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Extremism Headlines: Border convoy, Speaker Johnson, Antisemitic arson

Every week, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project rounds up our recent work and headlines on extremism and the radical right that caught our attention through Feb. 9. 

Border convoy

  • Vice reported on Feb. 6 that a convoy called “God’s Army” rallied in three cities near the southern border last weekend, drawing a mix of Christian nationalists, Jan. 6 rioters, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and paramilitary groups. Demonstrators gathered to protest the U.S.-Mexico border policy of the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden. But the rhetoric went beyond immigration policy and included antigovernment conspiracies and dehumanizing language about migrants, according to the article. Vice said it was the “biggest mobilization for the fringe right in years.”
  • Far-right organizers have discussed organizing convoys to the border for weeks. Wired reported on the organizing efforts of another convoy, called “Take Our Border Back,” on Jan. 26. According to Wired, far-right extremists discussed heading to the Texas-Mexico border to show support for the Texas government in its ongoing standoff with the federal government over border policy. 

National Gathering of Prayer and Repentance

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., recently spoke at the second-annual National Gathering of Prayer and Repentance at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 31. The anti-LGBTQ+ hate group Family Research Council organized the event. Johnson appeared with pastor James Cahn who has claimed three ancient deities named Ba’al, Ishtar and Moloch compose “a dark trinity” of spirits in the U.S. intent on driving God from public life. The spirits want to change U.S. culture through “sexual revolution” and drive parents to “sacrifice their children,” Hatewatch reported on Jan. 31.
  • Rolling Stone then published an opinion article about the event on Feb. 6. The article mentions that two dozen members of Congress joined featured Christian nationalist pastors who urged fellow Christians to “tie the hands of Satan” and “bind the demonic forces” allegedly possessing America. Notable figures at the event included Pastor Ché Ahn, a leader of the New Apostolic Reformation, a conservative movement that seeks to evangelize the planet. Other speakers included the “apostle” Dutch Sheets and Lou Engle, who prayed for the salvation and transformation of 100,000 LGBTQ+ Americans through divine intervention. The article describes the gathering as a as a “far-right counterweight to the National Prayer Breakfast, a longstanding ecumenical religious event, which was also held in Washington last week.” Rolling Stone said the event sheds light on the creeping influence of anti-democratic theologies among elected officials, emphasizing the alignment of some lawmakers with extremist Christian nationalist movements.

Man extradited from Sweden over suspected coverup of antisemitic fires 

  • CBS News reported Monday that Sweden extradited Alexander Giannakakis, a 37-year-old man from Quincy, Massachusetts, to the U.S. to face charges related to a series of fires at Jewish institutions near Boston in 2019. Authorities suspect his now-deceased younger brother was responsible for the fires. Giannakakis was indicted in 2019 on several charges related to alleged obstruction of an investigation into the fires, including covering up an act of domestic terrorism.
  • The younger brother was in a coma when authorities identified him as a suspect in 2020 and died later that year, the Associated Press reported in 2022. Authorities allege Giannakakis brought his younger brother’s devices and papers to Sweden, where he was living, and made false statements to police when he was questioned in 2020. He also allegedly concealed evidence implicating his brother. Giannakakis appeared at Federal court on Monday, CBS News reported.

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Above Photo: Trump supporters attend a Take Our Border Back Convoy near the Mexico-U.S. border in San Ysidro, California, on Feb. 3, 2024 (Photo by David Swanson/AFP via Getty Images) 

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