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Weaponizing fashion and accessories – including a ‘walis tambo’

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 12, 2021 7:28 pm

The whole world watched in shock last Jan. 6 as a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC, where the US Congress convened to certify the votes cast by the US Electoral College declaring Joseph Biden as the next president of the country after beating President Donald Trump in the elections.

Incited by Trump, who has been making false claims that there was massive fraud in the elections, the insurrectionists invaded the Capitol building as they clashed with policemen and vandalized everything in their wake, even making it to the chambers of the legislators to prevent the certification proceedings.

A Trump loyalist as Abraham Lincoln is featured in The New York Times.

They were certainly dressed for the carnage. Many had painted faces, using the colors of the American flag as their warpaint palette. Claiming to be “patriots,” as Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, referred to them in an encouraging tweet, they chose symbols of the “America” that their idol promised them will become great again if he wins a second term: There was a platinum-goateed man dressed as Abraham Lincoln and one even came as the American Bald Eagle. A lady wore the robes and headdress of the Statue of Liberty. Superheroes were in abundance, led by the quintessential Superman of America’s DC Comics.

Pinoy Trump supporter in the Capitol Hill insurrection with his “Captain America” walis tambo. (AFP photo)

Even the Philippines made it to the proceedings with a participant originally from Ilocos Sur wearing protective gear and an American flag, brandishing a walis tambo broom with a Captain America shield that had graffiti in support of Trump’s views: Coup, Pandemic Hoax, False Media, Extremist Groups, Mail-In Fraud. The staple cleaning implement of Filipino households was easily spotted, making the AFP image go viral in Philippine communities all over the world.

A QAnon cult member as the Statue of Liberty (AP photo)

The 2020 Asian American Voter Survey actually recorded 34 percent of Filipino-Americans as saying that they would vote for Trump because of the conservative values that he represented and, according to Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, some Filipinos had traveled from their home states to Washington, DC to join the protest.

Filipinos, of course, are veterans at showing off their political colors through dress. Yellow became the color of defiance against the Marcos dictatorship and it flooded EDSA in clothes and banners during the People Power Revolution.

A cosplayer of “A Hero’s Call,” wearing her favorite Batman superhero costume to denounce corruption in government. (A Hero’s Call)

More recently, in 2017, superhero costumes also became a weapon to express political opinions when cosplayers of “A Hero’s Call” wore them in FB posts displaying placards condemning corruption in the government.

A Trump loyalist wears her political colors as eyeshadow. (Jacquelyn Martin/Opelika-Auburn News)

For the Capitol Hill mob, the outfits may have been amusing at first glance, but for many of them, their dress code and accessories reflected insidious white supremacist beliefs of right-wing groups that make up a large portion of Trump supporters.

At a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, the dress code of the neo-Nazis was the quotidian college town polo shirt which made them look approachable, clean-cut in a preppy sort of way. Andrew Anglin, a prominent right-wing figure, instructed followers to look “hip, sexy, dangerous and appealing” by working out in the gym and wearing tight shirts “so that guys will want to join us and girls will want to be our groupies. That will make us look like bad boys and heroes.”

Contrast this look with the brazen 2021 outfits at the recent Capitol Hill insurrection, where there were Viking warriors, a look that Nazis and white supremacists have always been obsessed with. Jake Angeli, who calls himself the shaman of QAnon, the conspiracy theory cult, came as a Viking in horned helmet, animal pelts, and was shirtless to show off his Norse pagan religious tattoos. It’s a perverted obsession with a golden age of Nordic racial purity that is equated with Trump’s promise of restoring the greatness of America by cutting down on immigration and basically disenfranchising people of color in general.

The Confederate flag, a historical symbol of supporting slavery (AFP photo)

No surprise, then, that aside from the fashion favored by racists, the accessories of choice at the rally were caps and flags that symbolized their groups with white supremacist beliefs. The Confederate flag, for one, was always a symbol and support for slavery and after WW2 became a symbol for Jim Crow laws and segregation. The green, white and black Kekistan flag, derived from a Nazi-era flag, is ever-present at right-wing rallies. Many had “Oath Keeper” caps representing their pro-Trump, anti-government group that recruits active or retired military and police.

You can just imagine the danger that these groups pose to civilized society and a democratic republic that they wish to subvert with their intolerance of other races and political beliefs unlike their own. And with an erratic and unhinged sitting president feeding them false news and inciting them to violence, the danger to America cannot be emphasized enough, prompting talks of removing him from office by invoking the 25th Amendment or by impeachment — even before his term ends on Jan. 20.