‘RWDS’: What the Patch Found on the Texas Gunman’s Chest Stands For

Anthony Crider/CC-BY 2.0
Anthony Crider/CC-BY 2.0

The man who police believe killed at least eight people at a mall in Allen, Texas on Saturday afternoon wore a tactical vest with a “RWDS” patch on it, sources told The Washington Post on Sunday. The acronym, which stands for “Right Wing Death Squad,” is a popular insignia among white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and paramilitarists.

No motive in the shooting has formally been established by police, but the presence of the patch—among other factors—has reportedly contributed to authorities approaching the mass shooting as a possible hate crime or domestic terrorism incident.

The suspected gunman, identified as a 33-year-old man named Mauricio Garcia, has no prior criminal record. But, according to FBI records obtained by Rolling Stone, his social media accounts contained “hundreds of postings and images to include writings with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist rhetoric, including neo-Nazi materials and material espousing the supremacy of the white race.” The outlet also reported that Garcia may have had ties to a local neo-Nazi group.

The “RWDS” patch has been seen in recent years on the clothing of some members of far-right extremist groups at marches or protests, particularly in the days leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

On Dec. 12, 2020, several members of the Proud Boys, which the SPLC defines as a hate group, wore “RWDS” hats and patches as they gathered in Washington, D.C.’s Freedom Plaza to hear white supremacist Nick Fuentes speak, according to The New Yorker.

At another rally several days later, according to the SPLC, more Proud Boys were spotted bearing the acronym on their tactical vests as they burned a Black Lives Matter banner.

In 2021, The Daily Beast reported that an active-duty U.S. Marine who was linked to a private chat group that called itself “Right Wing Death Squad” was under federal investigation for allegedly plotting to attack the Democratic National Committee with explosives, rocket launchers, and automatic rifles.

The phrase also appears to be part of the bizarre panoply of memes favored by white nationalists and far-right edgelords, with the SLPC reporting that users on the now-defunct subreddit r/The_Donald frequently discussed going “full RWDS” in violent fantasies involving racial and religious minorities.

As far back as 2018, it was reported that Proud Boys were showing up to rallies wearing “RWDS” on the sleeves of t-shirts emblazoned with a different far-right meme concerning Chilean dictator and mass-murderer Gen. Augusto Pinochet: “Pinochet did nothing wrong.” The phrase, according to The Intercept, references and advocates for “a program of extermination.”

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