The RWDS patch reportedly worn by the Texas shooter is a 'sign' to 'would-be fascists,' an extremist knowledgeable stated

  • Authorities have recognized the gunman of the Allen, Texas, mass taking pictures as Mauricio Garcia, 33.
  • Legislation enforcement sources instructed AP that the person wore a patch that stated “RWDS.”
  • The acronym, for Proper Wing Loss of life Squad, is extra a meme than a proper group, consultants instructed Insider.

The gunman who killed at the least eight folks in a mass taking pictures at an Allen, Texas, procuring heart on Saturday wore a patch on his chest with a phrase continuously thrown round in far-right circles and extremist teams, a regulation enforcement supply instructed the Related Press.

On Sunday, the Texas Division of Public Security recognized the shooter as 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, CNN reported.

A regulation enforcement official who spoke on the situation of anonymity instructed the AP that Garcia, after being fatally shot by a police officer, was discovered carrying a patch that learn “RWDS” —  an acronym that stands for “Proper-Wing Loss of life Squad.”

Regardless of what the title suggests, a number of extremism consultants instructed Insider that RWDS shouldn’t be a proper group or group.

“It is basically a call-to-arms for would-be fascists, neo-fascists, and anybody who believes in a hard-right authoritarian state,” Micheal Edison Hayden, a spokesperson and senior investigative reporter for Southern Poverty Legislation Heart, stated.

Origins of the acronym

Hayden instructed Insider he first encountered the phrase within the early days of the Trump period and that it appeared as a “form of insidious meme.” However the acronym referenced in alt-right social spheres has developed from being a easy on-line meme to showing in real-world extremist crime scenes. 

The attacker who killed 11 folks within the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue taking pictures in 2018 continuously shared RWDS memes on-line earlier than finishing up the assault, Meghan Conroy, a analysis fellow on the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Analysis Lab and a former investigator for the Subcommittee on January 6, instructed Insider.

Equally, an energetic responsibility Marine, who was investigated beneath suspicion of plotting to homicide minorities and DNC workers, amongst others, was a part of a Fb messenger chat group known as Proper Wing Loss of life Squad, Conroy famous. The Marine, Travis Owens, was launched from the army over the incident however was not charged with a criminal offense, Insider beforehand reported.

“And clearly these individuals are not essentially Proud Boys, proper? They don’t seem to be even essentially a part of a selected group,” Conroy instructed Insider. However embracing the net tradition surrounding the RWDS memes “allows them to really feel like they’re a part of one thing greater than themselves, and so they’re a part of this web tradition that’s cool and stylish and is doing one thing — as a result of you probably have dying within the title of your chat group, or meme or no matter it might be, that is a not-so-subtle trace that that is going to manifest in some form of offline motion.”

Jeremy Bertino

Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino at a protest in Raleigh, North Carolina, in November 2020.

Anthony Crider

Whereas it’s unclear if the Texas shooter was related to an extremist group, members of the Proud Boys have been seen carrying references to RWDS.

Proud Boy member Jeremy Bertino, who pleaded responsible in October to seditious conspiracy costs in connection to the January 6 riot, will be seen carrying an RWDS patch, in addition to a Fred Perry model emblem and an American flag, at a protest close to the North Carolina Govt Mansion in Raleigh shortly after the 2020 election.

Legal professionals for Bertino and representatives for the Fred Perry model didn’t instantly reply to Insider’s request for remark. 

At one other occasion in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Bertino added an RWDS patch to his t-shirt that learn, “Pinochet did nothing flawed.”


The memes reference former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and his real-life right-wing dying squad, Hayden and Conroy famous.

Pinochet ruthlessly sought out his opposition after his 1973 coup d’etat — and a technique he executed his enemies was by throwing folks off a helicopter mid-flight. 

“Motion is completely imbued into the very title of RWDS, particularly as a result of Pinochet was an actual individual, the right-wing dying squads have been actual and so they truly did the factor that lots of these people wish to do, which is murdering political enemies, and likewise staging a coup towards the democratically elected president,” Conroy instructed Insider. “The by traces are so there and the precedent exists — as a result of they’ve this tangible factor that occurred in historical past that they will level to and be like, ‘Oh, look, we are able to do it too.’”

Hayden stated a meme about helicopter rides circulated on Twitter earlier than the 2016 election, sending the message that when Donald Trump is elected, his critics will likely be thrown out of a helicopter.

Proud Boys members additionally bought RWDS and Pinochet T-shirts for $40 at rallies and on-line starting in 2018, in response to SPLC. 

Mixing the message, “Pinochet did nothing flawed” and “Proper-wing dying squad,” the general level is simple, Hayden stated. “It’s for individuals who want a hard-right authoritarian state — a brutal fascist takeover of the US,” he stated. “And it’s a method to sign curiosity in extrajudicial violence.”

How extremists use humor

Extremists have lengthy used memes, jokes, and irony to advance their ideology whereas sustaining an air of believable deniability. Viveca Greene, a professor at Hampshire Faculty who researches using satire throughout excessive ideologies, instructed Insider it is an strategy that trendy alt-right activists have embraced.

“A number of the memes operate by interesting to individuals who like having the insider information to have the ability to get the joke,” Greene instructed Insider. “A number of them carry out what humor students known as boundary upkeep: there’s an ‘us’ and there is a ‘them.’ I imply, racist jokes and humor have performed that perpetually.”

Through the use of memes and jokes to sign you are a part of the in-group, individuals who share them can really feel a way of belonging and proceed perpetuating the sense of the distinction between those that perceive and agree with the meme versus those that do not.

“Admittedly, it may be tough while you’re making an attempt to find out whether or not somebody is shitposting on the web as a result of they’re indignant or they’re unhappy or they really feel they wish to really feel like they’re a part of one thing greater than themselves,” Conroy instructed Insider. “Or if you are going to have a state of affairs the place somebody goes to mobilize offline.”

Authorities are nonetheless investigating a motive for the assault by the Texas shooter. Nonetheless, a supply instructed AP that federal brokers who reviewed his social media accounts discovered posts expressing neo-Nazi and white supremacist views.

Conroy famous that the continued circulation of the memes, particularly after mass violence, can recruit extra extremists, glorifying the perpetrator and urging like-minded followers to cease posting and take motion.

Hayden stated the RWDS meme was circulated “closely” in fringe Telegram channels following the Texas taking pictures.

“Some folks say, ‘Oh, properly that is only a joke’ and stuff like that,” Hayden added: “Very clearly, if Garcia was carrying it, he didn’t take it as a joke.”