This past Wednesday, a small group of black-rights activists gathered outside city hall in Hollywood, Florida, to ask the city to stop honoring three Confederate generals — Robert E. Lee, John Hood, and Nathan Bedford Forrest — with named streets. Forrest, in addition to being a general in the army that killed people in order to keep slavery legal, later became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
In response to that peaceful protest, a Hollywood Police officer was caught on tape saying his department was treating the small gathering as a "trial run" or "practice run" for violent riots. Hollywood PD mobilized scores of cops in heavy tactical gear, including officers positioned on rooftops to monitor the protest.
"We don't get called out a lot, so we're fine with it," the unnamed cop says in the video. "We need some trial runs, some practice, because of stuff that happened over, if you look at Portland, if you look at —"
"Houston?" the protesters ask.
"Seattle," the cop responds, referring to "antifascist" protesters who shattered storefronts and lit bonfires in Portland and Seattle this past May 1. The officer also mentions that the department intentionally staffed the protest with its biggest, strongest cops in case violence broke out. "Seattle Police were fighting with, um, guys on bikes, full gear, fighting with their bikes — the Antifa guys."
Shevrin Jones, a black state representative who said pro-Confederate protesters outside city hall called him the N-word and a "monkey" and told him to "go back to where [he] came from," criticized the officer for expecting a peaceful protest to devolve into violence.
"Not only is it offensive; it makes you look at what type of society have we turned into," Jones told New Times via phone. "According to our laws, you are allowed to have a peaceful protest. But what does that mean in 2017? We’re not in war here."
A Hollywood Police spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the video, but after New Times first published photos of a different cop hugging the same pro-Confederate protesters, the department eventually told NBC Miami that it was "not the right time to fraternize." The department has not punished the officer for the photograph, as some have claimed on the internet.
In the video, the other cop also notes that he was aware that a Robert E. Lee statue had been taken down elsewhere in Florida recently. And later in the clip, the person filming says the officer told her off-camera that he lived on one of the three streets in question and that he told the group he didn't want the names changed.
"A lot of these officers are out here and they support what we are standing here for," the woman who filmed the encounter, Nicole Cook, said on film. (Reached via phone, Cook said that the video spoke for itself and that she did not want to elaborate further.)
Local activists, including several with the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, have said they were offended that the officers acted so friendly with protesters defending symbols of the Confederacy. At least one of those demonstrators brought a flag representing the League of the South, a white-supremacist, neoconfederate organization, and has been photographed in the past wearing a neo-Nazi pin.
A different group of pro-Confederate protesters took the video above. They have explicitly told New Times they denounce white supremacy. But they were members of the national "Three-Percenter" movement, a small militia of "patriots" who threaten to overthrow the government by force if it were to ever restrict access to guns.
The group was started by Alabama blogger Michael Vanderboegh in direct response to Barack Obama taking office. Vanderboegh has in the past told his followers to smash the windows of Democratic congressional offices (which they did in 2011). While he signed a manifesto in the 1990s explicitly denouncing white supremacy and neo-Nazism, he has maintained close friendships with known racists, including Larry Pratt, a gun-industry lobbyist who helped kick-start the militia movement in the early 1990s by speaking at a convention of neo-Nazis and Klan members.
Vanderboegh's blog, called "Sipsey Street Irregulars," is the spiritual center for the Three-Percenter movement, which was named after the factually dubious assertion that only "three percent" of Americans actually took up arms against the British. Vanderboegh's views are chaotic and somewhat incoherent: He's aligned hard against the Klan and Nazisim, but the website's bloggers also despise the Black Lives Matter movement, and have published numerous articles trashing black activists. In fact, the website has in the past implied that the Movement for Black Lives is trying to incite a race war. (The blog stopped updating in 2016 after Vanderboegh died.)
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In 2015, a blogger on the site shared an article about liberal political donors meeting with activists that supported the BLM movement, and wrote that this was "Something to keep in mind when we finally get through the coming civil war that BLM and others are soliciting and the war crimes trials begin. If Nuremberg held the funders of the Nazis like the Krupps and the Thyssens morally and legally culpable, so too should the money men who, with their dollars, promote a ghastly three-sided race war."
Elsewhere, that same blogger also once proudly wrote about one time he screamed bloody murder at a black dude in a thrift store wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, claiming that the Movement for Black Lives was somehow going to encourage an "American Hitler" to exterminate black people, and that some good, law-abiding white person like the blogger himself would be forced to fight a war to defend the Black Lives Matter folks.
The Three-Percenters who showed up to Hollywood this week were open about their affiliation with the group, and at least one even wore a Three-Percenter tee-shirt. Hollywood Police had no issue snapping photos with armed insurrectionists.
Just don't ask the cops to take down a sign honoring one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan — apparently then they'll start to worry you'll incite a riot.