Two days after supporters of former President Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, but failed to reverse his election defeat, a defiant shout sounded from across the ocean. Tommy Robinson, Britain’s loudest amplifier of anti-Islam, far-right anger, insisted the fight was not over.
“You need to pick yourselves back up,” Mr. Robinson said in an online video viewed tens of thousands of times. “As Donald Trump says, it’s only just beginning.”
A former soccer hooligan and founder of the English Defence League, one of Britain’s most notorious nationalist groups, Mr. Robinson has largely been a pariah in his home country but Trump loyalists embraced him much the way they embraced many of the American extremist groups whose members would join the Capitol riot, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
Mr. Robinson appeared on Fox News and Infowars. A right-wing U.S. research institute even bankrolled a 2018 rally in London that foreshadowed the violence at the Capitol: Mr. Robinson’s supporters attacked police officers in a street fight near Parliament. A month later, Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, flew to London to speak at a second rally for Mr. Robinson.
His message? Keep fighting.
The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 has brought new scrutiny to the ties that bind the far right, not only within the United States but abroad. Few fringe figures have enjoyed more cross-national appeal than Tommy Robinson. Anti-Islam groups in Germany and Denmark have given him awards. Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader, called him an inspiration. At one point, the White House took up Mr. Robinson’s cause directly, and the president’s son tweeted his support.
Mr. Robinson’s American connection was deeper than previously known. Interviews and internal documents newly released in court show how the U.S. research institute, the Middle East Forum, provided him with financial backing for three years, using cash from an American tech billionaire and Trump donor, while its president helped shape his message. [Continue reading…]