HARTFORD, Conn. — Civil-rights groups are criticizing President Donald Trump’s remarks at Tuesday night’s debate, where he called on the right-wing group “Proud Boys” to “stand back and stand by.”
On Wednesday he amended that to “stand down,” but the group, which has been involved in violent confrontations at anti-racism rallies, welcomed the shout-out.
Melvin Medina, public policy and advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut said the president’s initial comments were extremely divisive.
“Donald Trump, he’s touting the line of law and order,” Medina said. “And I think he has weaponized the rhetoric around law and order to be targeted against a movement that values Black lives.”
The Proud Boys posted ecstatic responses on social media and began raising money off it by selling T-shirts emblazoned with the president’s words. But late Wednesday, Amazon stopped selling merchandise with the “Stand back and stand by” message.
The Proud Boys deny ties to white nationalism and self-identify as “western chauvinists”.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said Proud Boys do have a presence in the Nutmeg State.
Medina noted last year a police officer in East Hampton retired early and resigned from the Proud Boys after it was revealed that he was a dues-paying member of the group.
“His reasoning for leaving the Proud Boys membership was because he believed that the Proud Boys would be attacked by the left wing, and not recognizing that actually the Proud Boys espouse an ideology that is harmful and hateful,” Medina added.
A 2001 report on extremism in Connecticut found a small presence of other extremist groups, including the Klan, The World Church of the Creator, The Council of Conservative Citizens and the National Alliance.