Was the Failed ‘Mother of All Rallies’ the Beginning of the End of Independent Trumpism?

By Spencer Sunshine Sep 20, 2017

The “Mother of All Rallies” last Saturday (September 16) may have been the biggest far-right march since the deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, but that doesn’t mean it was successful. Organizers claimed they would draw one million people to Washington, D.C., for what they called the “Woodstock of American Rallies.” Despite months of organizing the rally, with its stated goal of protecting and preserving "American culture," 1,000 people at most came to hear over 50 speakers and bands. The organizers’ boastful branding and their reservation of a huge swath of the mall in front of the Washington Monument backfired. The internet mocked the tiny turnout with aerial photos. It seemed especially pathetic compared to a nearby march by Juggalos, a subculture of Insane Clown Posse fans who dress up like the Detroit-born rap-metal band. The Juggalos were protesting against the FBI designating them a “hybrid gang” in a 2011 report.

MOAR was an attempt to rekindle the pre-Charlottesville street marches held by what I dubbed in Colorlines in June as “Independent Trumpists.” Since Donald Trump took office, this mixture of Republicans, members of the so-called alt-right, neo-Nazis and armed activists from the militia and Patriot movements have participated in a series of rallies in favor of “free speech” and against Islam and the removal of Confederate monuments.

And in this sense, MOAR succeeded in replicating this coalition, even as they tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Nazis from showing up. The rally claimed to oppose racism. It enlisted a number of people of color to speak and the rally’s webpage crowed, “We condemn racists of all colors and supremacy of all colors.”

Leading up to the rally, MOAR had a strong militia-leaning feel, with a lot of right-wing micro-celebrities slated to appear such as “The Pissed Off American.” Several alt-right figures were also scheduled including Joey Gibson, who is best known for gathering White nationalists, far-right bikers and homophobic Christians for rallies in West Coast liberal enclaves.

Alt-right icon Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, who is currently facing felony charges for illegal weapons possession, attended MOAR wearing a t-shirt inspired by neo-Nazi symbolism. Perhaps the furthest right-wing group of the original lineup was the media project The Red Elephants, who promote open White nationalists. Red Elephants were embedded in and broadcast the violent "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville on August 12.

The week before the MOAR, the event veered further right—possibly an attempt to drum up more attendance. Tim Rush and Daniel Burke, two followers of far-right cult leader Lyndon LaRouche, were added to the speakers list. On the Facebook page for the rally, critics pointed out that Nazis had RSVPed "yes."

When a colleague and I rolled up to MOAR an hour after it began, it was clear it was going to be low energy and sparsely attended. The crowd was almost all White and was mostly made up of people who appeared to be in their 50s lounging about in lawn chairs, and men in their 30s. A good number of uniformed militia members wandered about. A cluster of muscled men—including one Black man—wore t-shirts representing American Guard, a group that claims the violent skinhead organizer Brien James as a member. Next to them was a gaggle of Proud Boys, the alt-right fight club founded by Vice cofounder Gavin McInnes.

Also in the crowd were straight-up Nazis. One skinhead who had been identified on the MOAR Facebook group was with a woman sporting a shirt that said, “Guilty of Being White.” A member of the Aryan Terror Brigade—those words were clearly visible on the motorcycle helmet he was carrying—stood near the alleged Nazi.

Still, many of the folks we talked to were surprisingly pleasant. This included Thomas Quinn, a 20-something who had traveled from England, and a 30-something Angel Schultz, who was draped in red, white and blue. Both said they supported Trump because “He’s a regular guy.” We also chatted with a very conciliatory member of the American Freedom Keepers, a Patriot movement group.

This not to say there was no tension at MOAR. Despite the organizers’ hollow claims about promoting free speech, several left-wing journalists and activists were either expelled ­or left the rally after being threatened.

Rutgers University journalist Mack Regan attended the rally with a fellow student. They attempted to interview two Nazis and a female companion but left after one Nazi told him, “go away or I will fucking kill you.”

I was also harassed. A group of extremely hostile alt-right activists, who had read an outlandish online conspiracy theory about me, surrounded me in a circle and yelled homophobic epithets until I talked them down and was able to slip away.

Some critics stayed, however. Don Folden, who leads the DC Black History Night Tour, sat on a stool in front of the stage with a huge sign advertising his event. MOAR participants started a number of arguments with him, including when he knelt during the national anthem, but he remained at the rally. To back up his false claim that the Trump supporters at MOAR were a racially diverse group, one alt-right figure, Jack Prosobiec, included Folden’s sign in a tweet.

At around 1 p.m. we made our way over the Juggalo rally, which was held in front of the Lincoln Memorial, about a mile away. There, a rally three times the size of MOAR had a celebratory feel. Spontaneous chants of “fam-il-ly!” broke out. The Juggalos marched past MOAR, but there was no clash as some had predicted­ or hoped for.

The Juggalos themselves are a complicated subculture, and are primarily White and poor. The band they follow has homophobic and misogynistic lyrics, and Juggalos have been arrested for a variety of criminal acts—including murder.  However, Insane Clown Posse has also denounced Confederate symbolism and racism, and have called for an open and inclusive subculture that boasts feminist and queer subgroups in it. A number of left-wing groups eagerly endorsed the Juggalo march. Democratic Socialists of America brought free drinks and literature under the slogan “Faygo Not Fascism.” (Faygo is a regional soda that Juggalos cherish.) A small antifa black bloc also participated.

These two marches showed different paths that disenchanted White people are heading in. The Trumpists at MOAR continued to blame their problems on oppressed populations and sought ultra nationalism as a safety blanket in a changing world. The Juggalos, on the other hand, reveled in their outcast status. Instead of enforcing a national identity, they made attempts to be welcoming to anyone who wished to join their “family.” And while most Juggalos would probably not pass a progressive litmus test about most political issues, the fact that poor Whites are looking in a different direction than their Trumpist neighbors is a good sign to me.

The fallout from Charlottesville, including the killing of Heather Heyer, has been a blow to the White nationalist wing of the alt-right. Two nationwide marches were cancelled, alt-right leaders were arrested on felony charges, some followers who attended the rally lost their jobs, a number of websites lost their hosting, and several digital platforms canceled White nationalist accounts. MOAR was the largest of the rallies designed to go back to the old model of uniting different far-right factions under one banner. But it was a bust. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of the Independent Trumpist movement. 

Spencer Sunshine is an associate fellow at Political Research Associates. Follow him on Twitter @transform6789.