Staff members at a North Carolina political rally for Donald Trump on Friday cautioned the audience against using a controversial salute linked to the QAnon conspiracy movement, according to a “PBS NewsHour” journalist.
Last week, a rally for the former president in Youngstown, Ohio, had sparked controversy after many attendees raised their arms skyward in a gesture chillingly evocative of the stiff-armed “Sieg Heil” salute honoring Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
“You saw the rally in Ohio the other night: Trump is there ranting and raving for more than an hour, and you have these rows of young men with their arms raised,” she said at The Texas Tribune Festival, a “politics and policy event” in Austin, Texas.
The comparisons may also have been worrisome for rally organizers in North Carolina. One man in the Wilmington crowd told Lisa Desjardins of “PBS NewsHour” that a staffer told him to put his hand down when he raised the one-finger salute.
Other staff members could be seen telling attendees the same, according to Desjardins. “Clearly [they] had been directed to watch for this kind of gesture and to shut it down,” she tweeted.
Those in the audience reportedly told Desjardins that the gesture represents “Where We Go One We Go All” — a saying in the QAnon movement.
But the event included plenty of other conservative signifiers, playing songs like “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and an Elvis Presley rendition of “Dixie.”
From the stage, Trump also flashed an “OK” sign, which is sometimes used as a white supremacy gesture and frequently employed by QAnon followers.
In addition, the former president closed a lengthy speech with instrumental music linked to the QAnon movement — similar to what was played during last week’s rally, reported the News & Observer in capital city Raleigh.
Trump used Friday’s event to promote local candidates he has endorsed, and he bashed investigations into his political and business practices.
He repeatedly attacked New York Attorney General Letitia James, bizarrely referring to her as “Peekaboo” several times, the News & Observer said. He also called her “disgusting,” “racist” and a “raging maniac” for investigating his business, according to British outlet The Independent.
Earlier this week, James’ office announced that it had filed a lawsuit — which Trump referred to as “depraved” — accusing the former president and his three oldest children of vastly misrepresenting the value of their assets to obtain loans and favorable insurance payouts and to undercut taxes.