The U.S. is experiencing a new civil rights movement that rivals the civil rights movement of the ’60s. Millions are unemployed, many are at risk of losing their homes, a pandemic rages on with no government oversight, and so many have taken to the streets in protest of police brutality and the extrajudicial killing of African-Americans by law enforcement. Months have gone by, and still, the police have not seen widespread reform, and the current administration has been unwilling to change anything as well.
Kenosha, WI saw another spark as Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by a police officer. Protests and riots erupted in the midwestern city, police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, and one-armed 17-year old took it upon himself to defend property that wasn’t his own. That night ended with two dead and another seriously injured, and now Kyle Rittenhouse faces up to six charges and up to 125 years in prison. This act fragmented many, arguing whether justified or not, it created a monster that will only grow as long as it is left to fester. The far-right has been emboldened and brazenly mounted up to go into Portland to further stir the pot. A mass of trucks littered with Trump 2020 and Blue Lives Matter flags agitated protestors with mace, paintball guns, and even trying to run over protestors with their trucks. Again, it ended deadly when a man was shot and killed after hostility quickly rose.
Groups like the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Patriot Prayer, and others look to agitate protestors and incite violence in hopes of retaliation and media coverage. These hostilities are gearing up to be a bloody and violent election with counter-protestors and far-right groups battling it out in the streets, which is why I would like to focus on the past.
Around 1921, the Sturmabteilung (Storm detachment), otherwise known as the brownshirts, were formed as a paramilitary force that would attack political opponents, fight protestors, and protect party gatherings of the Nazi party. The brownshirts intimidated, threatened, and “kept the peace” while the Nazi party slowly gained power within the Weimar Republic. After a failed coup, Hitler spent nine months in prison for treason, where he wrote Mein Kampf, and his aspirations grew bigger. At its height, the brownshirts had 3 million members. Violence in Germany was often, with Nazis and leftists fighting each other for almost over a decade. This time also saw the establishment of groups like the Red Front and Anti-Fascist Action, which looked to fight off the growing fascist movement in Germany. It was too late, however. In-fighting between social democrats and communists led to an unwillingness to cooperate, which let Hitler and his goons further supplant themselves to take power.
The leaders of the Weimar Republic and social democrats became afraid of a coming communist revolution and, in hopes of curbing the rising violence, sought to elect Hitler as chancellor. President Hindenburg was pressured by aristocrats and military leaders to give the Nazi’s a foothold that would lead to the demise of their democracy. The fire at the Reichstag supplanted Hitler’s regime, laying blame on the communists, which further stoked further hate. The communist party was then banned, Hitler passed laws to enact his dictatorship, and the Nazis took over Germany. How were the brownshirts awarded for their loyalty and engagement with the movement? Their top officers were killed by a detachment of the Sturmabteilung, the Schutzstaffel (S.S.), in what is now known as the Night of the Long Knives.
The rest is a bloody history, but history that must not be forgotten in hopes of not repeating it. What is happening right now is a powder keg waiting to burst at the seams. While not as organized as the Nazi’s, these far-right paramilitary units seek to do the same as the brownshirts of old. Trump has established a platform of Islamophobia and anti-immigration. Systemic racism is upheld by people in power, and individual racism is rising. White supremacy and neo-Nazis are rooted in the justice system. Far-right groups are purposefully traveling to places where conflict will arise. There are two separate movements in America, and electing Joe Biden will not magically stop either. It’s up to the people to stand for what is right and to suppress racist and xenophobic movements from ever gaining power lest we fall to fascism in the coming future.