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The Guardian - October 2, 2020

The far-right Proud Boys group, whom Donald Trump refused to denounce this week, have been linked to assaults on protesters, white supremacist organizing, the spread of Covid misinformation and other threats against Americans.

Emily Gorcenski has been tracking them every step of the way.

Since 2018, the 38-year-old data scientist has been exposing members of the far right and cataloguing white supremacist violence across the US through her site, First Vigil. The project grew out of the attack on her Charlottesville, Virginia, community the year prior – the deadly Unite the Right rally, which brought Gorcenski face to face with neo-Nazis bearing torches and swastikas, shouting racist and transphobic vitriol at her. One of her attackers was later revealed to be an active service US marine.

Using court files and other public records, the anti-fascist researcher has catalogued hundreds of criminal cases, connected the dots of dangerous neo-Nazi networks, and revealed links that journalists and authorities have missed. These days, it can be difficult to keep up. Far-right violence has escalated dramatically under Trump, who has ignored his own government’s domestic terrorism warnings and encouraged vigilante violence against leftists.

For her safety, Gorcenski has relocated to Berlin, where she has some distance from the US white supremacist threats and the groups she investigates.

In the latest installment of the Guardian’s series on trans activists at the forefront of protest movements, we talked to Gorcenski via Zoom about her predictions of increasing violence, the best 2020 tactics for fighting neo-Nazis, and the links between anti-trans movements and white supremacist groups.

Let’s start with Trump’s refusal at the debate to condemn the Proud Boys. What do you see as the potential consequences of his “stand by” remark?

This is explicit approval of violent white nationalism from the highest reaches of the government. What this says is the president does not care about the idea of an equitable legal foundation for our country. And these groups see this as tacit permission to not only keep doing what they’re doing, but to ramp it up. After Charlottesville, Trump was asked if he was going to tone down the rhetoric, and he said, no, I’m going to “tone it up”. And then in the 18 months after Unite the Right, we saw a stunning amount of white supremacist violence across the US, including mass shootings and terrorism. Now, I expect we will see an uptick in the coming weeks and months.

Can you tell me a bit about why you decided to start tracking neo-Nazis on First Vigil? ...

Read full interview at The Guardian