This election season, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza says President Trump is “stoking fires he has no intention of controlling” and inciting far-right extremists. She was recently approached by the FBI after agents found her name on a list in the home of a white supremacist in Idaho who was arrested on weapons charges. “Racial terror has always been used as a form of control, particularly during periods of people fighting for social change,” she says.
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Barrett Confirmed: Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza on GOP’s Supreme Court Power Grab
- Part 2: Alicia Garza on Being Targeted in Armed White Supremacist Plot as Trump Stokes Fires of Racism
- Part 3: “Movements Are Not Just About Protests”: BLM Co-Founder Alicia Garza on How to Build & Wield Power
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Alicia Garza, about this latest news. Federal prosecutors have arrested a self-described leader of the far-right “boogaloo” movement in connection with the burning of a Minneapolis police precinct in May. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota says 26-year-old Ivan Harrison Hunter fired 13 rounds from a semiautomatic assault rifle into the 3rd Precinct during protests against the police killing of George Floyd. The “boogaloo bois” promote violent acts aimed at sparking civil war in the United States, and they’ve been linked to more than two dozen arrests and five deaths this year.
Meanwhile, your name has come up in connection with, well, being a target. You recently tweeted that you were approached by the FBI after agents found your name on a list in the home of a white supremacist in Idaho who was arrested on weapons charges. You tweeted, “This is why this President is so dangerous. He is stoking fires he has no intention of controlling.” Can you tell us what happened? I mean, this is just this past week.
ALICIA GARZA: Yes. I mean, I want to start off by saying that, you know, this is not atypical for this president. And, in fact, it is only the result, the likely result and the inevitable result, of the racist flames that this president is stoking and has been stoking, not just for this last four years but for a very long time. We all remember what happened with the Exonerated 5, where this president actually used his resources to encourage the death penalty for five innocent people.
I will say that, you know, one of the things that feels important to me to keep lifting up here is that this conversation about racial terror doesn’t necessarily go far enough. And we saw similar incidents in Oakland during the George Floyd protests. You know, there’s so much rhetoric that this president uses about Black Lives Matter and riots and violence, but in each case what we are finding is that these are white militias, these are white nationalist groups, these are white supremacist groups, that are going to protests to cause chaos, to start violence and to create disturbances. And who gets blamed for that — right? — is people who are protesting to raise the issues of justice, to raise the issues of dignity and to fight back against police violence in our communities. And there’s not enough conversation about this.
You know, the FBI has said, unequivocally, that white nationalism is the greatest threat to American democracy. And that was just recently. And yet, over and over again, too many people continue to advance these narratives that just aren’t true. Even Vice News did a story recently that said that 97% of protests for Black Lives Matter have been peaceful, but that in the 3% where they were not, it was not an issue of protesters becoming violent, it was an issue of people with guns showing up at protests and creating chaos and starting violence. And so I want to make sure that everybody understands the consequences and implications.
Certainly, I’m not the first person, and I won’t be the last person, to be found on a list in the home of a white supremacist. We saw this, of course, just a year or two ago, when there was a guy, I believe in Florida, who had planned to send mail bombs to several activists and several reporters at CNN. And yet this administration continues to ignore and also, frankly, to give a platform to these dangerous, dangerous groups.
For people who are not paying attention, racial terror has always been used as a form of control, particularly during periods of people fighting for social change, all the way from the voting rights fight of the 1950s, where the Klan certainly would be weaponized to terrorize activists, show up at people’s houses and burn crosses and shoot guns through their windows, all the way up until today. Those scourges on our country are not gone.
And now we have a president that is giving them a platform and essentially saying, “Operate how you need to.” That is dangerous not just for people like me, but for everybody who’s watching here this morning.
AMY GOODMAN: And you have not only this guy who’s been arrested, charged with setting fires, taking advantage of the George Floyd peaceful protests after he was killed by police officers, but, back in July, Minneapolis police arrested a man known as the “Umbrella Man,” who was filmed smashing the windows of an auto parts dealership on May 27, two days after the police killing of Floyd. Investigators say the man is a white supremacist who sought to provoke violence against protesters. A Minneapolis arson investigator wrote in an affidavit, “This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city.”
And then I want to go to Vice President Mike Pence at the Republican convention echoing Trump’s vow to enforce law and order, and mentioning the killing of a security officer during a Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland. This is what he said.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: People like Dave Patrick Underwood, an officer in the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, who was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California. Dave’s heroism is emblematic of the heroes that serve in blue every day. And we’re privileged tonight to be joined by his sister Angela.
AMY GOODMAN: What the vice president left out was a key part of the story: The man charged with Underwood’s death was not a Black Lives Matter protester, but a man with ties to the far-right “boogaloo” movement, which has used these protests against police brutality as cover to carry out violence. And this took place in Oakland.
ALICIA GARZA: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could further talk about this and your concerns about what could happen in the post-election period — I mean, it’s very clear that November 3rd may not be the end of the count, that there is a lot of, millions of people who legally their votes can be counted in the days to come, that may be received by Election Day — and what this could mean in the streets as President Trump stokes concern that if the vote is not in that night, that it is a fraudulent election?
ALICIA GARZA: Well, this president has been trafficking in lies, misinformation and disinformation even before he took office, and so it’s no surprise that that would be his stance right now. It is really — it’s egregious, actually, that the vice president and the president don’t tell the America people the truth, and, in fact, that instead of telling the American people the truth, they’re using Black Lives Matter as a scapegoat for their own lack of will to protect every American citizen in this nation, their own lack of will and purpose in terms of addressing the challenges that are facing this country right now, from the pandemic to an economic recession to the climate crisis. I mean, again, this president and this vice president traffic in lies as a way to distract from the fact that they are not actually leading in this country. And I think [inaudible]. It is important to be able to trust the information that comes from the leader of your country. And we’ve found, time and time again, that you cannot do that. We’ve also found that both of these leaders lack a level of integrity. There has been plenty of time to correct these stories and these lies that they have told, and yet they’ve continued to double down. It’s a weird feeling to be watching television and watching the president telling lies about you and the things that you’ve done in this movement.
And so, I want people to really understand the implications of this. This president has been stoking fears about the illegitimacy of an election for months now. And that has been, of course, for the purposes of trying to consolidate his power. If President Trump does not recognize the legitimacy of the election, I think that the implications here are that there may not be full and fair and free elections moving forward. And so, you know, Juan was right: There’s not a lot of people out here who are undecided. But I think it’s possible that there are folks who are watching who think that, you know, we’re going back to these four-year cycles. And I think we should be very concerned that this president and his administration seem bent on changing the structure of government. And that has been an agenda item for the conservative movement for the last 30 years, and it’s only now that they’re actually able to try and deliver on those promises. So there is a lot at stake this time, and it’s not just which party takes power. It’s also very much about the structure and the process of government.
Lastly, I think that we should be concerned that this president has shown no moral leadership to try and bring people together during very turbulent times. And, in fact, again, he is stoking violence. And he’s doing so in a way that is relatively flippant, but I think that he also understands that there are a small group of people who will take violence to the extreme. And who suffers from that is the American people. Who suffers from that are people who are fighting for justice and fighting to actually make this country great. And that should concern us all. We are in the year 2020, not the year 1956, not the year 1965, not even the year 1972. What we should have learned by now — right? — is that racial terror and racial violence has no place in this country, and yet now we have a leader in the White House who is stoking it and resurrecting it, when, frankly, it belongs in history books and not in our present, and certainly not in our future.
AMY GOODMAN: Alicia Garza is the principal of Black Futures Lab, co-founder of Supermajority, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. We’re going to continue with her, after this next break, about her new book called The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart and the role of movements in the future, and what that all means. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “The President Sang Amazing Grace” performed by Kronos Quartet and Meklit. The song recalls President Obama’s eulogy for the Charleston church shooting victims and pays homage to the moment he sang “Amazing Grace” during that memorial service for the South Carolina state senator, Pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was killed during the massacre along with his eight parishioners.