proud Boys.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by!” Trump said unabashedly. “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left.”
Kamala Harris reacted in part to Trump’s words by calling it “dog-whistling through a bullhorn.”
The Proud Boys apparently heard Trump’s message loud and clear, prompting them to celebrate on their online platforms in a renewed commitment to their president; a commitment that is culminating in apparent hate crimes being committed in the name of baseless claims of election fraud.
This is America.