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Trump is calling for support for his court appearance. The far right may stay away

Miami-Dade Sheriff deputies walk in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. federal courthouse building in Miami on Friday.
Gerald Herbert
/
AP
Miami-Dade Sheriff deputies walk in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. federal courthouse building in Miami on Friday.

For the latest updates on this story, check out NPR's digital live coverage.

When former President Donald Trump posted to his Truth Social platform on Friday, "SEE YOU IN MIAMI ON TUESDAY!!!," the call eerily echoed the tweets with which he summoned his supporters to Washington, D.C., in the lead-up to Jan. 6, 2021. Then, Trump's tweet helped to draw tens of thousands to the nation's capital.

For some, it was interpreted as an invitation to plan and engage in collective violence. But extremism researchers say that this time around, they are not seeing signs of similar, large-scale and detailed planning around Trump's expected courthouse appearance.

"One of the most striking things that stuck out about January 6 that we're not seeing now are logistical and tactical maps of buildings, facilities, areas, exit routes," said Benjamin Decker, CEO of Memetica, a threat intelligence group.

Decker said violent rhetoric on fringe platforms such as far-right Telegram channels, 4chan, Gab, Truth Social, Gettr and Patriots.win has spiked since Trump's indictment last week. He said it has been particularly concerning to see some of this language targeting Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel Jack Smith. But he said the appetite to participate in a mass, in-person event is muted.

"There is a lot of paranoia among Trump supporters about getting arrested," he said. "And the cost of arrest and potential jail time, that's still going to deter people ... who may be on the fence about being there to exercise their First Amendment rights or being there to participate in mob violence."

On Monday, a rally in Miami organized by former Florida congressional candidate Laura Loomer seemed to attract more reporters than participants.

Jared Holt, senior research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said a handful of other groups appeared to be organizing rallies for Tuesday at the courthouse. But he noted they were attracting skepticism from doubters who accuse the organizers of setting up a "false flag" or federal honeypot trap intended to arrest Trump supporters.

"So a lot of the people that have been organizing these rallies have really been stressing to would-be attendees that they should be careful and be on the lookout for people who might want to put them in a bad situation," Holt said.

In addition to the paranoia, researchers said that in the years since January 6, Trump has also lost his shine to many in his former base. "I think there's this general sense of Trump fatigue that's happening right now," said Alex Friedfeld, of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism. "We are not seeing them get as animated as they have in the recent past around issues surrounding Trump."

Instead, Friedfeld said Trump's base is now largely focused on the next thing — namely anti-LGTBQ+ efforts. That campaign has reflected a broader tactical shift on the far right during the last two years, to move away from organizing at a national level and refocus on local government. Now, moms groups, religious organizations and extremist groups like the Proud Boys are in common pursuit of an anti-inclusion agenda in schools, libraries and statehouses.

Decker and other extremism researchers acknowledge that there are limits to what they can learn online about what members of the far right may plan. Since January 6, many groups and individuals fled to more private and encrypted channels of communication. Additionally, online monitoring can easily miss radicalized individuals who are inspired by online chatter to act violently.

"It can be hard to pick up on that with online analysis, frankly, without a really, really intrusive style of monitoring and unlimited man hours to review it," Holt said. "But it's always a risk around these events."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Odette Yousef
Odette Yousef is a National Security correspondent focusing on extremism.