Black Lives Matter Protest, Montreal
Credit: iStock

When it comes to the so-called “riots” going on in many cities, everyone has their own narrative about who is to blame. Most people simply assume that the protests against the murder of George Floyd got out of hand. But attention has also turned to the influx of “outside agitators” who are escalating the situation.

The president’s initial response was to blame the protesters and call them “thugs.” But over the weekend, even he changed his tune. The administration’s chosen narrative at this point is to blame the violence on far-left extremist groups—especially Antifa. That is what we heard from the attorney general.

Presented with the fact that the Department of Homeland Security is seeing evidence of involvement of extremists from both the left and the right, the president’s national security advisor insisted on blaming the left.

Trump’s enablers in right wing media are joining the chorus on this one—blaming Antifa and “the radical left.”

Zeroing in on Minneapolis, where all of this started, one of the first videos to emerge showing the destruction of property was of a white man methodically breaking windows in a storefront and being confronted by protesters.

That scene has been repeated over and over again.

Here are some of the stories Minnesota Public Radio heard from local residents about what they are witnessing.

On his way home from a protest Friday night in Minneapolis, Jonathan Turner Bargen encountered a white man in a red pickup truck. The man was carrying an assault rifle and a handgun, Turner Bargen said. Then he noticed a symbol from the far-right militia group Three Percenters affixed to the truck.

“I circled back and took pictures of the vehicle. I was concerned about why they were present at the downtown protest, and had no idea who to notify,” said Turner Bargen in an email to MPR News…

Bridget Schumann was out for a run near Calhoun Square in south Minneapolis on Friday night when she saw a truck that was being driven aggressively, honking and intimidating other drivers. The truck had a big white sticker on the back of the cab with the OK sign symbol associated with white supremacists.

“There were two men in the driver and passenger seat and they were wearing camo bulletproof vests and they were armed,” she said.

Schumann watched them get out of the truck and walk around in an apartment building parking garage like they were looking for something. She saw them scream at a woman leaving the garage…

In the predawn hours of Friday, KJ Starr watched from her yard in the Seward neighborhood, which has been especially hard hit by arson, as nearby buildings were consumed by balls of fire and billowing smoke.

With police and firefighters nowhere in sight, Starr and friends have been trying to fight fires themselves. When a nearby pizza shop went up in flames, she and some friends walked over to see what they could do. She was terrified by what she saw.

“This pickup truck of a dozen armed men just pulls up next to us,” she said. “I just did a total pivot.”

Several news outlets are pointing to this kind of evidence suggesting the involvement of white supremacist groups. Of particular concern are those Zach Beauchamp described as “accelerationists.”

It’s called “accelerationism,” and it rests on the idea that Western governments are irreparably corrupt. As a result, the best thing white supremacists can do is accelerate their demise by sowing chaos and creating political tension. Accelerationist ideas have been cited in mass shooters’ manifestos — explicitly, in the case of the New Zealand killer — and are frequently referenced in white supremacist web forums and chat rooms.

Accelerationists reject any effort to seize political power through the ballot box, dismissing the alt-right’s attempts to engage in mass politics as pointless. If one votes, one should vote for the most extreme candidate, left or right, to intensify points of political and social conflict within Western societies. Their preferred tactic for heightening these contradictions, however, is not voting, but violence.

At this point, there are some things that we both know and don’t know about what is happening. The one thing we know is that the violence we’re witnessing is not simply a matter of protests run amok. There are groups of white people attempting to exploit the situation.

What we don’t know is who those groups are. The president and his enablers are simply wrong to suggest that the only perpetrators are extreme leftists like Antifa. The actual evidence points to the involvement of white supremacists.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.