If anything's true about America since the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, it's that parts of the country have stoked themselves into a tense, outraged, and violent frenzy. And in the recent spate of right-wing protests, the full horror of that anger is being realized in truly grisly ways. Right-wing protests are boiling over into racist violence, and in some cases, resulting in the murders of left-wing protesters, bystanders, and members of marginalized racial and religious groups.
Take, for example, the scene that transpired in Berkeley, California back in April. Hot on the heels of massive protests that shut down an appearance by a far-right speaker — whom I won't name here — invited to the UC Berkeley campus by the school's college Republicans group, an April 19 demonstration erupted into chaotic violence when Trump supporters, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists descended on Civic Center Park.
Punches were thrown, at least one stabbing was reported, Nazi salutes were thrown up, and more than 20 people were arrested, with 11 more injured. Prominently among the injured was a protester named Louise Rosealma, who was photographed being sucker-punched. The image of her assault ended up catching fire within far-right, white nationalist circles online, ginning them up with promises of more violent clashes to come.
Or consider what happened at the University of Washington on January 20, the night of the Trump inauguration. In the midst of a protest against a far-right speaker on campus ― the same aforementioned man who tried and failed to hold an event in Berkeley, as it happens ― one of that man's fans shot a protester in the stomach.
The victim, Josh Dukes, survived the shooting and professed afterwards that he didn't want revenge, because he "refuse[d] to be like them." Nonetheless, as The Guardian detailed, he bears a scar from the attempt on his life ― a long, snaking line up the middle of his abdomen.
Then, of course, there's what transpired in Portland, Oregon in the past week. A man reportedly spouting racist, anti-Muslim abuse at a pair of women killed two men who came to their defense, and injured a third. According to The Washington Post, the suspect in the case has a history of promotion white nationalism on social media, and according to Portland journalist Corey Pein, was at a "free speech" rally last month where he was reportedly seen delivering ― you guessed it ― Nazi salutes.
The Trump era seems to have exacerbated and vulgarized basic interactions between strangers in toxic ways, even besides physical violence. For instance, the now-infamous video of a screaming Trump supporter verbally accosting a Muslim family at a Texas beach, a display of vitriol that earned the man an arrest and a tearful mugshot. That interaction did not come to blows, despite the man's threatening and aggressive behavior towards the family. It was terribly easy to imagine things turning violent.
In short, there have already been a number of examples of political and racial violence in the last several months that seem connected to the rising tide of overt racial agitation and the cruelty of the current political climate. Unless something changes quickly, these are forces of hatred and violence we could be living with for a long time. After all, when people's feelings of animus and hatred are being validated from the top, it's hard to push that stuff back in the box.