Photos of MAGA Mafia members wearing zip ties and flexible cuffs on the Senate floor sent the country shivering as Americans wondered what the rioters were planning.
It’s unclear why the men dressed in military-style gear wore the restrictions – whether they planned to use them on members of Congress, the police, or counter-protesters. Charged rioters Eric Munchel and Larry Rendall Brock Jr. will now have to answer in federal court for their reasons for being in the Senate with plastic cuffs. But long before headlines appeared on the Senate floor, zippers were a popular extremist piece of equipment that, like military-style helmets, bulletproof vests, and tactical gear, represented the attempts. of the extreme right to imitate and usurp the army and the law. government enforcement functions.
Pro-Trump extremists on The Donald, a MAGA-oriented social media site, urged attendees at “Stop the Steal” rallies to arrest anti-fa members and “oath-breakers” – a term for members of Congress accepting the vote count – and participants said “Flexcuffs are very cheap online. Put a big bundle on your belt like [law enforcement officers] make.”
On Speak, one user wondered why the military couldn’t force members of Congress to “fulfill their oath” and “rush the police, demand they step out, tie them up with zip ties, pick them up. capital, bring an unmarked white van, Blindfold the cops, strip them naked in the vans and take them to the desert, and leave them all naked, with a blanket to share ??
“Bring zip ties to tie up the enemy to ‘disarm’ them. They cannot throw if their feet and hands are tied together. While in a large group, also tear off their backpacks. Stay together, ”urged another Talking user. “I’m sad to be stuck at home.”
Immigrants were among the first victims of the radical right’s fascination with zip lines. As the George W. Bush administration began to contemplate immigration reform, the radical right took hold of undocumented immigrants as an issue they were prepared to fight over. The Minuteman Project militia, founded in 2004, drew more than a thousand supporters for extrajudicial border patrols and other militias quickly moved to the border to harass and detain suspected migrants, often with ziplines.
Among the groups that headed for the border in the 2010s were the “Rusty’s Rangers”, a militia believed to have been led by Kevin Massey, who allegedly detained suspected migrants at gunpoint with ties. . The FBI later learned that Barry Croft, one of the men accused of attempting to kidnap, tempt and execute Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer after Trump’s calls to “free Michigan” from its regulations. quarantine against coronavirus, had “tried to provide support” to Massey. after the FBI charged him with firearms violations, according to an October 2020 FBI search warrant request.
“They imitate or play [being cops] or, in some cases, these people are former military and law enforcement officials and do not act but reveal their background.“
– Joseph Young of the American University
“The far right is a fairly diverse group, but one of the subgroups leading it is the militia movement,” Dr. Joseph Young, an American University professor who studies extremism, told The Daily Beast. of right. “This sub-group was influenced by the police, by the military in their clothes and their clothes. Either they imitate or play on it or in some cases these people are former military and police and do not act but reveal their background.
But the practice of carrying ziplines as part of a right-wing paramilitary cosplay became much more popular once the Trump administration took office and brought with it a fan base of avid right-wing radical supporters. street fight.
Robert Evans, a Bellingcat journalist and researcher who focuses on the far right, noticed a spike in militia interest in ziplines soon after militias used them to detain a counter-protester at a rally of “freedom of speech” in Portland. Members of the violent Three Percenter and Oathkeeper militia overpowered a man with zip ties during the rally, which took place shortly after the “Unite the Right” riot in Charlottesville, and handed him over to police officers. agents of the Federal Protective Service, which guards federal buildings.
The pressure to wear ziplines and restrictions, Evans says, arose out of the belief that militias were ideologically aligned with law enforcement and could “stop” left-wing opponents like the antifa and other militias who confront the right during street demonstrations.
“The zipper talk started with people wanting to stop their political enemies on the streets and evolved into what we saw on the 6th,” Evans told the Daily Beast.
As evidence, he pointed to leaks of far-right chat papers obtained by the activist group Unicorn Riot, which show extremists encouraging each other to wear improvised handcuffs.
“If you’re going out to protest and you’re a peaceful protester, grab some ties and subject some of those people to citizen arrest.“
– Kennedy, Fox News host
“If the police again refuse to do anything about those wearing masks (an ongoing crime), what does he think of everyone to subdue them and place them in ziplines as part of the ‘arrest of a declared citizen? ” extremists wrote about antifa members in popular Discord chat room after white nationalist “Unite the Right” riot in Charlottesville, VA
Activists from Rose City Antifa, a leftist group based in Portland, say they have seen a number of right-wing activists who have taken up the same zip tie. The group shared several photos with The Daily Beast of protests from 2018 to 2020 showing members of the right-wing militia in Portland and Olympia, Washington, seen wearing zip ties, flexible cuffs and, in one case, handcuffs. detective style.
“Initially, we saw zip lines worn primarily by associates of far-right militia movements such as the Oath Keepers or the Three Percenters,” an RCA spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “As rhetoric emanating directly from the president and the far right has become more explicitly demeaning towards anti-fascists and the black life movement over the past year, we have seen a general increase in tactical gear, open portage and the police. style supplies like zip ties among hate groups like the Proud Boys, as well as seemingly less extreme “Conservative” and “Back the Blue” groups in Portland. “
The tactic may have remained an otherwise obscure far-right tic, but the climate of vigilance ushered in by the national unrest in the Minnesota Police Department that killed George Floyd has provided some mainstream exposure. As protests and riots spread across the country, Fox News host and former MTV VJ “Kennedy” urged viewers to wear ties and make their own “arrests.”
“If you go out to protest and you are a peaceful protester, grab hold of bonds and subject some of these people to citizen arrest,” she said. “If they hurt people, if they throw Molotov cocktails, if they set on fire, if they break things and commit crimes, go ahead and help them find what they want. in the end, which is apparently an arrest.
However, once President Trump lost the election in November, far-right rhetoric focused not only on usual targets like anti-fa and left-wing activists, but government officials as well.
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