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Busted: Seattle Police Spread Disinformation During Anti-Racist Protests

The latest police scandal in Seattle provides a crystalline example of how local law enforcement authorities have become toxic entities in modern urban areas—largely because it demonstrates, once again, that the city’s ranks have become populated with right-wing extremists who share an abiding contempt for the citizens they’re supposed to “serve and protect.”

An investigation by Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) reported this week that city police, during George Floyd-inspired June 2020 protests against police brutality, engaged in a campaign of disinformation over police radio intended to convince leftist activists who had created an “autonomous zone” in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that a phalanx of far-right Proud Boys were marching around the city. The radio chatter heightened tensions within the encampment that eventually erupted in real-world gun violence.

The investigation, spurred by social media reports from leftist activists, found that on the night of June 8, 2020—just after police had abandoned its East Precinct Station on Capitol Hill and as activists were creating what they called autonomous zone they later renamed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP)—deliberately broadcast false verbal reports of a gang of Proud Boys marching around the downtown area.

The participating officers traded the false reports over the radio, saying: “It looks like a few of them might be open carrying,” and: “Hearing from the Proud Boys group. … They may be looking for somewhere else for confrontation.”

Activists monitoring police radio raised the alarm on social media, leading some of the CHOP participants to arm themselves. OPA Director Andrew Myerberg noted that while some of them may have brought guns regardless of the warnings, the disinformation “improperly added fuel to the fire.”

Moreover, key police leaders were aware of the disinformation campaign, even though it violated department policy. However, Myerberg also concluded that the four officers who participated may have used “poor judgment,” but were following guidance from their supervisors, who the report blames for spreading the false story.

The two supervisors it identifies as organizing and overseeing the disinformation network, as it happens, have both left the department in the intervening months. Chief Adrian Diaz will review the activities of the remaining employees.

Prior to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, many police departments—including Seattle’s—had generally amicable relationships with the Proud Boys, leading many of them to conclude that they could behave with impunity in those jurisdictions. This was notably the case in Seattle, which had been the scene of a number of Proud Boys protests before 2020, resulting (as in Portland) mostly in the arrests of leftist counterprotesters and relatively few far-right street provocateurs.

Seattle activist Matt Watson (who uses the nom de plume Spek on social media) first reported the police-radio hoax shortly after it happened, and was able to document the fake reports. His reportage went largely unnoticed until early 2021, when activist Omari Salisbury began digging into the matter. Salisbury’s requests for body-camera footage of the purported Proud Boys sightings led OPA to open its investigation.

Even after the police hoax in early June, real Proud Boys (led by Portland agitator Tusitala “Tiny” Toese) showed up at the CHOP and engaged in harassment of the activists there, as well as of residents in the surrounding neighborhood. Toese and a gang of his Proud Boy and white-nationalist associates entered the zone on June 15 and attempted to start fights and were largely prevented from doing so; they later were videotaped assaulting a man and destroying his cell phone on a neighborhood side street near the zone.

By the end of the month, there had been multiple incidents of gunfire within the zone and in its vicinity, resulting in two deaths. CHOP was shut down on July 1.

Seattle citizens’ fraught relationship with the city’s police department goes back decades, but has intensified since 2011, when the Justice Department opened an investigation into complaints by community leaders about its excessive use of force and its biased behavior while policing minorities, resulting in a federal consent decree under which the department has been operating since 2012. City officials moved in early 2020 to lift portions of that decree, but pulled back on those efforts after the June riots on Capitol Hill.

The presence of right-wing extremists on the force became an acute matter of public concern after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol—largely because six Seattle officers were identified as participants in that day’s “Stop the Steal” protests. Two of them were fired after an investigation found they had entered the Capitol that day.

“Misinformation, especially of this inflammatory nature, is totally unacceptable from our Seattle police officers,” newly elected Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement lamenting the “immeasurable” harm caused by the scandal. “This kind of tactic never should have been considered.”

“This misinformation from SPD led to a fortification of the East Precinct and weeks of violence against the people of Seattle,” Seattle City Council member Tammy Morales wrote on Twitter. “As @Omarisal says, it was a ‘strategy planned by the higher ups.’ We need an investigation outside City process and we need real accountability.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Judicial Rulings Crush Proud Boys’ Attempt To Evade January 6 Prosecution

A number of the defendants in the January 6 Capitol insurrection prosecutions have been hedging their bets on having the charges against them dismissed summarily on constitutional grounds, claiming variously that their actions that day were expressions of their First Amendment free-speech rights, or that the “obstruction of Congress” charges brought against them did not fit the parameters of the original law, or that they were being politically persecuted as conservatives because rioters in Portland, Oregon, the previous summer were not similarly charged.

Rulings handed down by federal judges in key cases this week have blown these hopes to smithereens. One ruling, issued Tuesday by District Judge Timothy Kelly, knocked down the attempts by Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean to toss out the obstruction charges as well as his claim that the attack on the Capitol was an expression of constitutionally protected speech; another judge overseeing a different case ruled similarly, meaning five judges have now decided that prosecutors can proceed with these charges. Two other judges—both appointed to the bench by Donald Trump, no less—knocked down two defendants’ claims of selective prosecution.

Kelly’s ruling is particularly important because, as Marcy Wheeler explains, it will be determinative for a much larger number of cases: “All defendants charged with obstruction have been waiting for these opinions,” she writes. “But as it happens, almost two dozen people currently or potentially charged with obstruction will be covered by this opinion.”

It also was a kind of double whammy for the defendants, ruling out not just the attempts to appeal the use of Section 1512—a law passed in 2002, primarily used for prosecuting witness tampering—against the insurrectionists, but also for their attempts to claim that their attack on the Capitol was a form of First Amendment-protected speech.

“Defendants are not, as they argue, charged with anything like burning flags, wearing black armbands, or participating in mere sit-ins or protests,” Kelly, also a Trump appointee, wrote in the 43-page opinion.

“Quite obviously, there were many avenues for Defendants to express their opinions about the 2020 presidential election, or their views about how Congress should perform its constitutional duties on Jan. 6, without resorting to the conduct with which they have been charged,” he added.

It also clears the way for the court to proceed with the trial, scheduled to begin in February, of Nordean and three other Proud Boys—Joseph Biggs, Charles Donohoe, and Zachary Rehl. However, its effect, as Wheeler observes, is likely to extend well beyond just those cases, since a number of other defendants will probably become more likely to strike cooperation deals with prosecutors as a result of those avenues of defense being shut down. She identifies six other Proud Boys-related cases from Jan. 6 that will come under Kelly’s ruling.

“[If] the attorneys are seeing the same signs of an imminent superseding Proud Boy indictment, if they don’t think there’ll be any fresh uncertainty from another judge, they may rush for the exits before that happens,” notes Wheeler.

District Judge Randolph Moss handed down a similar ruling Tuesday in the cases of Patrick Montgomery of Colorado and Brady Knowlton of Utah, who are charged with various crimes involving their entry into the Capitol. (Montgomery was later placed on house arrest when he ignored court-ordered conditions on his pretrial release prohibiting possessing weapons by killing a mountain lion on a hunting trip.) Moss found the defense arguments that the men were engaging in protected free speech less than persuasive:

In truth, given the requirements that the defendant know and wrongfully intend that her conduct will obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding, it is hard to grasp when, if at all, the statute might apply to protected speech. The Court, certainly, cannot conclude that any such hypothetical application is “substantial,” and Defendants, for their part, fail to identify a single such example.

Other defendants have tried to claim that the Justice Department under President Biden is singling conservatives out for prosecution because they haven’t applied the same standards to leftist activists who participated in anti-police-brutality protests in Portland in the summer of 2020 that became riots. The courts threw out those arguments, first in a ruling last week in the case of Garrett Miller, the Dallas man arrested while wearing an “I Was There” T-shirt, followed by a similar opinion issued this week in the case of David Lee Judd, a Dallas man accused of throwing a firecracker at police officers, among other assault charges.

“The Portland rioters’ conduct, while obviously serious, did not target a proceeding prescribed by the Constitution and established to ensure a peaceful transition of power,” wrote District Judge John Nichols in Miller’s case. “Nor did the Portland rioters, unlike those who assailed America’s Capitol in 2021, make it past the buildings’ outer defenses.”

The judge in Judd’s case, Trevor McFadden, however, was remarkably more sympathetic to the claim, observing in his opinion that the government “incredibly” dismissed charges against three Portland rioting defendants, and that it was “suspicious” that “he still faces greater charges than the Portland defendants.”

“Rarely has the Government shown so little interest in vigorously prosecuting those who attack federal officers,” he wrote. “Especially during moments of politically charged unrest, the Justice Department must strive for even-handed justice. Judd raises troubling questions about the Department’s adherence to this imperative in Portland.”

Nonetheless, he concluded that Judd’s comparison falls apart as a matter of law. “Judd must show that the Portland defendants are similarly situated to him,” he wrote. “He cannot do so. Although both Portland and January 6 rioters attacked federal buildings, the Portland defendants primarily attacked at night, meaning that they raged against a largely vacant courthouse.

“In contrast, the January 6 rioters attacked the Capitol in broad daylight. And many entered it. Thousands of congressional staffers walked the Capitol’s corridors that day. So did hundreds of legislators and the Vice President, all of whom appeared for a constitutionally mandated proceeding.”

Article reposted with permission from Daily Kos

Proud Boys, Oath Keepers And Other Extremists Summoned By Select Committee

Seeking insight into how the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol last January was plotted, the House select committee tasked with probing the insurrection subpoenaed various extremist right-wing organizations and their figureheads on Tuesday.

It is the second time this week that the committee has added to an already thick stack of subpoenas sent to individuals entrenched in former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

Twenty-four hours ago, Trump stalwarts and conspiracy theorists Roger Stone and Alex Jones were among the recipients of a committee subpoena. On Tuesday, the latest batch from the select commission zeroed in on extremists involved in the attack like Proud Boys International LLC, that group's former chairman Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, the Oath Keepers organization and its president Elmer Stewart Rhodes, and the First Amendment Praetorian, a far-right quasi-paramilitary group that has run security for pro-Trump events in the past. That group's chairman, Robert Patrick Lewis, was also subpoenaed.

Heaps of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers members have been brought up on criminal charges specifically tied to the January 6 attack. In the 11 months since the siege, prosecutors have repeatedly argued that the groups conspired with each other to stop the certification of the 2020 election.

However, neither Tarrio, Rhodes, nor Lewis have been charged with crimes related directly to the activities that occurred on January 6. Tarrio is currently serving a five-month sentence in a D.C. jail for stealing and burning a Black Lives Matter banner last December and possessing two large-capacity firearm magazines when stopped in Washington on January 4.

On Tuesday, Rhodes was identified by the committee as the person referred to in an indictment returned earlier this year by a grand jury involving a January 6 defendant. Rhodes, the committee notes, "describes a conspiracy among at least 18 Oath Keepers in which members of the Oath Keepers planned to move together in coordination and with regular communication to storm the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021."

The Oath Keepers subpoena was hotly anticipated given the group's obvious involvement in breaching the U.S. Capitol. They were seen breaching the building with a military formation and proudly displayed their insignia throughout the day.

Almost two dozen of the organization's leaders have been charged with crimes related to the attack. The Department of Justice has indicated that the group hid firearms at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

In court, according to Politico, one Oath Keeper ringleader, Kelly Meggs, "told allies 'this isn't a rally,' which U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta has described as key evidence of the group's intent."

Robert Patrick Lewis, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who spearheads the 1st Amendment Praetorian, has not been charged with any crimes related to January 6, but his track record of conspiracy theories, propaganda, and actual role in rallies leading up to the Capitol attack has grabbed the committee's interest.

The group posted a list of Trump events that it provided security to online, including several "Stop the Steal" rallies held in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.

"1st Amendment Praetorian provided security to the Million MAGA March on November 14, 2020, including providing protection to Ali Alexander, you described your coordination with Mr. Alexander as 'tight at the hip,'" the subpoena to Lewis states.

Alexander organized the Stop the Steal rally at the Ellipse on January 6 and has also been subpoenaed by the committee.

"You later claimed that you provided security for Lieutenant General Michael Flynn at the 'Jericho March' in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 2020, and have claimed to coordinate closely and regularly with Lt. Gen. Flynn. You have also claimed to coordinate closely with Sidney Powell [Trump's former attorney]," the subpoena notice to Lewis states.

Significantly, Lewis also took to Twitter just two days before the attack on January 6, saying: "There may be some young National Guard captains facing some very, very tough choices in the next 48 hours. Pray with every fiber of your being that their choices are Wise, Just and Fearless."

Lewis was also listed as a speaker on a permit for a rally on January 5 in D.C. In the permit, Lewis noted that 25 fellow members of his organization would serve as "demonstration marshals."

And on the day of the insurrection, just after 2 p.m., Lewis tweeted: "Today is the day the true battles begin."

A day after the attack, Lewis bragged on an independent QAnon conspiracy broadcast known as Patriot Transition Voice that he was "war-gaming" with "constitutional scholars" to keep Trump in office before the Capitol breach. Though the group has a lower profile than the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, the January 6 Committee has singled them out before. This August, the panel highlighted Lewis and the organization he leads in its request for White House documents from the National Archives.

While the overlap between and among these groups is striking, the critical element presently missing for investigators is proof that it was Trump himself who intended to use the violence overwhelming the Capitol as a means to disrupt Congress's counting of electoral votes. The victory already belonged to President Joe Biden at that time, but the formality is part and parcel of ensuring a peaceful transition of power.

"We believe the individuals and organizations we subpoenaed today have relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack," committee chairman Bennie Thompson said in a statement Tuesday. "The Select Committee is moving swiftly to uncover the facts of what happened on that day, and we expect every witness to comply with the law and cooperate so we can get answers to the American people."

Despite Whining, No Early Release From Jail For Proud Boys Leader Tarrio

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

There will be no early release from prison for Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, a leader of the far-right wing extremist group known as the Proud Boys, after a judge dismissed his pleas that conditions in the facility were inhumane.

The ruling was issued late last Friday by Judge Jonathan Pittman at the D.C. Superior Court and was not particularly sympathetic to Tarrio's grievances about the conditions of the Washington, D.C. jail. He is currently serving a five-month sentence there for destruction of property—a Black Lives Matter banner he stole from a public square and proceeded to set ablaze—and attempted possession of a high-capacity firearm magazine.

The possession charge stemmed from his arrest on January 4 when Metro D.C. police stopped Tarrio and found two empty high-capacity rifle magazines. Tarrio told authorities he brought the magazines for a person he intended to meet on January 6 who was planning on attending former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally.

The conditions at the Central Detention Facility are assuredly not optimal. The director of the D.C. Department of Corrections and the D.C. jail's warden have been held in contempt before for their failure to address jail conditions, and the Department of Justice investigated claims of civil rights abuses. The Marshals Service and the City of Washington, D.C. agreed to improve the facilities in early November.

Though Tarrio claimed his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment was being violated, Pittman said such a claim would have to be heard in a new lawsuit, not a motion hearing.

Even if Tarrio did that, Pittman ruled, the best remedy for the "unconstitutional conditions of confinement is correction of the unconstitutional conditions of confinement, which is experienced by all inmates, not just the defendant."

Tarrio's request that he be let out on "compassionate release" due to conditions was also dismissed because Tarrio failed to show that his case was "extraordinary."

Not 'Both Sides': GOP Violence Is America's Biggest Political Story

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

First, some good news.

The New York Times recently ran an important piece about the rising specter of violence within mainstream Republican Party circles. The article was noteworthy not only because it spotlighted the frightening instances of violent rhetoric and actions the conservative movement is eagerly unleashing in America, but because the Times used clear and concise language to tell the story.

Temporarily shedding the lazy Both Sides blanket that so many newsrooms use when forced to acknowledge how reckless today's GOP has become, the Times piece didn't waste time trying to camouflage the trend. "From congressional offices to community meeting rooms, threats of violence are becoming commonplace among a significant segment of the Republican Party," the daily reported unequivocally. "The most animated Republican voters increasingly see themselves as participants in a struggle, if not a kind of holy war, to preserve their idea of American culture and their place in society."

That's the good news — some mainstream media outlets are using succinct language while addressing the most important political story in America today. Honestly, it's one of the most crucial unfolding stories in the country's history as the Trump-led GOP fuels an unprecedented, multi-pronged assault on U.S. democracy and gleefully flashes the threat of overt violence in the process.

That's the bad news, and it's spreading. "I have a hard time seeing how we have a peaceful 2024 election after everything that's happened now," Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America told the Times.

Political hostility is not new to America. The country was rocked by violence clashes, for instance, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the anti-war movement fractured off into more militant factions. But never did leaders of the Democratic Party or members of Congress overtly endorse political violence the way today's Republican Party does, as it continues to actively whitewash the deadly January insurrection, which is now glorified by Fox News.Democrats never used their considerable political muscle to try to demolish free and fair elections in America. That's not true for today's Republican Party, as it actively mainstreams the looming menace of hostility by fanning the flames of civil unrest, including last week celebrating an underage vigilante killer, Kyle Rittenhouse.

After he was acquitted on murder charges, at least three House Republicans said they wanted the gunman to be their intern, including Rep. Madison Cawthorn who urged his followers to "be armed and dangerous," while posting a message celebrating Rittenhouse's acquittal.

"Hard to describe how chilling it is to see members of the GOP and open white supremacists come together to celebrate a vigilante killing two people and getting away with it," Cassie Miller, an extremism researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, tweeted.

The flashpoints of Republicans and conservatives promoting political violence have become ceaseless, to the point of frightening normalization. After Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted an anime video altered to show him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, virtually the entire Republican Party rallied to Gosar's side when he faced a formal House rebuke for his violent, dehumanizing outburst.

Despite the GOP's nearly universal support, Politico insisted the episode highlighted the "fringe" side of the party, while the Beltway media outlet Punch Bowl reduced the threatening, unnerving Gosar chapter to Democrats and Republicans just not trusting each other.

The violent virus is spreading to the grassroots level. Polls suggest that as many as 21 million Americans think that the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency. In Kansas, anti-vaxxers showed up to municipal meetings wearing yellow stars, suggesting they had equal footing with Jewish victims of the Holocaust. White nationalist members of The Proud Boys are showing up at local school board meetings, to lend a menacing air to the proceedings.

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man asked local leaders when he could start killing Democrats. "When do we get to use the guns?" he said as the audience applauded. When Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) voted in favor of the recent infrastructure bill to help rebuild roads across the country she was inundated with death threats. One man told her, "I pray to God that if you've got any children, they die in your face."

The welcome Times piece last week on GOP violence stood in contrast to a wave of vague, worthless reporting we've seen this year about how "Americans" are angry, without pinpointing the obvious source of the unbridled, incoherent wrath.

"Americans are angry about ... everything. Is that bad?" read a recent Christian Science Monitor headline. The piece equated right-wing, anti-mask parents storming local school board meetings and issuing death threats with social justice activists taking to the streets to protest police brutality. Those two things aren't remotely similar.

CNN's Chris Cillizza recently bemoaned how "we're all just so damn angry," but could only find examples of far-right bullies lashing out in public.

Sanctioned, Republican political violence will be the most unnerving story the D.C. press faces in coming years.

Proud Boys Show Up For Anti-Vax Rallies In New York And Los Angeles

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Proud Boys continued to deploy their post-January 6 strategy—that is, focusing their organizing around local right-wing protests and attaching their neofascist presence by providing "security"—this week by showing up to anti-vaccination marches in New York City and Los Angeles. They also turned up at a local school board meeting in a suburban Illinois village to intimidate officials over LGBTQ-friendly books in their school library.

Their presence, as always, was intended to send a message of intimidation. But in the wake of Friday's verdict of acquittal for Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, after which exultant Proud Boys fantasized online about "stacking bodies like cordwood," the silence with which they were mostly met this weekend felt particularly ominous.



The march in New York, which called itself the Worldwide Freedom Rally, attracted several hundred marchers, with a large contingent of Proud Boys in their black-and-gold garb and carrying various anti-vaccine and pro-Trump banners. Some of them could be seen flashing the white-nationalist "OK" symbol. At one point, a contingent of Proud Boys stopped to pose for photos in front of Donald Trump's hotel in Manhattan.

Another video showed Proud Boys entering New York subways through an unlocked emergency exit, thereby evading fares. A Proud Boys group from Miami boasted afterward on Twitter that the exit door had been held open for them by New York Police Department officers: "It's a good thing that the New York City Police open the door for us, so we don't have to pay the subway tolls," he said, adding "not only do we live rent-free in antifas head we also ride free in New York City subways courtesy of the blue."

The march in Los Angeles also was an anti-vaccine-mandate protest, though the Proud Boys' presence, while noticeable, was not as dominant. Among them were at least one January 6 insurrectionist and a videographer who was present among the rioters that day.

Marchers carried Gadsden "Don't Tread On Me" flags, "Fuck Biden" banners, and other so-called Patriot Movement and Proud Boys symbols, along with signs with slogans like "No Vaxx" and "No Jabs 4 Jobs," as well as others demanding "End Child Porn" and "Stop Human Trafficking," both references to QAnon conspiracy theories. One, an apparent reference to Rittenhouse, read "Support Our Heroes."

These local COVID-denialist rallies are only one of the multiple ways that Proud Boys are insinuating themselves, following the same blueprint. Others have been showing up increasingly to school board meetings to intimidate local officials discussing racial education, LGBTQ-friendly library offerings, and vaccine mandates and masking measures.

In the Illinois village of Downers Grove last week, a group of Proud Boys showed up to a school board meeting at which a discussion over whether the book Gender Queer, a graphic novel exploring the world of a nonbinary teenager, should be permitted to remain on the shelves of the high-school library. The roughly ten Proud Boys in attendance heckled students who defended the book, holding up signs reading "No Porn."

Among them were Edgar "Remy Del Toro" Delatorre, who was present at the January 6 insurrection, and Proud Boy Brian Kraemer, who was charged in 2020 after police said he "brandished a hunting knife and held it in a threatening manner" at a march in Joliet. Kraemer was charged with misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct and disorderly conduct in that case, after police said he "aggressively" pulled his vehicle into a crowd of protesters, then pulled the knife and began yelling obscenities.

On a Proud Boys channel, Kraemer — who lives in Lenox, about 30 miles from Downers Grove—had urged other Telegram users to join him at the meeting. "I will be speaking against child porn in my kids [sic] school. The left is planning to show up strong," he wrote.

One student told the Sun-Times that a man he identified as Kramer began harassing him after he addressed the board. He said Kraemer repeatedly told him, "You're a pedophile. You promote pedophilia," and threatened to call police. He said Kraemer later accosted him in the parking lot.

This is part of a repeated pattern manifesting the Proud Boys' current strategy for recruitment and organizing. They already had marched and engaged in street violence in Los Angeles as part of an anti-transgender protest outside a local spa. Earlier this month in Beloit, Wisconsin, their plans to protest a local school masking policy led to the local district shutting down all schools that day out of "security concerns."

Proud Boys also showed up at a meeting of the Portland Public School board in Oregon in late October at which a vaccine mandate was being discussed.

And in New Hanover County, North Carolina, a group of ten Proud Boys—all of them masked—turned up at a meeting to discuss mask mandates and stood threateningly in the back of the meeting room, arms crossed. One of them, who identified himself as "Johnny Ringo," chastised the board for failing to open the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Afterward, the Cape Fear Proud Boys who had attended the meeting explained that their presence was part of a larger strategy to "ramp up the pressure."

"If our presence escalates that pressure and makes it to the point where we become a distraction to conducting business, and they just change the mask mandate so we go away, that's a win," said one of the members.

Neo-Fascists Celebrate Rittenhouse Verdict As Their License To Kill

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The exultation on right-wing social media following Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal has been sickeningly predictable: Mainstream conservatives loudly valorize Rittenhouse as a "hero," while more extremist voices, applying the same logic, demand that more Americans follow his footsteps—urging the likeminded to take to the street now to begin using guns to "be like Kyle." They have even appropriated his name for their future plans, voiced in numerous celebratory threads: Any leftist protester shot by a right-wing "patriot" henceforth will have been "Rittenhoused."

As we forecasted, the acquittal is now a beacon-like green light granting permission to violent right-wing extremists to openly wage the kind of "civil war" against "the left"—which ranges from liberal Democrats like Joe Biden to the "antifa" bogeyman they have concocted—that they have been fantasizing about for the past decade. In the words of Charlie Kirk's interlocutor, it's the signal that now they "get to use the guns."

The bloodlust has been palpable. Online trolls celebrated that "it's Open Season on pedo-commies" and boasted that the verdict means "there's nothing you can do about it." A neo-Nazi channel on Twitter urged readers to "let this win fuel your rage." A fan of pseudo-journalist Andy Ngo commented in a retweet: "Every one of these anarchist criminal thugs should be shot in the street like the worthless dogs they are."

Far-right maven Ann Coulter posted a meme showing a gantlet of comic-book superheroes bowing to Rittenhouse. On Facebook, Ben Shapiro framed any future violence as being left-wing: "The Left accepting the verdict in a peaceable manner remains the sizable elephant in the room."

The white-nationalist site VDare also extolled Rittenhouse's heroism:

This much is true: Kyle Rittenhouse is the hero we've been waiting for throughout the turbulent summer of 2020, where a Black Lives Matter/Antifa/Bolshevik revolution has our country on the brink of total chaos.

Matt Walsh of the Daily Wire blamed the media for there even having been a trial:

The verdict is right and just but Kyle Rittenhouse never should have been on trial at all. Now the media will go to work, like the demons they are, to ensure that Kenosha burns because they did not get their blood sacrifice.

Walsh then added:

I hope Rittenhouse bankrupts all of you dirtbags in media who smeared him as a white supremacist. I hope he ruins your life. I want you to suffer. It's what you deserve. It's justice.

Idaho legislator Tammy Nichols, a Republican, posted a meme featuring the Gadsden-flag "Don't Tread On Me" design, but with a graphic of Rittenhouse firing from a seated position as he did in Kenosha.

The Gun Owners of America (GOA)—a gun-rights extremist group headed by far-right militia figure Larry Pratt—joined in the celebration by announcing it was giving Rittenhouse a new gun.

Alert: GOA will be awarding Kyle Rittenhouse with an AR-15 for his defense of gun rights in America. Join us in saying THANK YOU to Kyle Rittenhouse for being a warrior for gun rights and self defense rights across the country!

Other "Patriot" Movement extremists saw the verdict as vindication for vigilantism and militia organizing. The "Washougal Moms," a militia-friendly group from eastern Washington state, opined:

Today the jury and legal system has reaffirmed our rights as citizens. The second amendment in all aspects, to form a well regulated militia, the right to bear arms in self defense, and against enemies both foreign and domestic!

Kurt Schlichter, the former Red Sox pitcher turned right-wing troll, taunted MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan, who had expressed concern about the double racial standard that the verdict reflects, on Twitter.

Your pain delights me. Kyle Rittenhouse killed two leftist catspaws and bisected the bicep of another and there's nothing you can do about it.

A white-nationalist Twitter account called "Based Teutonic" celebrated the verdict by posting a fantasy that Rittenhouse would now embark on an action-hero-like mission—with the help of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who oversaw the trial in markedly biased fashion.

About to exit court room
Judge yells from behind:
Rittenhouse turns around
You forgot this
Tosses him his AR15
Credits roll, Eye of the Tiger plays

"Based Teutonic" wasn't alone in celebrating Schroeder's role in the verdict. On Telegram, a commenter in a Proud Boys channel observed:

Kyle's case shows how important is to have your guys in power on a local level. One vaguely conservative boomer judge made all of the difference in a monumental trial.

Other Proud Boys were more focused on their long-anticipated civil war. "There's still a chance for this country," wrote one. Another wrote: "The left wont stop until their bodies get stacked up like cord wood."

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights monitored a number of far-right chat forums (particularly Telegram) following the verdict, and found an outpouring of extremist bile, much of it anticipating the ability to inflict lethal violence on "leftists," as well as Black "parasites" and, of course, Jewish people. A user called The Western Chauvinist commented: "The parasites are planning multiple 'protests' across the United States."

One user calling himself "Proud Boy To Fascist Pipeline" replied to one of these comments mocking Black leaders protesting the verdict as "parasites": "Your 17 year olds are already armed and terrorizing our neighborhoods, n----er."

Fittingly, Charlie Kirk fans—following the example of his Idaho audience member—were focused on the violence: "Arm up and tell them f**cking bring it!" one replied to predictions of leftist protests after the verdict. "Shoot these phukers," commented another.

Nick Fuentes' "Groypers" were also unbridled in their anticipation of gunning down their opponents. "The most American thing you can do is Killing Commies," opined one on the white-nationalist forum Gab.Another Gab user exulted with a meme showing Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker, dancing: "When you find out it's officially Open Season on pedo-commies." Mocking "wannabe street thugs upset with the verdict," another Gab user replied, "you're gonna get Rittenhouse'd. Bitch."

"Getting Rittenhoused" became a popular way of threatening leftists. After Ngo posted a handful of tweets from leftists angry about the verdict, hundreds of his fans piled on, making threats of violence against them. "Someone will Rittenhouse them too," one responded. Another replied: "I came here to say that!"

Anti-Semitism also was a common theme. Right-wing troll Keith Woods, who has 23,500 followers on Twitter, declared after the verdict: "Huge L for the Jews." His followers piled on; one responded with a GIF meme of Gollum and the text, "Curse you goyim." Another replied, "hopefully they take an L in Charlottesville trial too. WHITE BOY WINTER!"

White nationalist Eric Striker was more explicitly antisemitic, as well as strategic, in his commentary:

Beating the Jews to the narrative as incidents unfold is more important than anything that happens in court.
Once you frame a story with the facts (and the facts have to be 100% accurate) and disseminate it with an effective propaganda network, Jews will struggle to challenge it once it's cemented.

Notorious white nationalist and anti-Semite Mike "Enoch" Peinovich put out a statement through his National Justice Party: "This victory for Kyle Rittenhouse over the cosmopolitan elite forces that plague the nation isn't only a victory for the young man himself, it's a victory for justice and for all White people who take a stand," Peinovich said.

On Telegram, a white nationalist commented: "The victory of Kyle Rittenhouse over the jewish forces that plague the nation isn't just a victory for the man himself, it's a victory for justice, and for the masses of disenfranchised White people which populate the globe.

The neo-Nazi group White Lives Matter had this advice for its white-supremacist followers:

Don't let this one victory lull you back to sleep. That's what they want. They know small "victories" can placate the angry masses more than anything else. Instead let this win fuel your rage. Never forget the simple fact that this clear-cut self-defense should never have gone to trial in the first place. Muslim, Hispanic, and African invaders have raped millions of our women, WHITE women. Their time of terrorizing our People with 0 consequences is coming to an end. The Rittenhouse verdict is a single tick in the scoreboard on our side. Our enemy doesn't have a scoreboard big enough for their victories. Fight harder, stronger, fiercer, and with the same remorse they have shown us. None. Get going, White man.

"This might be interpreted across the far right as a type of permission slip to do this kind of thing or to seek out altercations in this way, believing that there is a potential that they won't face serious consequences for it," Jared Holt of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council told NPR. "I worry that that might end up being interpreted by some people as a proof of concept of this idea that you can actually go out and seek a 'self-defense situation,' and you'll be cheered as a hero for it."

Rittenhouse's Preordained Acquittal Will Inflame More Right-Wing Violence

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

We may have an answer for the right-wing "civil war" devotee who asked Charlie Kirk the other week: "When do we get to start using the guns?" Judging from the way the trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is proceeding—and from the way right-wing pundits and politicians are responding—this week, the answer is: The day teenager Kyle Rittenhouse is inevitably acquitted for murdering two men at a Black Lives Matter protest last summer.

Rittenhouse's acquittal is largely a foregone conclusion. And not because the evidence points to his innocence—Rittenhouse did, after all, kill a mentally ill man whose only acts of aggression included shouting at him, flinging a plastic bag with his personal effects in them, and reaching for his gun. On the other hand, the prosecution's case has been a mixed bag at best—but more because the judge in the case, Bruce Schroeder, has placed his thumb so heavily on the scales of justice here, often in plain view. More broadly, however, right-wing political figures and extremists discussing the matter on social media are not merely defending Rittenhouse but valorizing him, holding up his murderous acts as heroic vigilantism, and demanding that other like-minded "patriots" follow in his footsteps.

It's a recipe for an outbreak of eliminationist violence directed at "the left"—who these right-wing ideologues define broadly as "antifa," Black Lives Matter, socialists, anti-police protesters, and for that matter merely liberal Democrats who support President Joe Biden. The day when the jury declares Rittenhouse innocent will become a beacon for the radical right, a giant flashing green light signaling permission to begin "using their guns," telling them their long-awaited day to "begin killing these people" without consequence or compunction has finally arrived.

We know this because that is not only what they have been telling themselves in the runup to the trial, but it's what they and their Republican enablers are now shouting from the rooftops. Leading the parade on Twitter was Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance of Ohio, who posted a video ranting about the trial and denouncing the prosecutor for even filing charges against Rittenhouse:

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for us as patriots to stand up. Because if you don't fight back against the lawlessness, if we don't defend this young boy who defended his community when no one else was doing it, it may very well be your baby boy that they come for. It'll be your children whose life they try to destroy when no one else is defending their communities."

Vance repeatedly described Rittenhouse as someone who was "defending his community," even though he did not live in Kenosha, but in Illinois. He also repeatedly described the prosecutor as a "lawless thug" who was "trying to destroy his life."

The trial itself, Vance contended, represented a societal sickness: "We leave our boys without fathers. We let the wolves set fire to their communities. And when human nature tells them to go and defend what no one else is defending, we bring the full weight of the state and the global monopolists against them."

Tucker Carlson, who had adamantly defended Rittenhouse immediately after the shootings, continued in the same vein, blaming the violence on the "radicals" who were "burning down cities" and extolling the virtues of vigilantism as a natural consequence. He also claimed the Rittenhouse has "already won his case," then observed that "if you take a step back from the Rittenhouse story, you see something else entirely, you see violent insanity completely out of control in the middle of an American city. And the question is how did that happen in our country and why did nobody stop it?"

"The question, then, is how exactly are we surprised when a 17-year-old lifeguard from Illinois decides to step in?" Carlson concluded, sounding ominously like Charlie Kirk's interlocutor. "They hate it when you say that, but it's an entirely fair question. When legitimate authority refuses to do its duty, its sworn duty, others will fill the vacuum. That is always true. It's a physics principle."

And it has been from the outset. At far-right Proud Boys rallies rallies that followed the Kenosha shootings, participants began showing up wearing T-shirts declaring "Kyle Rittenhouse Did Nothing Wrong," and extolling his murders: "The Tree of Liberty Must Be Refreshed From Time to Time With the Blood of Commies," read the back of one.

Far-right Twitter maven and Gateway Pundit writer Cassandra Fairbanks retweeted an admirer's post after Rittenhouse's arrest: "I don't give a fuck anymore. I gone full Cassandra. Kill all the idiots violently terrorizing our towns. If the white suprematist [cq] do it then they're more useful than elected officials."

"Yeah," responded Fairbanks, "I'm literally just sitting here like … maybe some people will think twice about rioting tomorrow."

The primary source of their permission for violence is the eliminationist narrative the right has concocted about antifa and Black Lives Matter, concocted out of ideological and racial hysteria and conspiracy theories, depicting them as a demonic threat to the American republic. This narrative has become extraordinarily widespread, as well as deeply imbedded into the nation's political discourse, thanks largely to its constant repetition both by leading Republicans—notably Donald Trump—as well as "mainstream" right-wing media like Fox News.

We saw during jury selection for the federal civil lawsuit trial against the lethal 2017 "Unite the Right" rally organizers in Charlottesville that this wildly distorted view of "the left" has spread deeply enough to affect jury pools as well as court proceedings. In the Rittenhouse trial, it's become clear that not only the jury may be affected, but so is the judge overseeing the proceedings, Bruce Schroeder.

Schroeder, as Will Bunch explored on Twitter and at the Philadelphia Inquirer, has a troubling history of pushing "law and order" politics in his courtroom, as well as indulging in dubious courtroom behavior and head-scratching rulings. He already had informed attorneys in the case that they could not describe the three men as "victims," but would permit defense attorneys to describe them as "looters," "rioters," or "arsonists," even though none of the three were ever accused of those crimes.

This week, Schroeder also:

  • Called on the court to applaud a defense witness, who was there to testify that Rittenhouse was justified in taking two lives, for being a veteran. Schroeder, noting that it was Veterans Day, asked if anyone in the court was a veteran; when witness John Black said he was, Schroeder called for the court to applaud him. Jurors joined in on the applause.
  • Rejected video of Rittenhouse shooting one of his victims, claiming the using Apple's zoom functions might distort the image. "iPads, which are made by Apple, have artificial intelligence in them that allow things to be viewed through three-dimensions and logarithms," defense attorneys insisted. "It uses artificial intelligence, or their logarithms, to create what they believe is happening. So this isn't actually enhanced video, this is Apple's iPad programming creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there." Schroeder agreed.
  • Kept forgetting to silence his phone, whose ringtone is the Lee Greenwood song "God Bless the USA." The song is the anthem of the tea party/"Patriot" right, and is used at Trump rallies as his entrance theme.
  • Refused to permit prosecutors to ask defense witness Drew Hernandez, a pseudo-journalist who specializes in filming and posting misleadingly edited videos about antifascists and anti-police protesters, about his work for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's Real America's Voice network. Hernandez also was present at the January 6 insurrection inside the Capitol, before which he had spoken at the "Stop the Steal" rally, telling the crowd: "We punch back, we fight back. Because we will not go down without a fight. We will not go down without bloodshed. If they want a second civil war, then they got one. I will fight to the very last breath." Schroeder ruled that the jury could not learn about his background because "this is not a political trial."
  • Tried to make a joke to the court, after the jury had filed out, about the lunch that had been ordered that day: "I hope the Asian food isn't coming … isn't on one of those boats from Long Beach Harbor." (The joke went over the heads of everyone who wasn't a regular viewer of Fox News, which has repeatedly run stories about supply chain issues for Asian goods coming in to Long Beach—issues that in fact are primarily the result of Donald Trump's trade wars with China and other nations.)

Most legal observers have observed that the trial's outcome is a foregone conclusion, and many believe the primary blame lies with Schroeder and his handling of the proceedings—particularly how he has intervened at every juncture when the prosecutor has trapped Rittenhouse in a lie. Some observers describe this style as "pro-defense"—which is consistent with the judge's record—but family members of the victims surrounding the Kenosha unrest are outraged.

"It seems like he's aiming to let this man out of this courthouse scot-free and we're not going to let that happen," Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake, whose shooting by a police officer sparked the Kenosha protests, told The Washington Post. "If it happens, we're not going to be quiet about it."

Right-wing extremists are already stepping up their threatening behavior, and doing so with apparent confidence that they will face no consequences for doing so. A militia group called the Kenosha Strong Patriots posted the name, photo, and home address of Rittenhouse's chief prosecutor on Telegram. A participant disingenuously claimed: "This is absolutely not an encouragement to violence. Just would be nice to see a peaceful protest outside his home like the left does every time they don't like something."

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post observes that the embrace of Rittenhouse's vigilantism is occurring in the context of a general absorption of a violent ethos into the fabric of the Republican Party, which includes their ongoing valorization of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and Congressman Paul Gosar's recent anime video portraying a fantasy in which he kills his Democratic colleague.

Carlson's Fox News colleague, Greg Gutfeld, similarly chimed in that "all Rittenhouse did was to fill the void that the government left open."

"Those two people should never ever should have been out on the streets and it forced citizens to become the police," Gutfeld said.

Other right-wing pundits valorized Rittenhouse as a youth role model. As Kristen Doerer reports at Flux, one of these is Ed Martin, president of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, who devoted an extended rant on his podcast to defending the teenager.

"And my point here in setting that up is Kyle Rittenhouse was a completely—his conduct was completely consistent with what Americans should do," Martin wrote. "Stand up for the property, stand up for their towns, stand up for what's happening. He is a hero—that's true. Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero. Kyle Rittenhouse should be regarded as someone who did the right things."

Moreover, his example is worthy of emulation, Martin opined: "He stepped up in a way that was, frankly, it was much more, it was much more worthy of praise than the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Americans that sat home and watched cities burn."

These themes have been the right's primary argument in support of Rittenhouse's murders since he was arrested. Moreover, the undercurrent in all of these arguments is to create permission for right-wing "patriots" ginned up on right-wing propaganda to act out their shared violent fantasies.