Twitter users are flooding the #ProudBoys hashtag on social media with images of LGBTQ pride, displacing posts made by neo-Nazis and white supremacists using the tag.
Proud Boys, a far-right group founded in 2016, calls itself a “white chauvinist” organization but is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The group was in the news after U.S. President Donald Trump declined to condemn them during Tuesday’s presidential debate, instead telling them to “stand back and stand by,” which many group members took as an endorsement. Trump later denounced the group in a Fox News interview.
On Sunday the #ProudBoys hashtag began trending in North America as LGBTQ users included it on photos of their significant others or wedding days and other pride imagery.
It’s unclear where the takeover idea came from, but it may have started with a tweet from actor George Takei.
On Thursday, two days after the presidential debate, Takei tweeted, “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.”
The tweet gained more than 54,000 likes and was shared roughly 13,000 times.
Two days later, on Saturday, Takei tweeted, “Look up what’s trending now on #ProudBoys. You’re welcome, Internet.”
Takei’s call invoked the work of teenagers and K-pop stans (fans of Korean pop music), who, earlier in the year, took over white supremacist hashtags to push hateful tweets out of the hashtag’s feed.
In June, those K-pop fans took over the hashtag #whitelivesmatter, posting videos or images of their favorite stars, in order to drown out white-supremacist messages with nonsensical or anti-racist posts.
“Look at these cute lil #ProudBoys,” Bobby Berk, a host of the popular Netflix show Queer Eye, wrote on Sunday, alongside a photo with his husband. “Retweet and make this hashtag about love, not hate.”
The official Twitter account of the Canadian Armed Forces in the United States shared an image of a serviceman kissing his partner, captioned with emojis of the Canada flag and rainbow pride flag and the hashtag #ProudBoys.
“If you wear our uniform, know what it means. If you’re thinking about wearing our uniform, know what it means,” the organization said in a follow-up tweet. “Love is love.”
An internal report from the Canadian military in November 2018 found 53 members were found to have made discriminatory statements or were linked to hate groups including the Proud Boys and anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin.