The United States presidential election has captured the attention of people from across the globe, and thousands of Canadians tuned in to the election's first debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
While the debate had a number of notable exchanges, Trump's handling of a question regarding white supremacy was one of the evening's most inflammatory moments.
Debate moderator Chris Wallace - American journalist and anchor of Fox News Sunday - directly asked Trump if he could denounce white supremacy. The President said he was "willing to do that" but didn't say "yes" or offer any words of condemnation.
Trump's initial refusal to criticize the Proud Boys — instead saying the group should “stand back and stand by” — drew fierce blowback before he altered his message in a day-later effort to quell the firestorm.
According to BBC, the Proud Boys are a far-right, anti-immigrant and male-only organization that promotes and engages in political violence.
After the debate, Proud Boys leaders and supporters took to social media to celebrate the president’s comments at the debate, with more than 5,000 of the group’s members posting “Stand Back” and “Stand By” above and below the group’s logo.
In response to the President's comments, American actor George Takei asked his LGBT fans to take pictures of themselves making out with each other "or doing gay things" with the hashtag #ProudBoys.
"I bet it would mess them up real bad," the Star Trek icon Tweeted on Oct. 1.
I wonder if the BTS and TikTok kids can help LGBTs with this. What if gay guys took pictures of themselves making out with each other or doing very gay things, then tagged themselves with #ProudBoys. I bet it would mess them up real bad. #ReclaimingMyShine— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 1, 2020
The hashtag takeover did not take long to blow up on Twitter, with the number of LGBT supporters far outnumbering the number of Tweets from the extremist Proud Boys group.
Takei quipped, "You're welcome, Internet."
Look up what’s trending now on #ProudBoys. You’re welcome, Internet.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 3, 2020
I hear The Proud Boys are quite unhappy with me. Oops! Well, I’ve started to collect some of the fabulous posts from our #ProudBoys campaign, working my friends at dotgay. Check out the first carousel of images at https://t.co/WQTRcMWccg— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 5, 2020
Have a look at some of the local LGBTQ+ #proudboys tweets from the past week.
A standing ovation and round of applause go out to #StonewallDay Ambassador, @GeorgeTakei, for using his platform to create a social media call-to-action of LGBTQ+ couples reclaiming and adopting the 'Proud Boys' hashtag this past weekend. Bravo, Uncle George! 🏳️🌈 🖖🏼 pic.twitter.com/48aLBaRodD— Pride Live (@REALPRIDELIVE) October 6, 2020
Proud Boys members are ardent Trump supporters known for their violent confrontations with antifascists and other ideological opponents at protests, often drawing the largest crowds in the Pacific Northwest. Members have been spotted at various Trump rallies, including earlier this month in Nevada.
- With files from the Canadian Press.