Washington DC has introduced extreme security measures on a scale not seen since the civil war as the city braces for violence from right-wing pro-Trump groups at the inauguration of Joe Biden.
It’s a sad sight.
Instead of the usual crowds of pedestrians and politicians, the city’s streets are swarming with tens of thousands of police officers and National Guard troops.
A security fence is in place around the Capitol building, with troops and armoured cars monitoring designated “green” and “red” zones.
National Guard and troops take security measures in Washington DC. Photo: Getty
Military helicopters hover in the sky and most of the downtown restaurants and souvenir shops are closed, with boards plastered over windows for protection.
The FBI isn’t taking any chances.
After crowds of right-wing extremists stormed the US Capitol on January 6, the law enforcement agency has been vetting all 25,000 National Guard troops arriving in Washington.
“Hang Mike Pence”, cried Trump supporters around a makeshift gallows during the US Capitol siege. Photo: Getty
There are fears some troops could be organising an insider attack, with commanders warned to look out for problems in their ranks and guard members trained to identify potential threats among their peers.
And the security boost isn’t just happening in Washington DC.
More than a dozen US states have called in National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings over fears of uprisings in their own cities, far away from the action at Mr Biden’s inauguration.
Meet the ‘patriots’ trying to overturn a fair election
The groups of pro-Trump rioters on the FBI’s watch list range from bizarre, anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists to violent alt-right extremists.
They are – to put it lightly – an eclectic mix of people.
The Alternative Right, commonly known as the “alt-right”, is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that “white identity” is under threat by migrants.
Most members are overwhelmingly white, but some aren’t.
A key organiser of the “Stop the Steal” movement, Ali Alexander, identifies as black and Arab, while the chairman of the neo-fascist Proud Boys is Enrique Tarrio, a Latino who identifies as Afro-Cuban.
Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys. Photo: Getty
Nonetheless, many of the groups who stormed the US Capitol have roots in white supremacist ideology.
And they have been planning for an opportunity to flex their muscles for a long time.
Here are the signs and symbols of hate groups that intelligence agencies will be looking out for:
Black and yellow ‘Oath Keepers’ merchandise refers to a far-right, staunchly pro-gun group called the Oath Keepers.
The group recruits former and current law enforcement and military officials, and is one of the largest anti-government militia organisations in the US.
ARRESTED: Jessica Watson, 38, from Woodstock, Ohio served in the @USArmy in Afghanistan and is the commander of a local armed militia called the Ohio Regular Militia – a unit of the Oath Keepers https://t.co/WJp7Vm7osy pic.twitter.com/BNcQzDJA2P
— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) January 18, 2021
The ideology of the Oath Keepers most closely resembles that of the militia movement, whose members believe the US is collaborating with a one‐world tyrannical conspiracy called the New World Order.
A Capitol Hill rioter spotted wearing Oath Keeper merchandise. Photo: Insider News
They believe the government is fighting to strip Americans of their rights – starting with their right to keep and bear arms, before imposing martial law and locking up dissenters.
The Oath Keepers’ patches warn: ‘Not on our watch’. Photo: YouTube
‘The three percenters’
The Roman numeral III is the emblem of The Three Percenters, a wing of a militia movement.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the term ‘Three Percenter’ refers to the myth that only three per cent of colonists fought against the British during the Revolutionary War – but achieved liberty for everybody.
The Three Percenter logo – the Roman numeral III – has become very popular among anti-government extremists. Photo: Anti-Defamation League
Three Percenters view themselves as modern-day versions of those revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical US government rather than the British.
The green flag with stripes and ‘K’ letters on it represents Kekistan, a fictional country that started as an alt-right meme designed to mock the political correctness of the Left.
Kekistan, also known as ‘Kek’, is linked to the image of the alt-right mascot, Pepe the Frog.
The alt-right Kekistan flag is flown at a rally in New York City. Photo: Getty
It started as a joke – somewhere between satire, irony, mockery and serious ideology – and is not understood by ordinary people oblivious to the alt-right depths of the internet.
Kek has since become a kind of tribal marker of the alt-right, and the flag is often waved at neo-Nazi gatherings.
A patch with the image of an armed Pepe the Frog is worn by an attendee at a rally in Virginia. Photo: Getty
QAnon is a far-right conspiracy group that believes a cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against Donald Trump.
The group is surprisingly popular, attracting members from all walks of life, including educated parents, academics and anti-vaxxers.
Many of them rail against wearing face masks, believing the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax designed to take away their freedoms.
A Donald Trump supporter holding a QAnon flag visits Mount Rushmore National Monument in July. Photo: Getty
QAnon surfaced in 2017 on 4chan, an anonymous and unregulated image board website where anything goes.
Members follow the anonymous character, Q, who feeds them regular “updates”.
Although it is difficult to estimate the group’s size, it is likely that QAnon members number in the tens of thousands.
‘OK’ hand signal
To many people, the ‘OK’ hand gesture simply means “OK” or “good”.
But in recent years, the gesture has been appropriated by the alt-right to mean “white power”.
A Trump supporter holds up an OK sign, believed by some to be a white power symbol, near a Black Lives Matter mural in front of Trump Tower. Photo: Getty
The three fingers outstretched resemble a “W” and the circle made with the index finger and thumb denotes the letter “P”.