Demonstration levels spiked in both the United States and Canada last week. In Canada, labor and environmental demonstrations were held across the country. In the United States, the rise in demonstration activity was largely attributable to hundreds of ‘March for Our Lives’ events held nationwide to call for federal gun control legislation. Over two-thirds of all demonstrations reported in the country during the week were organized in support of gun control legislation, following multiple high-profile mass shootings. Meanwhile, reported far-right militia, militant social movement, and openly white supremacist activity significantly increased compared to the week prior, including the arrest of 31 Patriot Front members for “conspiracy to riot” at an LGBT+ Pride event in Idaho. ACLED records a significant spike in violence targeting the LGBT+ community during the week.
In Canada, labor groups demonstrating for improved working conditions constituted the majority of demonstration activity last week. Environmental demonstrations also continued in several cities, including the ‘Save Old Growth’ campaign — an environmental movement demanding a stop to all logging of old-growth forests. Police arrested at least 14 Extinction Rebellion demonstrators holding blockades in British Columbia as part of the campaign (Global News, 13 June 2022).
On 11 June, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers arrested two Sikh community organizers during a Sikh community rally at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, after a hoax police tip falsely identified them as members of an extremist group carrying explosives. The two men were later released from custody, and the RCMP issued an apology over the arrests, with the tip now being investigated as a suspected hate crime (CBC News, 16 June 2022). The rally was being held to commemorate the victims of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India.
In the United States, demonstrations demanding federal gun control legislation erupted in at least 45 states and Washington, DC, last week, with the vast majority of these demonstrations coinciding with the nationwide ‘March for Our Lives’ movement on 11 June. Demonstrations in support of increased gun control outnumbered demonstrations supporting gun rights by a factor of more than 10-to-one last week, despite gun rights demonstrations reaching their highest levels since ACLED coverage of the United States began in 2020. The vast majority of gun rights demonstrations last week were met by an opposing group of gun control demonstrators. Last week also marked the highest number of armed demonstrations (i.e. those in which at least one participant was armed with a firearm) since the week of 16 January 2021 in the wake of the United States Capitol riot.
On 11 June, QAnon adherents held a demonstration in Dallas, Texas, in anticipation of an appearance by John F. Kennedy, Jr., who they believe is set to announce the reinstatement of Donald Trump as president of the United States, despite being deceased (My San Antonio, 13 June 2022). The demonstration coincided with a ‘March for Our Lives’ demonstration, and QAnon adherents were reported to have espoused claims that recent well-known mass shootings were ‘false flag’ events.
Amid LGBT+ Pride Month, last week marked the highest number of violent events targeting the LGBT+ community since ACLED began coverage in 2020. This is part of larger trend in anti-LGBT+ mobilization increasingly shifting away from demonstration activity toward outright political violence in the United States (for more on the rise of anti-LGBT+ mobilization, see this ACLED fact sheet). On 12 June, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a transgender woman was badly beaten by a man who yelled slurs at her at an underground hookah lounge, then shot her friend and sister when they tried to intervene, inflicting non-life-threatening injuries (Fox29, 13 June 2022). Meanwhile, an unknown perpetrator set fire to a pro-LGBT+ flag and a home with pro-LGBT+ decor in Baltimore, Maryland, on 14 June, creating a blaze that damaged four homes and seriously injured three people (Washington Post, 14 June 2022). ACLED’s Conflict Change Map first warned of increased violence to come in the United States in the past month.LGBT+ events and individuals were also subject to threats of violence last week. On 12 June, an LGBT+ rally organizer with the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition received a death threat in relation to a planned event in Atlanta, Georgia, which resulted in the postponement of the event (The American Independent, 14 June 2022).
In addition to targeted violence, anti-LGBT+ demonstrations also continued last week. Most notably, on 11 June, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a group of people held a ‘Pride in the Park’ event, which was countered by several armed far-right groups, including white supremacists. Members of ‘Panhandle Patriots’ — a right-wing biker group — were present at the event. Meanwhile, 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front were intercepted by police near the event. The group was arrested on charges that include “conspiracy to riot,” after police received a tip from a citizen who witnessed the group loading into a U-Haul with shields (Washington Post, 11 June 2022). Police recovered a document in which the group outlined their intent to “wreak havoc” at the LGBT+ Pride event (Coeur d’Alene Press, 11 June 2022). In the days following the arrests, Idaho police reported that they had received dozens of threats, including death threats and threats to dox officers involved in the arrests (NBC News, 13 June 2022).
In San Lorenzo, California, a group of at least eight Proud Boys disrupted a ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ event that was taking place at a local library on 11 June. The Proud Boys yelled homophobic and transphobic slurs at attendees and facilitators of the event, which forced organizers to shut down the event and hide in a back room of the library for their safety. Police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime (NBC News, 12 June 2022). Similarly, Proud Boys members demonstrated outside of a drag brunch event on 12 June in Arlington, Texas, where they were reported to have yelled homophobic and transphobic slurs at attendees. Despite the increase in anti-LGBT+ mobilization, demonstrations in support of the LGBT+ community outnumbered anti-LGBT+ mobilization by a factor of more than two-to-one last week.
Meanwhile, in other developments outside of demonstrations, an explosive device was planted at the residence of San Jose City Councilmember Dev Davis in California on 14 June. Police responded to a report of a suspicious device that was called in by a neighbor, and confirmed that an explosive device was found and defused. The area surrounding the home was evacuated before police announced that the area had been cleared (Los Angeles Times, 15 June 2022).
In addition to the anti-LGBT+ events outlined above, reported far-right militia and militant social movement activity significantly increased last week. On 11 June, the Chino Valley Preparedness Team and the Yavapai County Preparedness Team held separate recruitment and public information sessions in Chino Valley, Arizona, as did the Verde Valley Preparedness Team in Cottonwood, Arizona. On 14 June, the Maricopa County Preparedness Team held a recruitment and public information session in Surprise, Arizona.
Openly white supremacist organizations remained active in the United States last week as well. Around 14 June, the Goyim Defense League (GDL) distributed anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT+ flyers in Surfside Beach and Conway, North Carolina, in which they associated Jewish people with the anti-LGBT+ Disney ‘grooming’ conspiracy theory, which was sparked by Disney’s public disavowal of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation. Lastly, on 16 June in Wakefield, Massachusetts, National Socialist Club members held a sparring training session.
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