Despite being promoted as the “spark” that would make the “whole world tremble,” Sunday’s “White Lives Matter” rallies were little more than a spectacular bust.
Planned as the first major white supremacist rally since the 2018 “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C., the “White Lives Matter” rallies saw extremely low turnout, with counterdemonstrators outnumbering extremists in various cities across the United States, including Chicago, New York City, Orlando, Fort Worth, and Raleigh.
In Huntington Beach, California, where Ku Klux Klan propaganda fliers were distributed to promote the racist rally, Black Lives Matter supporters vastly outnumbered the “White Lives Matters” rallygoers. According to reports, more than 500 people gathered in downtown Huntington Beach, where a series of skirmishes broke out between the opposing factions. The rally ended prematurely after police declared an unlawful assembly in order to disperse the crowd.
Other cities saw almost no attendance from white supremacists and far-right extremists. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a lone “White Lives Matter” marcher was encircled by police officers to separate him from a large crowd of counter protesters. A similar incident took place in Fort Worth, Texas, where three protesters assembled around a “White Lives Matter” banner outside the city’s city hall while police officers formed a line to separate them from counter protesters. In New York City, a single protester gathered in front of Trump Towers while counter protesters stood across the street.
Elsewhere, anti-fascist and anti-racist activists held their own gatherings. Anti-fascists held a “Picnic Against Hate” event at Philadelphia City Hall, where they distributed pizza and other snacks while awaiting “White Lives Matter” protesters who never showed up. One activist tweeted photos of the pizza party along with the caption, “This is what antifascism looks like.”
On Telegram, the administrator of the primary “White Lives Matter” channel attempted to lessen the blow of the lackluster rally by claiming that the fault lay with the “anti-White” forces working against them.
“No one said this would be easy,” the administrator wrote on Telegram Sunday evening. “In fact ALL of the Powers of the anti-Whites were in full force to stop us taking off. But we have taken off. And we are determined to carry the cross for our People.”
The group also announced plan to hold rallies in May, adding that the events will be “extremely vetted this time” after reports showed that several of the Telegram channels planning marches turned out to hoaxes created by anti-fascists to expose white supremacists. The “White Lives Matter” organizers attempted to do damage control by claiming that “Antifa did not infiltrate the ‘nation admins’” but instead worked their way into a “small, semi-public chat.” However, that turned out to be an understatement when the “White Lives Matter” channels for New York City, New Jersey, and Seattle changed their avatars to an anti-fascist flag just days ahead of the rallies.
The “White Lives Matter” rallies also failed to unite other elements of the extremist community, including the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. Some QAnon adherents went so far as to call the rally a “false flag” operation led by George Soros.
“Beware and stay away,” one QAnon adherent wrote Saturday. “The whites will be antifa.”
The miserable turnout for the “White Lives Matter” rallies emphasizes the deteriorating network for white supremacists and far-right extremists, many of whom are currently facing increased scrutiny, social media deplatforming, and legal action in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Limited in their ability to spread their message and organize in public, extremist movements have struggled to drum up support outside of alternative social media platforms such as Gab and Telegram.
Aware of the rising tide against extremist movements, a prominent white supremacist Telegram channel reportedly being operated by the leader of the New Hampshire chapter of the Proud Boys, Todd M. Clark, is calling on its supporters to build small grassroots movements focused on “anonymous activism” that protects its members from doxing attempts.
“Make your own associations with other white people in your local area,” the administrator wrote Monday. “Direct them to this channel if you feel they are willing to listen to reason. Build up a solid community group, don’t give it a name, don’t wear the same uniform, just be white people coming together for a similar cause. Do not wait for some group on telegram to tell you when to rally, start now and do it as soon as you have the people.”
While many of the “White Lives Matter” marchers and supporters appeared despondent in group chats following the failed event, many viewed it as one step in a long-term revolution.
“Chin up,” one supporter wrote. “Bigger things are coming.”