Black Lives Matter Activists Highlight GOP Candidates’ White Supremacist Ties During First Presidential Debate

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Black Lives Matter Activists Highlight GOP Candidates’ White Supremacist Ties During First Presidential Debate

Nina Liss-Schultz

News reports revealed this week that the leader of a white supremacist group cited by Dylann Roof, the gunmen who killed nine Black people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, had donated tens of thousands of dollars to three Republican presidential candidates.

The first Republican presidential debate was Thursday night, and if you caught it and followed the trending #GOPDebate, you may have also seen #KKKorGOP, an online action calling out the connections between white supremacy and GOP ideology.

News reports revealed this week that the leader of a white supremacist group cited by Dylann Roof, the gunmen who killed nine Black people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, had donated tens of thousands of dollars to three Republican presidential candidates.

Those candidates returned the money. But that gesture wasn’t enough, said Amber Phillips, an organizer of the social media-based action.

“White supremacy is a set of personal, political, and cultural ideas that upholds whiteness as superior to all other races,” Phillips told Rewire. “You should not be able to hold both racist views and power over our entire country.”

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Led by #SandraBland Strategy Core, a group comprised of some of the same people who spoke out against police violence during the Netroots Nation conference last month, the action involved both Tumblr and Twitter in an effort to highlight the similarities between white supremacist organizations and the GOP platform.

One example is the topic of immigration, featured prominently in Thursday’s debate. The Council of Conservative Citizens, the group that influenced Dylann Roof, advocated any means necessary to stop immigration into the United States:

We oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime. We believe that illegal immigration must be stopped, if necessary by military force and placing troops on our national borders; that illegal aliens must be returned to their own countries; and that legal immigration must be severely restricted or halted through appropriate changes in our laws and policies.

The Republican National Committee platform speaks similarly about the topic, saying that the “presence of millions of unidentified persons in this country poses grave risks to the safety and the sovereignty of the United States. Our highest priority, therefore, is to secure the rule of law both at our borders and at ports of entry.”

During the debate Thursday night, anti-racist activists found plenty of fodder with which to fill the #KKKorGOP feed:

The point of the action, Phillips said, is to move politicians toward “declaring that Black lives matter without qualification, denouncing white supremacy and returning all donations from individuals and organizations that are white supremacist.”

During the debate, the ten GOP presidential candidates had a chance to respond to the problem of rampant police violence in communities of color, but it was over in the blink of an eye.

Instagram, on the other hand, responded to the action by disabling the account of one group that posted photos of GOP leaders next to klansmen which asked, “#KKKorGOP,” the Dream Defenders

There was no foul or hateful language around #KKKorGOP. There’s nothing hateful about telling America to wake up and make the connections between white supremacist hate groups and the Republican Party,” Kevin Banatte, who created the graphics, said in an interview with Rewire. “There’s nothing hateful about telling America white supremacy is still an issue and it must not be ignored. And we (Black and brown communities) will continue doing whatever it takes to wake America out of its racist nightmare.”