Facebook removes accounts of far-right group Patriot Prayer

©Agence France-Presse

Facebook says it has taken down accounts of the far-right group Patriot Prayer

San Francisco (AFP) - Facebook on Friday said it has removed accounts of far-right group Patriot Prayer for violating its ban on dangerous groups or individuals.

"They were removed as part of our ongoing efforts to remove Violent Social Militias from our platform," Facebook said in response to an AFP query.

Patriot Prayer has become embroiled in recent violence pitting rival groups of protesters against one another in the northwestern city of Portland, and a follower of the group was fatally shot last weekend. 

Patriot Prayer is a far-right group active in the Pacific northwest, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Over the past three years, the group has hosted and promoted rallies in progressive cities like Portland, frequently engaging in violence against their political opponents," the center said in a post on its website.

"Patriot Prayer rallies regularly include the Proud Boys, a hate group, and various antigovernment extremist groups."

Media in Oregon cited an attorney for Patriot Payer founder Joey Gibson as confirming that his accounts and those of the group were removed by Facebook.

Gibson has rejected accusations that Patriot Prayer is a white supremacist group, maintaining it is a Christian organization, according to local media.

Shootings at protests against police brutality have stoked fears of rising violence as a deeply divided US heads into elections amid economic collapse, the pandemic and the worst social upheaval since the 1960s.

"The radical right is actively looking to exploit today's historically polarized political climate –- one that has become even more uncertain under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic and protests for racial justice," warned the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups.

"With the 2020 presidential election fast approaching, the prospect that extremists might resort to political violence is a very real one," it said.

Up against the extreme right is a more diverse coalition of activists that US President Donald Trump collectively calls "Antifa," short for "Anti-fascist," whom he accuses of being "rioters, anarchists, agitators and looters."

Its members "vary from thugs who like to fight... to those who are more truly defensive to those who are active on social media, trying to dox white supremacists," said Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution.