For the second time this year ACT for America, the nation’s largest anti-Muslim grassroots organization, will organize a series of rallies across the country under the banner “America First.” The rallies are scheduled for September 9.
ACT officially announced the events in early August. Currently, over 50 rallies are scheduled to take place in cities spanning 33 states and Washington, D.C. The rallies will take place at locations ranging from State Houses to public parks.
The rallies are presumably scheduled on this date in order to exploit the tragedy of September 11, 2001 to promote an anti-Muslim agenda. ACT, which claims it has a “direct line” to Trump through its political allies, has been supportive of the administration’s draconian anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies. In March, ACT’s founder and president Brigitte Gabriel attended a meeting at the White House during which she delivered a petition commissioned by her group in favor of Trump’s Muslim ban. In just one example of her bigotry, Gabriel has said that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim.”
In recent weeks, Gabriel and her group have been ramping up support for Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall at the southern border. Gabriel lamented, “Mass immigration to the U.S. is higher than any other country on Earth.”
ACT’s rallies are designed to support the dangerous nationalist sentiment represented by the “America First slogan.” Donald Trump revived the phrase to describe the goals of his administration, but it dates back to the 1940s and has been synonymous with fascist-supporting Americans. The term originates from the America First Committee, a group of isolationists opposed to the U.S. getting involved in World War II. While the committee included prominent businessmen and celebrities, its ranks later swelled with fascist and Nazi sympathizers. One of its main spokespeople Charles Lindbergh, harbored anti-Semitic and pro-fascist attitudes. “The British and the Jewish races,” Lindbergh said at a rally in September 1941 according to the LA Times, “for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”
The concept of “America First” has also been promoted by contemporary white nationalists like Pat Buchanan.
Indeed, it appears ACT’s use of “America First” is in line with the term’s bigoted past, as ACT wields it in service of their present day anti-Muslim agenda. Gabriel has previously claimed Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society.”
This is also not the first time ACT has organized events in support of its bigotry.
On June 10, the anti-Muslim group sponsored a similar set of nationwide rallies using the specter of Islamic law to stoke fear and hatred of Muslim American communities.
In addition to bringing out anti-Muslim activists associated with ACT, these so-called “March Against Sharia” rallies attracted a plethora of American far-right groups ranging from anti-government militias to white nationalist and “alt-right” figures and racist skinhead groups. Writing at Truthout, Spencer Sunshine noted that Islamophobia is the “glue” holding many of these far-right factions together. The Southern Poverty Law Center exposed one of the organizers for an Arkansas rally as well-known neo-Nazi Billy Roper.
The upcoming rallies, like the March Against Sharia, are being organized by conservative activist and unapologetic Trump supporter Scott Presler, who works with ACT and appears to be an ardent fan of Europe’s far right. Presler is also willing to promote Infowars, the program founded by notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Given the racism and nativism that “America First” represents, there is no doubt that ACT’s upcoming events will once again bring out the nation’s most bigoted groups and individuals to rally behind an anti-Muslim agenda.