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White supremacist images culminate at US Capitol riot

Amid the American flags and Trump 2020 posters at the US Capitol during last week's insurrection were far more sinister symbols: A man walking the halls of Congress carrying a Confederate flag. Banners proclaiming white supremacy and anti-government extremism. A makeshift noose and gallows erected outside.

Both within and outside the walls of the Capitol, banners and symbols of white supremacy and anti-government extremism were displayed as an insurrectionist mob swarmed the US Capitol. Source: Associated Press

In many ways, this hate-filled display was the culmination of many others over the past few years, including the deadly 2017 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that gathered extremist factions from across the country under a single banner.

Extremist groups, including the pro-Trump, far-right, anti-government Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, a loose anti-government network that's part of the militia movement, were among those descending on the nation's Capitol on January 6.

Lecia Brooks, chief of staff of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said it was also important to note the demographics of the riotous crowd, which was overwhelmingly white.

Within that context, Brooks said, even more traditional symbols of American patriotism, like the American flag, or political preference, like Trump 2020 signs, served to give the symbols of hate a pass.

"You can wrap yourself in the American flag and call yourself a patriot and say you're acting on behalf of the country, that you're serving to protect the country," she said. 

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"But what America were you standing up for? One that continues to support and advance white supremacy? Or one that welcomes and embraces a multi-racial, inclusive democracy? That's the difference."

Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland was inside the Capitol building as the violent mob made its way inside.

Raskin, who is Jewish, chairs the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Congress and has sat through multiple hearings about the dangers of violent white supremacy. 

Insurrectionists loyal to US President Donald Trump, including Aaron Mostofsky, right, and Kevin Seefried, left, walk down the stairs outside the Senate Chamber in the US Capitol. Prosecutors say Seefried, photographed carrying a Confederate battle flag during a deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol was arrested after authorities used the image to help identify him. Source: Associated Press

He said he was shocked by the "open manifestations of pro-racist and pro-Nazi ideology."

"This massive attack on the Capitol and invasion of the Congress would be shocking and criminal enough even if these people had no racist or anti-Semitic intent at all," he added. 

"But when you add in the elements of violent white extremism, you can see how profoundly dangerous this is to the future of our country."