A battle of love vs. hate took place this weekend on Twitter.
The Proud Boys hashtag, which members of the far-right group have been using, was trending Sunday after it was taken over by LGBTQ community spreading messages of love to combat hate.
When Donald Trump was asked to denounce white supremacy during the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, he instead made an ominous remark referencing a far-right group, putting the Proud Boys in the spotlight.
While the far-right Proud Boys group were marching in Ohio over the weekend, gay men around the world were taking back the title, posting pictures of being proud, gay and in love.
One of those posts was from the official Canada Forces in the U.S. twitter account, which was trending around the continent.October 4, 2020
“I thought it was pretty amazing, the whole group represents a lot of hate, so it was so nice to see it flip it on its end, and say enough is enough,” say Jake Rafuse and Steve MacLeod, who have been together for 20 years and married for 12.
Rafuse and MacLeod say they enjoyed seeing what became of the hashtag over the weekend, something they said never would have happened 20 years ago.
“We’re just going to take all that hate and turn into love, and something positive, take its power away from it.”
The Twitter takeover showed that the term ‘proud boys’ has different meanings to different people.
“It was a beautiful way to deter the tension away from the hate that the Proud Boys were sharing,” says Quentrel Provo, founder of Halifax based ‘Stop the Violence, Spread the Love’.
Provo says all of the turmoil of 2020 has left him hopeful that more people are reacting to hate with love, regardless of whether their communities are being directly impacted.
“When I’m talking about allies, I’m talking about people of privilege, people who are not black that have been allies out in the forefront protesting. Not only there, being on social media and speaking out, sharing the message, but not stopping and just speaking out for the trend," says Provo.
Halifax has a recent history with the Proud Boys far-right movement, when five members of the Royal Canadian Navy disrupted a Mi'kmaq ceremony in downtown Halifax on Canada Day 2017.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada has spoken out about anti-Semitic stickers recently found posted around Halifax.
“Bad feelings toward Jews don’t come independently of bad feelings against all kinds of other groups,” says Larry Haiven of Independent Jewish Voices Canada. “Things are not just directed at one group. They come in a package and we have get together and fight together on this.”
That fight came via a hashtag over this weekend.