As a mob stormed the US Capitol last week, far-right extremists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis around the world spread hate and cheered on the violence. Now, experts are warning that attacks like last week's on the US Congress or the attempted storming of Germany’s parliament in August could be carried out in the days ahead.
On Wednesday, as the House voted to impeach him an unprecedented second time, Trump released a statement that urged calm. “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. … I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers,” he wrote.
But for extremists watching the chaos in the United States unfold, that message may be too late. Samantha Kutner, a fellow at the Khalifa Ihler Institute, told BuzzFeed News that far-right groups around the world view the insurrection as “a mass recruitment effort” and “a fight to protect white supremacy.”
Since the insurrection, BuzzFeed News has monitored the social media accounts of nearly three dozen far-right extremist groups and leaders outside the US. Members of extremist groups including the Scandinavian Nordic Resistance Movement, CasaPound Italy, the Ukrainian Azov movement, and the Australian and British Proud Boys, as well those in lesser-known but no less dangerous entities, have called for more blood to be shed.
One neo-Nazi channel on the messenger app Telegram called on its hundreds of subscribers to take up arms and “enjoy the coming deadly carnival.”
Another such channel on the platform shared a post telling its thousands of followers to start believing in their “accelerationist fantasies” because “you’re in one.”
Other extremists on Telegram and Gab, another social network popular with the far right, promoted a “Million Militia March” on Jan. 20 and urged supporters to join armed marches in state capitals beginning Saturday.
Although mainstream social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have started to remove accounts associated with Trump supporters and far-right extremists, and Apple and Google dropped the fringe far-right-friendly platform Parler entirely, countless violent and ominous messages remain.
“I do expect foreign far-right groups will feel emboldened by Jan. 6,” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an extremism researcher and author of Hate in the Homeland, told BuzzFeed News. “After the failed far-right attack on the German parliament four months ago, this is, for the global far right, an example of ‘success’ and will be celebrated as a victory by many groups.”
In August, during a demonstration in Berlin against the German government's coronavirus-related restrictions, hundreds of right-wing protesters broke through a barrier and tried to storm the country’s legislature. While shocking, police managed to repel the crowd within minutes.
Since Jan. 6, most of the extremist channels have grown by dozens if not hundreds of members, many of whom have begun to share each other's messages for the first time.
Jason Blazakis, a senior Research Fellow at the Soufan Center, told BuzzFeed News that some coordination between overseas far-right extremists and US-based extremists has long existed. But after last week’s insurrection, “those connections may harden because of what is perceived to be a success for the far right,” he said.
Sergei Korotkikh, a Belarusian-born neo-Nazi and leader of Ukraine’s Azov movement, which the State Department has labeled a nationalist hate group, cheered on the attack in racist terms on his Telegram channel. “The whites, finally, have decided to act and are taking over the Capitol building," he wrote to his nearly 23,000 followers. “This is good, although this time it might not lead to anything. But I think that this gives us a chance. The whites are still here and we know what to do.”
In another post, Korotkikh shared an image in red, white, and blue text that read, “Make America Hate Again.”
Azov has worked hard in the past five years to grow ties to European and American white supremacists. One of them is American white supremacist Robert Rundo of the violent Rise Above Movement. Rundo and other RAM members were involved in the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. At least one of Rundo’s RAM cohorts, Vincent James Foxx, was reportedly seen at the Capitol riot.
Rundo, however, wasn’t there. Currently living in Serbia to avoid prosecution in the US for alleged crimes in Charlottesville and California, he cheered the violence from his Telegram channel, saying the unrest could advance white supremacy.
“Many of us have talked endlessly for opportunities like what we are seeing today. For those that ever wanted to take a stand … today could be that day,” he wrote to his more than 4,000 subscribers.
That was a sentiment echoed by one of his close comrades, the Russian mixed martial arts fighter and neo-Nazi Denis Nikitin, who lives in Ukraine. Nikitin, whose White Rex clothing company is popular among US white nationalists, compared the riot to a 1925 Ku Klux Klan March down Pennsylvania Avenue.
While it seems as though international extremists are for now merely providing moral support to those in the United States, Blazakis said that soon they could provide more than that.
“I can see overseas actors providing material support to US-based far-right actors in the future — if that is not already happening,” he said. “Because there are no far-right terrorist groups sanctioned by the US government, there is nothing to stop that flow of finance from happening. This is a big vulnerability.”
Kutner found US-based extremist groups raising money to help participants involved in the insurrection. BuzzFeed News saw at least four foreign far-right accounts on Telegram share links to those crowdfunding campaigns.
Miller-Idriss said that unless authorities in the United States held the Capitol rioters and those who incited them, including Trump, to account, more bloodshed was possible — in the US and abroad.
“It’s absolutely essential to send a strong message that this kind of violence is treasonous and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.