What Are "America First" Rallies? The Alt-Right Cancels Its Anti-Muslim Marches & Will Protest Online Instead
ACT for America, a right-wing extremist group, has cancelled its "America First" rallies, citing their safety concerns in the wake of Charlottesville. In a press release given exclusively to the far-right media outlet Breitbart News, the group, which is known for its anti-Muslim stance, said that they were concerned about the violence at recent public demonstrations: "[E]xtremist and radical organizations in the United States and abroad have overrun peaceful events in order to advance their own agendas, and in many cases, violence has been the result."
ACT for America did not specifically say which events it was referring to, but it did say that it did not want to present an "opportunity" for "Neo-Nazis, Antifa, the KKK, and ISIS inspired individuals and groups" to incite violence. This statement, which can be read as an attempt to distance themselves from far-right white supremacy, comes only a few months after ACT for America staged anti-Muslim "March Against Sharia" rallies in June.
Instead of a physical demonstration in September, ACT for America said it would hold an online rally. “ACT for America has notified all its volunteer team leaders and organizers ... and requested that all local event planning be terminated,” the press release states. “Any events that continue to be scheduled for this date do not have the sponsorship or endorsement of ACT for America, and the organization’s name may not be used.”
Anti-Muslim group (& alt-right darling) cancels 67 “America First Rallies.” Huge anti-Nazi turnout in Boston showed people not with them.— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) August 22, 2017
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a research institution which tracks hate groups, ACT for America is the nation's largest anti-Muslim organization. “ACT demonizes all Muslims as terrorists who want to subvert the political system in this country,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told NBC News in June.
The SPLC does note that ACT has made other attempts in the recent past to distance itself from overt racism. For example, the organization discharged Billy Roper, a prominent neo-Nazi who had been tasked with organizing an ACT rally in Arkansas in June, after reports about his racist beliefs came to light. "ACT for America’s membership is patriotic citizens whose only goal is to celebrate America’s values and peacefully express their views regarding national security," the statement released to Breitbart said.
BREAKING: After alt-right organizers saw huge counter-protests in Boston, they've canceled 67 "America First Rallies" scheduled in 36 states— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) August 22, 2017
Some, like Jon Cooper, the Democratic National Coalition chairman, noted that the cancelation of these rallies comes in the wake of what went down during the Boston Free Speech Rally on Saturday. The "free speech" event, organized by people with ties to the so-called alt-right, was vastly outnumbered by counter-protestors from Black Lives Matter and other organizations.
Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for America's founder, has close ties with President Donald Trump's administration. She has posted a number of pictures of herself in the White House and at Trump's Mar-a-Lago in Florida. According to The Atlantic, Gabriel last December wrote that “ACT for America has a direct line to Donald Trump, and has played a fundamental role in shaping his views and suggested policies with respect to radical Islam.”