Who is Patriot Prayer, the American right-wing group banned from Facebook?

Facebook decided on Friday to remove the account of the far-right American group “Patriot Prayer”, which for several weeks was involved in violence against anti-racist protesters in Portland, and a member of which was killed a week ago. The small group defines itself primarily as “Christian”, but is primarily known for its violence against extreme left-wing activists.

“This page is not available,” says Facebook. “The link you followed may be broken or the page may have been deleted”, the error message continues. And with good reason: On Friday, September 4, the social media giant decided to remove the accounts of this far-right American group from its Facebook and Instagram platforms “as part of our ongoing efforts to ban violent militias from our platform,” he said. .

Involved in weeks of violence against anti-racist protesters in Portland (Oregon), the Patriot Prayer group lost one of its members on August 31, shot to death by a left-wing activist who took part in a demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The fatal shooting shone the spotlight on this small group of conservative activists who emerged in the western United States, Oregon and Washington, after Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

Links to another group, “Proud Boys”

Based in Portland, the movement was created by Joey Gibson, who leads the movement from the state of Washington. If the latter, who describes himself as a “conservative libertarian”, denies any connection to the alt-right (a right-wing movement born in the late 2000s in the US), his movement still joined when rallies in support of Donald Trump , by white nationalists and right-wing extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Hell Shaking Street Preachers.

It was in August 2017, the day after the white supremacist and neo-Nazi meeting “Unite the Right” organized in Charlottesville, during which a car had driven into a crowd of counter-protesters who left a dead and 19 injured, that Patriot Prayer, present at the scene , started talking about him.

A year later, when Joey Gibson announced his candidacy for the Republican camp for the Washington state senatorial election, “Gibson for the Senate Freedom March” in Portland, hosted by Patriot Prayer, drew a crowd of counter-protesters, including unions, migrant rights defenders and “anti-fa. “activists. After violent clashes, Oregon police must intervene to end what they then called “civil unrest.”

That day, along with Patriot Prayer, stood another formation, known for their far-right positions: Proud Boys, an organization created in New York by Gavin McInnes – also co-founder of Vice media – exclusively male, pro-Trump, national and is considered to be extreme right by associations and media.

Unlike the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer is a smaller regional group, but Vegas Tenold, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League Center for Extremism, says the two movements attract the same type of people. “Their ideology is extremely vague,” he explains. from Media Insider. “We can only say that they are pro-god and pro-first change. That is it.” This, moreover, is the stated aim of Patriot Prayer: to defend the first amendment to the Constitution (which specifically prohibits Congress from adopting laws restricting freedom of religion and expression), and “liberate the conservatives on the west coastThe Oregon Group and its founder, Joey Gibson, have also always claimed to be primarily a Christian organization.

Their gatherings are smaller than those of the Proud Boys, but Patriot Prayer members often join those organized by the latter. Vegas Tenold describes them as “the kind of guy who exists to take to the streets and confront the protesters,” meaning mostly far-left protesters like the 48-year-old Michael Forest. Reinoehl, alleged perpetrator of the murder of Aaron Danielson (known as “Jay”), a member of Patriot Prayer who was shot dead on August 31 in Portland.

Fear of an explosion of violence ahead of the presidential election

Last year, Joey Gibson was accused of inciting a riot after a street fight. “Where they go, violence often follows,” Vegas Tenold continues in Insider.

For his part, the American journalist David Neiwert, who writes for the Hatewatch blog from the Southern Poverty Law Center, describes Patriot Prayer as a “troll” (person whose behavior aims to create controversy, the editor’s remark) intended to elicit a response from far-left anti-fascists.

The mobilization of anti-racism activists and extremist groups in recent weeks has also raised fears of an explosion of violence ahead of the presidential election, in a deeply divided country, in recession and in the face of the pandemic. by Covid-19.

“The far right is taking advantage of the extremely confrontational political climate, which has become even more insecure due to the pandemic and the protests for racial justice,” said a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which specifically monitors groups. extremists and assesses the risk of political violence before the election as “very real”.

Towards the far right is an even more motley coalition, which Donald Trump groups together under the Portmanteau word “antifa”. He accuses him of bringing together “agitators, anarchists or rioters”.

For Daniel Byman from the Brookings Institution, “antifa” consists of “simple thugs who like to fight against the dough that really wants to fight against white supremacists”. But according to him, they are “less organized” than their opponents, which increases the risk of abundance.

Regularly accused by NGOs and left-wing politicians of laxity with movements that encourage hatred, the Facebook group has taken many steps to ensure that its platform does not act as a means of violence. This is evidenced by his power against QAnon (a pro-Trump movement known for promoting conspiracy theories), but also against militias and anarchist groups that encourage dangerous interventions. So many measures would make it possible to “limit their ability to organize,” the California company explained.

The fact remains that if Patriot Prayer is no longer on Facebook, he still has a Twitter account and other social networks. More confidential, but no less effective.

With AFP