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A guide to the hate symbols and signs on display at the Capitol riots

By Laura E. Adkins and Emily Burack

(JTA) – The sweatshirt, spotted amid the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, seemed designed to provoke fear. 

“Camp Auschwitz,” it read, along with the message “Work brings freedom” – a rough translation of the message that greeted Jewish prisoners at the infamous Nazi concentration camp. 

The back of the shirt said “Staff.” 

A photo of the man wearing the sweatshirt was just one of the images of hateful symbols that have circulated from the mob, whose violence led to four deaths and wreaked havoc on Congress. Confederate flags and nooses were among the overt hate signs that the insurrection brought into the Capitol.

Other slogans – on flags, clothing or signs – were code for a gamut of conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies. Here’s what you need to know about them and the far-right movements they represent.

Qanon slogans

Several members of the mob wore or carried signs invoking the pro-Donald Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, which is laced with antisemitism. QAnon, which began in 2017 and has gained millions of adherents, falsely alleges that an elite cabal of pedophiles, run by Democrats, is plotting to harvest the blood of children and take down Trump. Trump has praised the movement and espoused its baseless ideas. 

Here are some of the QAnon symbols present in the Capitol on Wednesday.

“Q”  – “Q” represents the purported high-ranking government official who shares inside information with QAnon followers through cryptic posts on fringe websites. QAnon followers often wear T-shirts emblazoned with a huge Q – and several of them were part of the Capitol mob.

Trust the Plan – As Q’s supposed predictions have proven false over the years – including the election of Joe Biden, which Q predicted would not happen – many QAnon followers became disillusioned. Others told them to “trust the plan” and place their faith in QAnon’s theories. The phrase has become one of the conspiracy theory’s slogans. “Trust the Plan” logos were also visible in the Capitol, referring to the “plan” QAnon followers believe is happening.

Save the Children – Messaging related to saving children is a core tenet of QAnon because it alleges a global pedophile ring. Rioters carrying signs saying “The children cry out for justice,” referencing children who QAnon conspiracists falsely believe have been abducted by Democrats and progressives, including the Jewish billionaire financier George Soros.

Qanon 1972 jacket 
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Neo-Nazis

Prominent Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis were part of the Capitol mob. A far-right activist known as ‘Baked Alaska’ livestreamed from inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Another extremist, Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who leads the far-right Groyper Army, was said to be in the room with him. 

The Neo-Nazi group NSC-131 also joined the insurrection, according to reporter Hilary Sargent. NSC stands for Nationalist Social Club and has small regional chapters in the United States and abroad. The 131 division is from New England. In a video, one participant can be seen brandishing a flag with what some Twitter users identified as a swastika, though it isn’t entirely clear.

Confederate flags and nooses 

Other flags on display also were associated with long histories of white supremacy. At least one protester carried a Confederate battle flag into the Capitol building. Meanwhile, nooses – a prominent symbol of racist violence – were placed outside. In one instance, after members of the mob started destroying  camera equipment from The Associated Press, they made a noose out of the cords, according to BuzzFeed News reporter Paul McLeod.

Anti-government militia symbols

Flags bearing the phrase “when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty” (a version of a quote dubiously attributed to Thomas Jefferson) and the Roman numeral III also were seen.

Three Percenters use the logo “III.” They are also known as the III% militia, an anti-government militia founded in response to the election of President Obama. The ADL defines the Three Percenters as “extremists who are part of the militia movement.”

Another symbol favored by militias is a coiled snake above the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” known as the Gadsden flag, which symbolizes support for gun rights and individual liberties. 

The Boogaloo Bois also use the symbol, emblazoned on a flag. The Boogaloo Bois is a loose affiliate of anti-government militias that comes armed to protests. They are known to wear Hawaiian shirts (not as yet seen at the march) or camouflage (which was very much on display). The Boogaloo movement, which aspires to start a second Civil War, gained prominence last year when its members showed up to anti-lockdown protests and racial justice marches. At least one man wearing a shirt advocating for a civil war was present at the Capitol, though it’s unclear if he was an adherent of the Boogaloo Bois. 

The Oath Keepers, an anti-government group like the Three Percenters, according to the ADL, were in D.C. and at a similar protest in Arizona on Wednesday.

Other far-right groups…

Proud Boys 

Members of the Proud Boys, the violent far-right group that Trump told to “stand back and stand by” during a September presidential debate, wear black-and-yellow Fred Perry polo shirts along with red Make America Great Again caps. (Fred Perry, a U.K. brand, has said it would stop selling the shirts because of their association with the group.) 

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, who said he quit the group in 2018, was spotted in the D.C. crowd. The group’s current leader, Enrique Tarrio, was ordered to leave the city earlier this week after being arrested on weapons charges.

It was reported that Proud Boys protesters were also seen wearing “6MWE” shirts, which stand for “Six Million Wasn’t Enough,” a reference to the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. However, JTA was not able to substantiate this claim.

Kek flags 

“Kek,” a phrase that has roots in online gaming, has taken on new meaning on the far right. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Kek is the “‘deity’ of the semi-ironic ‘religion’ the white nationalist movement has created for itself online.” The word is used alongside the meme of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been appropriated as a mascot of white nationalists. The Kek flag resembles a Nazi war flag, with a Kek logo replacing the swastika and the color green in place of red.

Crusader crosses 

The shooter who committed the 2019 massacre at a New Zealand mosque appropriated symbols of the Crusades, and they’ve become popular with other far-right, ethno-nationalist groups. The symbols, such as medieval-style helmets or Templar and crusader crosses, are meant to harken to an era of white, Christian wars against Muslims and Jews. 

The Punisher

The Marvel comic anti-hero The Punisher has been adopted in recent years by white nationalists and neo-Nazis, to the dismay of its creator. “The fact that white nationalists and Nazis embrace it is a tragic misunderstanding,” Gerry Conway told Inverse. “It’s a misappropriation of the character and a blatant disregarding of reality.” 

Intactivists

Anti-circumcision activists, also known as “intactivists,” support banning all forms of circumcision, and the intactivist movement often features anti-Jewish imagery. An intactivist comic book called “’Foreskin Man” portrays blonde Aryan superheroes fighting Jewish mohels, who perform circumcision. The above image shows a protester in front of the Supreme Court in October, and similar signs and outfits were seen this week in D.C.  The Capitol demonstration featured protesters carrying anti-circumcision signs reading “circumcision is the mark of the beast of satan” and “outlaw satan’s circumcision.”

Main Photo: Trump supporters, including one wearing the Crusader cross, storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with the president, Jan. 6, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

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