One of the kind of supporters Donald Trump has in the past called “passionate” was arrested Sunday morning after police received tips he was threatening Muslims and building homemade explosives. Before safely detonating a device they found in William Celli’s Richmond, California, home, authorities had evacuated the neighborhood in the city just north of Berkeley. It was undetermined whether the device was active or inert.
Celli had regularly posted negative comments on his Facebook page about Syrian refugees, immigrants, Hispanics, Democrats, and Republicans he considers insufficiently conservative. On October 21, he posted: “Donald trumps on again I’m happy leaders okay but this guys a great point man I’ll follow this MAN to the end of the world.”
Of course, Donald Trump cannot be directly blamed for anything a random fan may do or say. But the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination has injected a fresh spring in the step of white extremists. In what should come as no surprise to anyone given Trump’s barrage of racist and anti-Muslim spew, white nationalists are looking to his campaign with admiration and hopefulness. The Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi group Stormfront are even using him to expand their outreach. The national organizer of the Knights Party, a Klan group, urges members to use Trump’s campaign as a conversation starter in their recruiting efforts.
Peter Holley and Sarah Larimer report:
And they’re desperately hoping Trump’s rise from reality-show figure to Republican front-runner may be the beginning of something that transcends the campaign trail.
The same rhetoric that frightens critics (“Trump has really lifted the lid off a Pandora’s box of real hatred and directed it at Muslims,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok) draws praise from supporters such as former Louisiana politician and KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.
Trump doesn’t endorse white supremacist groups and has fired a couple of staffers who posted racist comments on social media. But his xenophobic campaign talk resonates with them like no presidential candidate since Pat Buchanan in his abortive run for the Republican nomination in 1992. The neo-Nazis at Stormfront claim that web traffic inspired by Trump’s campaign forced the organization to upgrade its servers:
“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”
Trump’s appeal to the armband and jackboot crowd may not mean we’ll be seeing an outpouring of “Sieg Heils” or the Horst Wessel song at his campaign rallies. But the message of hate he’s spreading is hardly less rancid or frightening.