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Seeking To Overthrow Government, 'Boogaloo Bois’ Have Guns — And Criminal Records

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they're published. This story is part of an ongoing collaboration between ProPublica and FRONTLINE that includes an upcoming documentary.


Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol.

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building.

In a series of posts, the Last Sons said her death should be "avenged" and appeared to call for the murder of three more cops.

The group is part of the Boogaloo movement — a decentralized, very online successor to the ­­militia movement of the '80s and '90s —­ whose adherents are fixated on attacking law enforcement and violently toppling the U.S. government. Researchers say the movement began coalescing online in 2019 as people — mostly young men — angry with what they perceived to be increasing government repression, found each other on Facebook groups and in private chats. In movement vernacular, Boogaloo refers to an inevitable and imminent armed revolt, and members often call themselves Boogaloo Bois, boogs or goons.

In the weeks since Jan. 6, an array of extremist groups have been named as participants in the Capitol invasion. The Proud Boys. QAnon believers. White nationalists. The Oath Keepers. But the Boogaloo Bois are notable for the depth of their commitment to the overthrow of the U.S. government and the jaw-dropping criminal histories of many members.

Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old from a small town on Virginia's rural southern edge, is the commander of the Last Sons. "I really feel we're looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection," Dunn said in an interview with ProPublica and FRONTLINE a few days after the assault on the Capitol. Although Dunn didn't directly participate, he said members of his Boogaloo faction helped fire up the crowd and "may" have penetrated the building.

"It was a chance to mess with the federal government again," he said. "They weren't there for MAGA. They weren't there for Trump."

Dunn added that he's "willing to die in the streets" while battling law enforcement or security forces.

In its short existence, the Boogaloo movement has proven to be a magnet for current or former military service members who have used their combat skills and firearms expertise to advance the Boogaloo cause. Before becoming one of the faces of the movement, Dunn did a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, a career he says was cut short by a heart condition, and worked as a Virginia state prison guard.

Through interviews, extensive study of social media and a review of court records, some previously unreported, ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified more than 20 Boogaloo Bois or sympathizers who've served in the armed forces. Over the past 18 months, 13 of them have been arrested on charges ranging from the possession of illegal automatic weapons to the manufacture of explosives to murder.

Most of the individuals identified by the news organizations became involved with the movement after leaving the military. At least four are accused of committing Boogaloo-related crimes while employed by one of the military branches.

Examples of the nexus between the group and the military abound.

Last year, an FBI task force in San Francisco opened a domestic terror investigation into Aaron Horrocks, a 39-year-old former Marine Corps reservist. Horrocks spent eight years in the Reserve before leaving the Corps in 2017.

The bureau became alarmed in September 2020, when agents received a tip that Horrocks, who lives in Pleasanton, California, was "planning an imminent violent attack on government or law enforcement," according to a petition to seize the man's firearms, which was filed in state court in October. The investigation, which has not previously been reported, links Horrocks to the Boogaloo movement. He has not been charged.

A petition asking an Alameda County, California, court to bar Aaron Horrocks from owning firearms and ammunition. (Superior Court of California, County of Alameda)

Horrocks did not respond to a request for comment, though he has uploaded a video to YouTube that appears to show federal law enforcement agents, in plainclothes, searching his storage unit. "Go fuck yourselves," he tells them.

In June 2020 in Texas, police briefly detained Taylor Bechtol, a 29-year-old former Air Force staff sergeant and munitions loader with the 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. While in the service, Bechtol handled 1,000-pound precision-guided bombs.

The former airman was riding in a pickup truck with two other alleged Boogaloo Bois when the vehicle was stopped by Austin police, according to an intelligence report generated by the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, a multi-agency fusion center. Officers found five guns, several hundred rounds of ammunition and gas masks in the truck. The men expressed "sympathetic views toward the Boogaloo Bois" and should be treated with "extreme caution" by law enforcement, noted the report, which was obtained by ProPublica and FRONTLINE after it was leaked by hackers.

One of the men in the vehicle, Ivan Hunter, 23, has since been indicted for allegedly using an assault rifle to shoot up a police precinct in Minneapolis and helping to set the building ablaze. No trial date has been set for Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty.

Bechtol, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the traffic stop, did not respond to a request for comment.

Linda Card, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which deals with the service's most complex and serious criminal matters, said Bechtol left the service in December 2018 and was never investigated while in the Air Force.

In perhaps the highest-profile incident involving the group, several Boogaloo Bois were arrested in October in connection with the widely reported plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. One of those men was Joseph Morrison, a Marine Corps reservist who was serving in the 4th Marine Logistics Group at the time of his arrest and arraignment. Morrison, who is facing terrorism charges, went by the name Boogaloo Bunyan on social media. He also kept a sticker of the Boogaloo flag — it features a Hawaiian floral pattern and an igloo — on the rear window of his pickup truck. Two other men charged in the plot had spent time in the military.

The Marine Corps is working to root out extremists from its ranks, a spokesman said.

"Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn't tolerated," Capt. Joseph Butterfield said.

No reliable numbers exist about how many current or former military members are part of the movement.

However, military officials at the Pentagon told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that they have been concerned by a surge in extremist activity. "We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior," said one official, stressing that military leaders are "very actively" responding to tips and are thoroughly investigating service members linked to anti-government groups.

Experts worry about people with military training joining extremist groups.

Boogaloo Bois with military experience are likely to share their expertise with members who've never served in the armed forces, building a more effective, more lethal movement. "These are folks who can bring discipline to a movement. These are folks that can bring skills to a movement," said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Though some Boogaloo groups have made spectacular blunders — among them, sharing information with undercover FBI agents and using unencrypted messaging services to communicate — the movement's familiarity with weapons and basic infantry techniques clearly poses serious challenges for law enforcement.

"We have the upper hand," Dunn said. "A lot of the guys have knowledge that your normal civilians do not have. Police officers are not used to combating that kind of knowledge."

"It Wasn't Talk"

The marriage of extremist ideology and military skill was apparent in an alleged plot last year to attack police officers at a racial justice protest.

On a hot spring evening last May, an FBI SWAT team swarmed on three alleged Boogaloo Bois as they met in the parking lot of a 24 Hour Fitness club on the east side of Las Vegas. Agents found a small arsenal in the trio's vehicles: a shotgun, a handgun, two rifles, plenty of ammunition, body armor and materials that could be used to make Molotov cocktails — glass bottles, gasoline and rags torn into small pieces.

All three men had military experience. One had served in the Air Force. Another the Navy. The third, 24-year-old Andrew Lynam, was in the U.S. Army Reserve at the time of the arrests. During his teenage years Lynam attended the New Mexico Military Institute, a public academy that prepares high school and junior college students for careers in the armed forces.

In court, federal prosecutor Nicholas Dickinson portrayed Lynam as the leader of the group, a Nevada-based Boogaloo cell called Battle Born Igloo. "The defendant associated with the Boogaloo movement; i.e., he referred to himself as a Boogaloo Boi," the prosecutor told the court during a June detention hearing, according to a transcript. Lynam, continued Dickinson, "corresponded with other Boogaloo groups, especially in California, Denver and Arizona. Essentially, the defendant was radicalized to the point where he wanted to act out, it wasn't talk."

According to the prosecutor, the men intended to join a protest over the death of George Floyd and hurl firebombs at police, and they had made plans to bomb an electric power substation and a federal building, actions they hoped would spark a wider anti-government uprising.

"They wanted to damage or destroy some sort of government building or infrastructure to get the response of law enforcement and, hopefully, the overreaction of the federal government," Dickinson told the court.

The prosecutor said he found it particularly "troubling" that Lynam was serving in the military while at the same time plotting to attack government infrastructure.

During the June hearing, defense lawyer Sylvia Irvin pushed back, criticizing the "clear weaknesses" in the government's case, challenging the credibility of an FBI informant and suggesting Lynam was really a minor player in the group.

Lynam, who has pleaded not guilty, is now represented by attorney Thomas Pitaro, who did not respond to requests for comment. Lynam and his co-defendants, Stephen Parshall and William Loomis, are also facing a parallel slate of charges brought by local prosecutors in state court. Parshall and Loomis have pleaded not guilty.

A spokesman for the Army Reserve said Lynam, a medical specialist who joined in 2016, currently holds the rank of private first class in the service. He has never deployed to a combat zone. "Extremist ideologies and activities directly oppose our values and beliefs, and those who subscribe to extremism have no place in our ranks," said Lt. Col. Simon Flake, noting that Lynam is facing disciplinary action by the Army when his criminal cases conclude.

"An Insider Threat"

The body of criminal law that governs the armed forces, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, doesn't include an explicit prohibition on joining extremist groups.

But participation in criminal gangs, white supremacist organizations and anti-government militias is barred by a 2009 Pentagon directive that covers all military branches. Service members who violate that ban can face court-martial for disobeying a lawful order or regulation, or for other offenses related to their extremist activity, such as making false statements to superiors. Military prosecutors can also use a catchall provision of the military code called Article 134 — or the general article — to charge service members who've engaged in conduct that brings "discredit" to the armed forces or harms the "good order and discipline" of the military, said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army officer who served as a military attorney and who now teaches national security law at South Texas College of Law Houston.

Pointing to the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, who enlisted in the Army and served in the first Gulf War, Corn said it's no secret that the military has been a "breeding ground" for extremism to some extent for decades. McVeigh's devastating 1995 attack on that city's Alfred P. Murrah federal building killed 168 people, many of them children.

Military officials have acknowledged an uptick in extremist activity and domestic terrorism cases in recent years.

Addressing a congressional committee last year, Joe Ethridge, intelligence chief for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, said his staff had opened seven investigations into allegations of extremist activity in 2019, up from an average of 2.4 per year during the previous half decade. "During the same time period, the Federal Bureau of Investigation notified CID of an increase in domestic terrorism investigations with soldiers or former soldiers as suspects," he told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Ethridge also noted that most soldiers who are flagged for extremist behavior face administrative sanctions — including counseling or retraining — rather than criminal prosecution.

In the aftermath of the Capitol attack and a flurry of news reports documenting the involvement of service members in the chaos, the Department of Defense announced a comprehensive review of its policies on extremist and white supremacist activity to be conducted by the Pentagon's inspector general.

"We in the Department of Defense are doing everything we can to eliminate extremism" within the military, Garry Reid, a director for defense intelligence at the Pentagon, told ProPublica and FRONTLINE. "All military personnel, including members of the National Guard, have undergone a background investigation, are subject to continuous evaluation and are enrolled in an insider threat program."

The "Kill House"

The military is clearly worried about Boogaloo Bois training up civilians. Last year, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement agency that investigates felony-level crimes involving sailors and members of the Marine Corps, circulated an intelligence bulletin.

Called a threat awareness message, the bulletin detailed the arrests of Lynam and the other men in Las Vegas and noted that Boogaloo followers have engaged in discussions about "recruiting military or former military members for their perceived knowledge of combat training."

NCIS concluded the bulletin with a warning: The agency couldn't ignore the possibility that individuals involved with the Boogaloo movement were serving throughout the military. "NCIS continues to emphasize the importance of reporting suspected boogaloo activity through the chain of command."

The subject came up during a court hearing in Michigan involving Paul Bellar, one of the men arrested on state charges in connection with the plot to kidnap Whitmer. "It's my understanding Mr. Bellar used his military training to teach combat procedures to members of this terrorist group," said Magistrate Frederick Bishop, explaining his reluctance to lower Bellar's bail during the October hearing. Bellar, who has since been released from jail on bond, has pleaded not guilty.

In another instance, an ex-Marine gathered at least six men at a wooded property in McLoud, Oklahoma, a small town outside of Oklahoma City, and taught them how to storm a building. In a video posted to YouTubelast year, the former Marine, Christopher Ledbetter, shows the group how to enter a house and kill any enemy combatants inside. Filmed with a GoPro camera, the video concludes with Ledbetter, who served in the Marine Corps from 2011 to 2015, blasting a wooden target with a barrage of bullets from a fully automatic AK-47-type carbine.

Ledbetter called his training facility the " kill house," according to court records.

A series of Facebook Messenger conversations obtained by the FBI show that Ledbetter, 30, identified with the Boogaloo movement and was preparing for the coming armed insurrection, which he thought would be a "blast." In an interview, Ledbetter told agents that he had been manufacturing hand grenades and admitted that he had modified his AK-47 so that it would fire automatically.

A transcript of Facebook messages between Christopher Ledbetter and a Facebook user. Ledbetter said, "Can't keep the goons" — a nickname for Boogaloo members — "from finding each other." (United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma)

Ledbetter pleaded guilty in December to illegal possession of a machine gun. He is currently serving a 57-month sentence in federal custody.

On an hourlong podcast posted in May 2020, two Boogaloo Bois discussed, in detail, how to do battle with the government.

One of the men, who dispenses combat advice online using the handle Guerrilla Instructor, said he had enlisted in the Army but had eventually grown disenchanted and left the service. The other man, who called himself Jake, said he was currently serving as a military police officer in the Army National Guard.

Traditional infantry tactics wouldn't be particularly useful during the coming civil war, opined Guerrilla Instructor, arguing that sabotage and assassination would be more helpful for the anti-government insurgents. It was simple, he said: A Boogaloo Boi could just walk up to a government figure or law enforcement officer on the street and "shoot them in the face" before fleeing.

But there was another assassination technique that held special appeal for Guerrilla Instructor. "I believe honestly that drive-bys will be our greatest tool," he said, sketching out a scenario in which three Boogs would hop in an SUV, spray a target with gunfire, "kill some dudes" and speed off.

"That's some real gangster shit right there," enthused Jake.

"Boog"

About three weeks after the podcast was uploaded to Apple and other podcast distributors, a security camera tracked a white Ford van as it moved through the darkened streets of downtown Oakland, California. It was 9:43 p.m.

Inside the vehicle, prosecutors say, were Boogaloo Bois Steven Carrillo, who was armed with an automatic short-barreled rifle, and Robert Justus, Jr., who was driving. As the van rolled along Jefferson Street, Carrillo allegedly flung open the sliding door and unleashed a burst of gunfire, hitting two federal protective services officers posted outside the Ronald V. Dellums federal building and courthouse. The barrage killed David Patrick Underwood, 53, and wounded Sombat Mifkovic, whose age has not been released.

At this point, there's no evidence Carrillo — a 32-year-old Air Force staff sergeant stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California — ever heard the podcast or communicated with the men who recorded it. But, obviously, his alleged crime closely resembles the assassination strategies discussed on the show, which is still available online. He is facing murder and attempted murder charges in federal court, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

According to the FBI, Carrillo used an exotic and highly illegal weapon to carry out the shooting: an automatic rifle with an extremely short barrel and a silencer. The weapon, which fires 9 mm ammunition, is a so-called ghost gun — it lacks any serial numbers, making it difficult to trace.

Built from machined aluminum, heavy-duty polymers or even 3D printed plastic, ghost guns have been embraced by Boogaloo movement members, many of whom take an absolutist position on the Second Amendment, arguing that the government lacks any authority to restrict gun ownership.

Last year police in New York state arrested an Army drone operator and alleged Boogaloo Boi on charges that he owned an illegal ghost gun. Noah Latham, a private based at Fort Drum, did a tour of Iraq as a drone operator, according to an Army spokesperson. Latham was discharged from the service after he was arrested by police in Troy in June 2020.

The shootings at the courthouse in Oakland were only the first chapter in Carrillo's alleged rampage. In the days after, he headed about 80 miles south, to a tiny town nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains. There he allegedly got into a gun battle with Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies and state police, a shootout that killed deputy Damon Gutzwiller, 38, and injured two other law enforcement officers. According to prosecutors, who have charged Carrillo with premeditated murder and a host of other felonies in state court, Carrillo also hurled homemade bombs at the cops and deputies and carjacked a Toyota Camry in a bid to escape.

Before ditching the car, Carrillo apparently used his own blood — he was hit in the hip during the skirmish — to write the word "Boog" on the hood of the car.

Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, has monitored the links between the military and extremist groups for years, tracking each policy tweak, every criminal case. In her view, Carrillo's grisly narrative is a product of the military's refusal to adequately address the issue of radicalization within the ranks. She said, "The failure to deal with this problem on the part of the armed forces" has "unleashed people who are highly trained in how to kill" on the public.

Zoe Todd, FRONTLINE, contributed reporting.

Notorious White Nationalists Identified In Capitol Rioting

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica. This story is part of an ongoing collaboration between ProPublica and FRONTLINE that includes an upcoming documentary.

Members of the ultranationalist street gang known as the Proud Boys were easy to spot at the protests that flared across the United States throughout 2020, often in the middle of a brawl, typically clad in black and yellow outfits.

But in December, as the group's leaders planned to flood Washington to oppose the certification of the Electoral College vote this week for President-elect Joe Biden, they decided to do something different.

"The ProudBoys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist...," Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, the group's president, wrote in a late-December post on Parler, a social media platform that has become popular with right-wing activists and conservatives. "We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows....we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion."

Henry "Enrique" Tarrio's Parler post in late December.Screenshot from ProPublica.

The precise composition of the mob that forced its way into the Capitol on Wednesday, disrupting sessions of both houses of Congress and leaving a police officer and four others dead, remains unknown. But a review by a ProPublica-FRONTLINE team that has been tracking far-right movements for the past three years shows that the crowd included members of the Proud Boys and other groups with violent ideologies. Videos reveal the presence of several noted hardcore nativists and white nationalists who participated in the 2017 white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that President Donald Trump infamously refused to condemn.


Invasion of the Capitol Was Planned for Weeks in Plain Sight | FRONTLINE + ProPublica www.youtube.com

Tarrio does not appear to have been present during the insurrection. Two days before members of the House and Senate gathered to certify the Electoral College results, Washington's Metropolitan Police Department arrested Tarrio and charged him with possessing high-capacity firearm magazines and destruction of property over the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner last month. A judge barred him from entering the city while he awaits trial.

But it appears that Tarrio's followers heeded his advice. A journalist working with ProPublica and FRONTLINE encountered members of the Proud Boys in dark clothes walking through Washington on the night before the attack. The four men posed for a photo and confirmed their membership in the group. Few participants involved in the Capitol siege were seen wearing Proud Boys colors or logos.


But since the incident, Proud Boys social media channels have flaunted their direct role in the attack and looting of the Capitol.

One prominent Proud Boys account encouraged rioters as the chaos was unfolding: "Hold your ground!!!... DO NOT GO HOME. WE ARE ON THE CUSP OF SAVING THE CONSTITUTION."

So far, police have arrested more than 80 people in connection with the attack, including at least one Proud Boy, Nick Ochs. They have seized pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails and arrested at least six people on illegal firearms charges, including one Maryland man who was captured in the visitors' center of the Capitol. More arrests are expected.

As the crowds ringing the Capitol swelled on Wednesday, a small group of men clad in body armor shuffled toward the doors at the center of the building's east-facing facade.

The eight men, whose movements were captured on video, were identified by ProPublica and FRONTLINE as members of the Oath Keepers, a long-standing militia group that has pledged to ignite a civil war on behalf of Trump. Members of the group joined the protesters and insurrectionists flooding into the Capitol. Footage from later in the day shows Oath Keepers dragging a wounded comrade out of the building.

Stewart Rhodes, a former soldier and Yale law school graduate, who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 and built it into a nationwide network, was seen on video standing outside the Capitol building. While he was not seen entering the Capitol, he could be seen talking with his militia followers throughout the day.


Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, at the Capitol on Wednesday. (Ford Fischer)Screenshot from ProPublica.

Several other of the participants ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified from video have direct links to the white nationalist movement, which has seen a resurgence of activity during the Trump era.

One was Nick Fuentes, an internet personality who streams a daily talk show on DLive, an alternative social media platform. Fuentes, who marched in Charlottesville during the 2017 white power rally there, speaks frequently in anti-Semitic terms and pontificates on the need to protect America's white heritage from the ongoing shift in the nation's demographics. He has publicly denied believing in white nationalism but has said that he considers himself a "white majoritarian."

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies late last year in Michigan and Washington, D.C., said he was at the rally on Wednesday but didn't follow the mob into the Capitol. One group of Fuentes' supporters, who call themselves the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo.

Days before the Capitol was stormed, Fuentes seemed to encourage his followers to kill state legislators in a bid to overturn Biden's electoral victory, as Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who follows online extremist communities, noted on Twitter.

"What can you and I do to a state legislator — besides kill him?" he said with a smirk. "We should not do that. I'm not advising that, but I mean, what else can you do, right?"

Squire fears that Fuentes' incendiary rhetoric will inspire his followers to engage in more drastic — even lethal — acts of political violence. "Instead of trying to appear democratic he's making an argument for fascism, for monarchism," she said. "He's criticizing democracy at every turn. He doesn't believe in democracy and it's scary because his fans find him fascinating."

DLive recently announced that it has booted Fuentes from its platform.

Another figure inside the Capitol with ties to white nationalists was Tim Gionet, a livestreamer who uses the handle Baked Alaska and who participated in the Charlottesville rally, which left one woman dead. Gionet was photographed within the Capitol and apparently used DLive to stream from within the building as events unfolded. Part of his video appeared to show him in Nancy Pelosi's office, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

Other extremist figures present either at the rally or within the Capitol included Vincent James Foxx, an online propagandist for the Rise Above Movement, a now-defunct Southern California white supremacist group.

Also on scene: Gabe Brown, a New Englander who helped create Anticom, a now-defunct organization devoted to physically combating leftists. In 2017, Anticom members posted a vast trove of bomb-making manuals to a private online chatroom.

The militant group members joined with scores of others who rampaged inside the Capitol.

Rep. André Carson, a Democrat from Indiana, said the scene reminded him of a Ku Klux Klan rally. Photos from within the Capitol showed one unidentified man carrying a Confederate battle flag and another wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a skull and the words "Camp Auschwitz," a reference to the infamous Nazi death camp.

Carson and other House members who spoke to ProPublica and FRONTLINE said the body would be launching an extensive investigation of the Capitol Police force and its mishandling of Wednesday's events.

The rioters, said Carson, who is Black, "were hostile. They were venomous. And I think there was a sense of entitlement that they carried that somehow their country was being taken away from them."

After the siege, a Boogaloo Bois group called the Last Sons of Liberty, which includes militants from Virginia, posted a video to Parler purporting to document their role in the incident — a clip that shows members inside the Capitol. A loose-knit confederation of anti-government militants, the Boogaloo Bois have been tied to a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and to the murder of two law enforcement officers in California. ProPublica and FRONTLINE have been unable to independently confirm their involvement.

Some far-right activists are already calling for retribution over the death of Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from California who was shot and killed by a security officer. "We've got a girl that's dead. She's shot, laying on the ground in there," said Damon Beckley, leader of a group called DC Under Siege, in an interview just outside the Capitol while the riot was ongoing. "We're not putting up with this tyrannical rule. ... If we gotta come back here and start a revolution and take all these traitors out — which is what should happen — then we will."

Another person took to Parler to say that they were planning to show up, armed, in Washington for Inauguration Day. "Many of us will return on January 19, 2021 carrying Our weapons," wrote the Parler user, who goes by the handle Colonel007. "We will come in numbers that no standing army or police agency can match."

The Proud Boys also celebrated on social media. On Parler, one Proud Boys leader posted a photo of members of Congress cowering in fear and captioned it with a menacing statement: "Today you found out. The power of the people will not be denied."

Logan Jaffe of ProPublica and Lila Hassan, Dan Glaun and Zoe Todd of FRONTLINE contributed reporting.

Correction, Jan. 9, 2021: This story has been updated to remove the name of an individual who upon further investigation could not be definitively identified.

Border Patrol Conceals Findings Of Probe Into Its Officers’ Racist Facebook Group

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Brian Hastings, a top Border Patrol official, stared grimly at the television cameras.

It was July 1, 2019, and Hastings was facing down a scandal: News reports had revealed that Border Patrol agents were posting wildly offensive comments and memes in a secret Facebook group.

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Trump Weakened Key Civil Rights Agency When It Is Needed Most

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

In recent weeks, as protests against police violence and systemic racism have swept across the nation, a key federal civil rights agency — an agency created to bridge racial divides — has been largely absent.

Dubbed “America's Peacemaker," the Community Relations Service was established in 1964 as civil rights protesters across the South came under attack. The service, which is part of the Justice Department, is credited with helping to avert bloodshed during some of the most contentious demonstrations of the 1960s.

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Border Patrol Condemns Secret Facebook Group, But Reveals Few Specifics

 

Long known for its insular culture and tendency toward secrecy, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is saying little in the aftermath of news reports exposing a vulgar and hateful Facebook group for current and retired Border Patrol agents, including supervisors.

While CBP officials have publicly condemned the offensive social media posts, they’ve disclosed few details about the steps the agency has taken to identify employees who behaved inappropriately online and hold them accountable.

The agency, which is responsible for policing the nation’s borders and official ports of entry, declined to say how many employees CBP has disciplined or how many remain under investigation.

In response to questions from ProPublica, a CBP spokesperson would only say that “several” employees had been placed on restricted duty as a result of postings in the three-year-old Facebook group, and that so far no one had been suspended from the patrol, a more serious disciplinary action. The agency would not say whether the agents now on restricted duty are allowed to have contact with the public, and it refused to answer questions about specific agents who appear to have made posts celebrating sexual violence and demeaning migrants and women.

The “majority of employees who have been positively identified” as being active in the Facebook group have been issued letters instructing them stop posting objectionable material, said the spokesperson, who declined to specify how many people had received the letters, described as “cease and desist” notices.

“This secrecy is unacceptable,” said Joaquin Castro, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and representative for San Antonio. “This secrecy is dangerous to human life. CBP is perhaps the least transparent law enforcement agency in the country.”

ProPublica last week revealed the existence of the secret 9,500-member Facebook group, called “I’m 10-15,” a reference to the Border Patrol code for “alien in custody.” In the private group, current and former Border Patrol agents, including supervisors, mocked dead migrants, called congresswomen “scum buckets,” and uploaded misogynistic images, including an illustration of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a harsh critic of CBP, engaged in oral sex with a migrant in a detention facility. A later story by The Intercept published additional graphic posts from the group and information about its members.

CBP policies bar employees from making “abusive, derisive, profane, or harassing statements or gestures” about any person or group on private or public social media.

Among those who apparently made egregious posts is Thomas Hendricks, a 20-year veteran of the Border Patrol who serves as a supervisor of the Calexico station, a desert outpost in Southern California’s Imperial County. Hendricks — or someone using his Facebook account — uploaded a photo illustration of President Donald Trump forcing the head of Ocasio-Cortez toward his crotch. The image was accompanied by a cryptic message that appeared to refer to prior issues within the patrol: “That’s right bitches. The masses have spoken and today democracy won. I have returned.”

Hendricks did not respond to requests for comment from ProPublica.

An agent at the Alamogordo station in New Mexico, Mario Marcus Ponce, apparently described Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso, Texas, both Democrats, as “hoes” in a discussion in the Facebook group. Ponce did not answer calls and text messages from ProPublica.

CBP would not discuss the current status of Hendricks and Ponce or two other agents identified by ProPublica. “We cannot comment on individual cases,” the CBP spokesperson said.

Unlike many big city police departments, the Border Patrol generally divulges little information about agents found to have engaged in misconduct or those involved in shooting incidents. At times, the agency has refused even to reveal the names of agents facing trial on criminal corruption charges.

“They are not used to being questioned. They are not used to be scrutinized,” said Josiah Heyman, an anthropologist at the University of Texas at El Paso who has been studying the border since 1982.

The Facebook group, he said, is “an indicator of broader problems” within the Border Patrol. “There is an attitude within CBP and Border Patrol that everybody crossing the border is invading the United States and coming to do bad things,” he said.

While Heyman noted that there is little solid statistical data on the views held by Border Patrol agents, he pointed to a survey of approximately 1,100 migrants who’d been deported to Mexico. Nearly a quarter of the respondents said they’d been verbally abused by U.S. government employees, primarily Border Patrol. “It is an enormous number,” said Heyman, director of the school’s Center for Inter-American and Border Studies.

In a statement issued last week, Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said the Facebook images and comments aren’t representative of the patrol as a whole. “These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out,” she said. “Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”

At least two oversight bodies are now looking into the conduct of Border Patrol agents on social media. One inquiry is being led by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, essentially an internal affairs unit staffed with professional investigators.

In Congress, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, led by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings has opened an investigation and committee staffers are currently gathering facts. Cummings has requested that Kevin McAleenan, the acting chief of the Department of Homeland Security — CBP’s parent organization — testify before the committee this week about “racist, sexist, and xenophobic posts by Border Patrol agents,” as well as reports of inhumane conditions and severe overcrowding at CBP detention facilities.

The congressman has also instructed Facebook to turn over digital evidence related to the group. “The Committee requests that you preserve all documents, communications, and other data related to the ‘I’m 10-15’ group. This includes log files and metadata,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg.

At the House Homeland Security Committee, chair Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, has called on the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security to mount an investigation into the Facebook group.

The inspector general’s office would not comment on whether it has opened an inquiry.

For his part, Castro said he intends to ask some questions of his own. “I am going to set up a call with Secretary McAleenan to have a conversation about the discipline and accountability process within DHS,” Castro, a Democrat, said. “I don’t know if there is any accountability. I don’t know if there is any discipline.”

 

 

Inside Secret Facebook Border Patrol Group: Cruelty, Bigotry, And Misogyny

 

Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings.

In one exchange, group members responded with indifference and wisecracks to the post of a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, “Oh well.” Another responded with an image and the words “If he dies, he dies.”

Created in August 2016, the Facebook group is called “I’m 10-15” and boasts roughly 9,500 members from across the country. (10-15 is Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.”) The group described itself, in an online introduction, as a forum for “funny” and “serious” discussion about work with the patrol. “Remember you are never alone in this family,” the introduction said.

Responsible for policing the nation’s southern and northern boundaries, the Border Patrol has come under intense scrutiny as the Trump administration takes new, more aggressive measures to halt the influx of undocumented migrants across the United States-Mexico border. The patrol’s approximately 20,000 agents serve under the broader U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which has been faulted for allegedly mistreating children and adults in its custody. The agency’s leadership has been in turmoil, with its most recent acting chief, John Sanders, resigning last week.

ProPublica received images of several recent discussions in the 10-15 Facebook group and was able to link the participants in those online conversations to apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas. ProPublica has so far been unable to reach the group members who made the postings.

ProPublica contacted three spokespeople for CBP in regard to the Facebook group and provided the names of three agents who appear to have participated in the online chats. CBP hasn’t yet responded.

“These comments and memes are extremely troubling,” said Daniel Martinez, a sociologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who studies the border. “They’re clearly xenophobic and sexist.”

The postings, in his view, reflect what “seems to be a pervasive culture of cruelty aimed at immigrants within CBP. This isn’t just a few rogue agents or ‘bad apples.’”

The Border Patrol Facebook group is the most recent example of some law enforcement personnel behaving badly in public and private digital spaces. An investigation by Reveal uncovered hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers who moved in extremist Facebook circles, including white supremacist and anti-government groups. A team of researchers calling themselves the Plain View Project recently released a hefty database of offensive Facebook posts made by current and ex-law enforcement officers.

And in early 2018, federal investigators found a raft of disturbing and racist text messages sent by Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona after searching the phone of Matthew Bowen, an agent charged with running down a Guatemalan migrant with a Ford F-150 pickup truck. The texts, which were revealed in a court filing in federal court in Tucson, described migrants as “guats,” “wild ass shitbags,” “beaners” and “subhuman.” The messages included repeated discussions about burning the migrants up.

Several of the postings reviewed by ProPublica refer to the planned visit by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), to a troubled Border Patrol facility outside of El Paso. Agents at the compound in Clint, Texas, have been accused of holding children in neglectful, inhumane conditions.

Members of the Border Patrol Facebook group were not enthused about the tour, noting that Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from Queens, had compared Border Patrol facilities to Nazi concentration camps. Escobar is a freshman Democrat representing El Paso.

One member encouraged Border Patrol agents to hurl a “burrito at these bitches.” Another, apparently a patrol supervisor, wrote, “Fuck the hoes.” “There should be no photo ops for these scum buckets,” posted a third member.

Perhaps the most disturbing posts target Ocasio-Cortez. One includes a photo illustration of her engaged in oral sex at an immigrant detention center. Text accompanying the image reads, “Lucky Illegal Immigrant Glory Hole Special Starring AOC.”

Another is a photo illustration of a smiling President Donald Trump forcing Ocasio-Cortez’s head toward his crotch. The agent who posted the image commented: “That’s right bitches. The masses have spoken and today democracy won.”

The posts about Escobar and Ocasio-Cortez are “vile and sexist,” said a staffer for Escobar. “Furthermore, the comments made by Border Patrol agents towards immigrants, especially those that have lost their lives, are disgusting and show a complete disregard for human life and dignity.”

The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Joaquin Castro, reviewed the Facebook discussions and was incensed. “It confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection,” said Castro, a Democrat who represents San Antonio. “These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers.” He added that the agents who made the vulgar comments “don’t deserve to wear any uniform representing the United States of America.”

Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said the postings are more evidence of the sexism and misogyny that has long plagued the Border Patrol. “That’s why they’re the worst at recruiting women,” said Gaubeca, whose group works to reform the agency. “They have the lowest percentage of female agents or officers of any federal law enforcement agency.”

In another thread, a group member posted a photo of father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande. The pair drowned while trying to ford the river and cross into the U.S.; pictures of the two have circulated widely online in recent days, generating an outcry.

The member asked if the photo could have been faked because the bodies were so “clean.” (The picture was taken by an Associated Press photographer, and there is no indication that it was staged or manipulated.) “I HAVE NEVER SEEN FLOATERS LIKE THIS,” the person wrote, adding, “could this be another edited photo. We’ve all seen the dems and liberal parties do some pretty sick things…”

 

IMAGE: A U.S. Border Patrol agent (C) looks on as people separated by immigration wait to see their relatives at an open gate on the fence along the Mexico and U.S border, as photographed from Tijuana, Mexico February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

Federal Judge Dismisses Charges Against RAM White Supremacists

A federal judge on Monday dismissed charges against three members of a white supremacist gang indicted for their roles in violent rallies across California in 2017, saying the federal statute used to prosecute them was unconstitutional.

The three men, members of the Rise Above Movement, a violent, racist organization based in Southern California, had been charged under a federal anti-riot statute with planning and then carrying out assaults at 2017 rallies in Huntington Beach, San Bernardino and Berkeley in the volatile months after President Donald Trump’s election.

“The defendants used the Internet to coordinate combat training in preparation for the events,” federal prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint filed late last year, “to arrange travel to the events, to coordinate attendance at the events, and to celebrate their acts of violence in order to recruit members for future events.”

In dismissing the charges, the judge, Cormac Carney, did not say that assaults didn’t happen or that the men could not be potentially charged with criminal acts. Instead, he ruled that the anti-riot statute of 1968 was overly broad and criminalized not only incitement of acts of violence, but also the planning and organization a person might do months in advance of a potential riot, even if the riot never happened. In that, Carney held, the statute could be seen to infringe on First Amendment rights governing free speech, since the calls to action did not constitute an imminent threat.

“It is easy to champion free speech when it advocates a viewpoint with which we agree,” Carney wrote. “It is much harder when the speech promotes ideas that we find abhorrent. But an essential function of free speech is to invite dispute. Speech ‘may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.’”

The judge, near the end of his ruling, listed other charges a prosecutor could use to deal with violent public demonstrations.

“Make no mistake that it is reprehensible to throw punches in the name of teaching Antifa some lesson,” Carney wrote, referring to the far-left counter-protesters who have fought with white supremacists at various rallies in the last several years. “Nor does the Court condone RAM’s hateful and toxic ideology. But the government has sufficient means at its disposal to prevent and punish such behavior without sacrificing the First Amendment.”

Prosecutors said they were considering their next steps. “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling, and we are reviewing possible grounds for appeal,” said Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Carney ordered the release of two of the men, Robert Rundo and Robert Boman; the third, Aaron Eason, was already free on bond. A fourth RAM member, Tyler Laube, pleaded guilty earlier, but his case will now most likely be revisited.

In a separate case brought in federal court in Virginia, three other RAM members and a RAM associate have pleaded guilty to similar riot charges for their actions during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017. The California judge’s ruling is unlikely to have an immediate effect on those cases.

On its YouTube channel, RAM celebrated with a brief video featuring a photo of Rundo in a tank top and the words “all charges dropped.” In a post on Gab, a far-right social media platform, RAM added, “Just goes to show, never take a plea deal, always fight for the truth.”

The group’s supporters reacted to the news with enthusiasm. “Thank God,” wrote one commenter in response to the Gab post. Other commenters chimed in with “Sieg Heil!” and its English translation, “Hail victory,” an infamous slogan used by the Nazis.

RAM’s first public appearance was at a chaotic pro-Trump rally in Huntington Beach in March 2017. During the event, Laube assaulted a journalist with the OC Weekly, Frank Tristan, who was covering the scene for the newspaper. Two OC Weekly photojournalists were also roughed up during the melee.

Former OC Weekly editor Nick Schou helped to oversee the publication at the time, as well as its subsequent reporting on RAM, whose members reside primarily in Orange County and to the north in Los Angeles County’s beach cities. “It’s extremely disappointing to me,” Schou said of the judge’s ruling.

“What happened there with our employees was a warm-up for Charlottesville,” he said, adding that local and state police did little to investigate the violence at the rally, and noting that the federal charges came down more than 18 months after the Orange County event. “The lack of any official law enforcement response in the immediate aftermath of the Huntington Beach attack arguably enabled the much more extreme and fatal attack that happened in Charlottesville.”

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IMAGE: A screenshot from a livestream shows Robert Rundo, right, at a march in San Bernardino, California, in 2017. (Via the Red Elephants YouTube page)

Over 200 Allegations Of Abuse Of Migrant Children — And One DHS Employee Disciplined

From 2009 to 2014, at least 214 complaints were filed against federal agents for abusing or mistreating migrant children. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s records, only one employee was disciplined as a result of a complaint.

The department’s records, which have alarmed advocates for migrants given the more aggressive approach to the treatment of minors at the border under the current administration, emerged as part of a federal lawsuit seeking the release of the names of the accused agents.

Last month, attorneys for DHS argued before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that disclosing the names of the federal agents would infringe on their right to privacy. A district judge had earlier ordered the department to make the names public.

The fact that only a single case of discipline apparently resulted from more than 200 complaints of child abuse clearly worried the district judge, John Tuchi, of Arizona, who ruled on the matter in the spring of 2018. In his order demanding the release of the names, Tuchi faulted DHS for failing to vigorously investigate claims of misconduct, stating that “completed investigations were almost nonexistent.”

DHS declined to comment for this story.

The ongoing legal battle stretches back to 2014, when American Civil Liberties Union chapters in Arizona and Southern California began seeking details about the alleged mistreatment of minors apprehended and detained by Customs and Border Protection, an agency within Homeland Security. Using the Freedom of Information Act, attorneys with the ACLU approached DHS with a request for copies of all records regarding the verbal, physical and sexual abuse of minors by Customs or Border Patrol personnel.

The ACLU’s fact-finding initiative came as the federal government struggled to deal with a massive spike in the number of children — many from violence-plagued Central American countries, many unaccompanied by parents — crossing the southern border into the U.S.

Hoping to speed the release of the documents, the ACLU later filed suit. While the federal government eventually turned over some 30,000 pages of heavily redacted records, including 214 allegations of child abuse by agents, it has balked at disclosing the names of the Border Patrol and Customs personnel alleged to have harmed minors.

ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi said that without the names of Customs and Border Protection employees — or some other way to identify them, such as tracking numbers — it’s impossible to divine basic facts about the agency’s handling of children. “We don’t know the total number of complaints submitted by a child or on behalf of a child,” Ebadolahi said in an interview, noting that there are likely far more than 214 complaints. “We don’t know the number of agents implicated. Is it a handful of agents? Are they clustered in a certain sector? Were any of those agents disciplined?”

The single disciplinary record released by DHS involved an employee with Immigration and Customs Enforcement who verbally abused a minor.

DHS maintains that the records it has already shared offer a detailed picture of the abuse allegations — including date, location and the substance of the complaint — as well as the government’s efforts to investigate them. For the public, there’s little value in “knowing the names of specific individual agents who have been subject to allegations of misconduct,” said DHS attorney Laura Myron during oral arguments before the 9th Circuit on May 16. Myron stressed that the privacy rights of Border Patrol and Customs employees would be violated by the release of their names in connection with the abuse complaints.

Myron disputed Tuchi’s view that DHS had failed to thoroughly investigate the allegations, saying his statement was not supported by the evidence presented in the case, or the documents turned over to the ACLU.

In court, Judge Sandra Ikuta expressed concern that the ACLU would “harass” the employees and endanger their lives by publishing their names.

“We would accept some alternative [to the release of the names] that would allow the public to look at the records that we’ve obtained and make sense of them,” Ebadolahi responded. “There are cases where agencies have done that.”

The complaints unearthed by Ebadolahi and her colleagues, though redacted, offer glimpses of troubling patterns of behavior within the ranks. One boy told investigators “that during his apprehension by Border Patrol agents he was hit on the head with a flashlight. … He sustained a laceration to his scalp that required three (3) staples.” The boy’s story was buttressed by the fact that he had three clearly visible staples closing a fresh wound on his head. Other children reported being punched, shocked with Tasers, and denied food and medicine. Many described being bludgeoned with flashlights.

In one memo, from June 2014, a DHS investigator suggested shutting down an investigation into a minor offense because the department was deluged with a “huge amount of more serious complaints.”

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‘RAM’ White Supremacists Charged in Charlottesville Riot Plead Guilty

Last year, when federal authorities arrested and charged four members or associates of a white supremacist gang for their roles in the infamous 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the men and their supporters struck a defiant tone.

The men proclaimed their innocence, and their backers described them in social media posts as “patriots” and “political prisoners.” The gang, known as the Rise Above Movement and based in Southern California, set up an anonymous tip line for people to share evidence that might exonerate the imprisoned members, and it established a legal defense fund, with donations taken via PayPal and bitcoin.

But in the following months, the men, one after the other, have pleaded guilty. Last Friday saw the final two guilty pleas, including one from Ben Daley, 26, one of the group’s leaders. He was joined by Michael Miselis, 30, a former Northrop Grumman aerospace engineer. The men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to riot.

“These avowed white supremacists traveled to Charlottesville to incite and commit acts of violence, not to engage in peaceful First Amendment expression,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said in announcing the guilty pleas. “Although the First Amendment protects an organization’s right to express abhorrent political views, it does not authorize senseless violence in furtherance of a political agenda.”

The Rise Above Movement and its role in the violence in Charlottesville in 2017 and at rallies in other cities was the subject of reporting by ProPublica and Frontline, work the authorities have credited in taking action against the men. Federal prosecutors in California are pursuing charges against four other RAM members, including its founder, Robert Rundo.

The plea documents filed during Friday’s court proceedings in Charlottesville lay out a detailed narrative of what the authorities say were RAM’s repeated acts of violence two years ago.

The narrative chronicles RAM’s combat training and the visual evidence capturing its members attacking protesters, including in Charlottesville, where, the authorities spell out, they “collectively pushed, punched, kicked, choked, head-butted, and otherwise assaulted several individuals, resulting in a riot.”

In pleading guilty, the authorities said, Daley and Miselis admitted their actions were not in self-defense.

In the contemporary white supremacist scene, RAM had positioned itself as the violent vanguard of the movement, a successor to the volatile and hyper-aggressive skinhead gangs that were prevalent during the 1980s and 1990s. Since its formation in 2016, the group has recruited several members of the Hammerskin Nation, the largest skinhead gang in the country, which has been tied to numerous killings, including the massacre of six Sikh worshippers at a temple outside Milwaukee.

Though RAM has eschewed the skinhead style — combat boots and bomber jackets — in favor of a more mainstream look, its members have embraced the bloody tactics of the Nazi skinhead gangs.

Miselis, a onetime engineering student at UCLA, was fired from his job at Northrop Grumman after ProPublica and Frontline exposed his membership in RAM. In a companywide email, then-CEO Wesley Bush said he was “deeply saddened yesterday to see news reports alleging that one of our employees engaged in violence as part of the Charlottesville protests.” Miselis held a government-issued security clearance while at Northrop, a major defense contractor, though the company has so far declined to say what projects Miselis was assigned to.

Rundo, who was living in Orange County at the time of his arrest, has also portrayed the federal prosecutions as a miscarriage of justice. “The rioting charges brought against us have not been used in 70 years,” Rundo said in a jailhouse interview posted on YouTube in February. “This has little to do with rioting and all to do with censorship and silencing anyone that they deem too radical by today’s standards.”

In the interview, Rundo blamed the media for demonizing RAM and described the group as a self-improvement club for white men.

Rundo has pleaded not guilty, and he could be headed to trial.

The RAM prosecutions have become something of a cause celebre for the racist right. Augustus Invictus, a fringe political figure and attorney, has set up a legal defense fund to solicit donations for the RAM members facing charges. “The federal government has taken an absolute political hard line against the right wing,” Invictus said in a 53-minute YouTube video discussing the case. The video has generated more than 22,000 views and nearly 700 comments, most of them sympathetic to RAM and many of them racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic.

One of RAM’s most infamous supporters is Robert Bowers, the Pennsylvania man accused of murdering 11 congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October. Shortly before the massacre, Bowers posted a message decrying the RAM prosecutions on Gab, a far-right social media platform. Bowers has pleaded not guilty in the unfolding case.

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IMAGE: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists encircle and chant at counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Daily Caller Fires White Supremacist

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.
by A.C. Thompson ProPublica

On May 14, The Daily Caller, a popular conservative website, published a news story about recent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Led by prominent white supremacists and anti-Semites, the protesters, some carrying the battle flag of the Confederacy, expressed their anger over the city’s plans to remove a large monument to Robert E. Lee.

The article noted that some 200 people had carried torches in a march to the monument, a procession it called “visually striking.” It also quoted a young black man speaking favorably about one of the protest’s organizers.

The story, it turned out, also carried some critical omissions: It didn’t disclose that its author, Jason Kessler, is supportive of white supremacist groups, and on the day of the march had himself made a speech to the protesters in which he praised fascist and racist organizations, thanked a prominent Holocaust denier, and declared the beginnings of a cultural “civil war.”

ProPublica contacted Kessler after the article’s publication. In the course of an extended interview, Kessler said he saw efforts to remove symbols of the Confederacy as part of a broader attack on white people who, in his view, face an “existential crisis.”

“White people are rapidly becoming a minority in the U.S. and Europe,” he said, adding that he resented the country having to take in immigrants and refugees. “If we’re not able to advocate for ourselves we may go extinct.”

ProPublica also contacted The Daily Caller. Widely read in right-wing circles — the site gets nearly 10 million unique visitors per month, according to Quantcast — The Daily Caller was co-founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, who served as editor-in-chief until late last year when he took a prime-time job at Fox News. Carlson, who hosts a nightly show in the time slot that once belonged to Bill O’Reilly, remains co-owner of the site. Like Breitbart News, The Daily Caller has found an audience by posting a constant stream of punchy news stories, some of them imbued with racial overtones.

Within hours of being contacted by a ProPublica reporter, The Daily Caller appended an editor’s note to the article and severed its ties with Kessler. The editor’s note states, “The author notified The Daily Caller after publication that he spoke at a luncheon May 14 on behalf of an effort to preserve the monument.”

“The story is factually accurate and plainly states what happened at the event,” said Paul Conner, executive editor of The Daily Caller. “But in light of his activism on the issue, we have mutually agreed to suspend our freelance relationship with him.”

Asked about the substance of Kessler’s speech in Charlottesville, Conner offered no comment on Kessler’s statements. In an email, he said only, “We pay writers for journalism, not their opinions.”

The debate around Civil War monuments has become one of the many flashpoints at a racially volatile moment in the country’s history. In recent years, public officials throughout the South have sought to vanquish symbols of the Confederacy: In 2015, South Carolina took down the confederate flag that had long flown over the state capitol; more recently, New Orleans removed three statues of rebel war leaders that had dotted the city’s landscape, as well as a tall stone obelisk commemorating a Reconstruction-era uprising led by the White League, a racist militia.

In a speech that gained national attention, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu argued that the statues had originally been erected in an effort to “rebrand” the Confederate cause. “These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for,” Landrieu said.

The Daily Caller has followed these developments closely, and its readers seem to appreciate the coverage. Kessler’s story generated 146 comments, many expressing support for the Confederate monuments, some openly hostile towards African Americans. A May 20 piece on an Alabama Senate bill that would preserve the monuments in that state spurred nearly 130,000 shares on Facebook, as well as a lengthy chain of comments, a large number of them lauding Alabama lawmakers for their stance.

The event in Charlottesville included an appearance by Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization. Kessler quoted Spencer in the article, which chiefly portrayed the protest as a pushback against “left-wing ideologues who want to tear down statues, change the names of buildings and rewrite history books to place white people in an unsympathetic and even hostile light.”

“We are here to say no; no more attacks on our heritage, on our identity; no more attacks on us as a people,” Kessler quoted Spencer as saying.

Kessler’s story made no mention of his own talk before the protesters. Speaking during an outdoor luncheon, Kessler praised groups such as the American Vanguard, an organization that espouses the eradication of the country’s democratic structure of governance. He hailed Matthew Heimbach, who views himself as a warrior against Jews and people of color, and Sam Dickson, a denier of the Nazi Holocaust who has been involved in racist activities since the 1970s.

In the interview, Kessler, accused ProPublica of trying to sabotage his journalism career. Kessler, 33, lives in Charlottesville, where he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in April; in mid-May he was arrested again, this time for disorderly conduct stemming from a scuffle at an anti-racist rally in his hometown. Kessler is fighting the charges and is slated to go to trial later this year. Kessler has written stories for his own website, Jasonkessler.net — his tagline is “Real News” — VDare, and GotNews, the website run by Internet provocateur Charles C. Johnson. In addition to written journalism, he posts video logs to YouTube, composes fiction and poetry, and maintains a constant presence on Twitter. He heads a small activist group called Unity and Security for America that aims to drastically limit immigration to the U.S. from non-European countries so as to stave off the impending “white genocide” in America.

Kessler describes himself as an “activist-journalist” on the issue of saving monuments honoring the Confederacy. He said he views the white supremacists and fascists as allies but doesn’t subscribe to all of their views. He insists he’s not a racist or an anti-Semite.

“I just wanted to thank people for coming out and supporting the monuments. That doesn’t mean I support all their politics,” he said of his talk to the protesters. “I’m not going to sit and pass judgment on these people for the views they express. I don’t condemn or endorse what other people say.”

“The most extreme people are the bravest people,” Kessler told ProPublica. “There’s a paucity of people who are willing to take a stand for white civil rights.”

Kessler said whites may need to create their own homeland, an ethnic state for people of European descent. Still, he added in the interview, “As far as being hateful towards other people, I’m not on board.”

In a YouTube clip posted the same day as his interview with ProPublica, Kessler floated the theory that Jews are relying on “collusion and nepotism” to seize power and influence for themselves.

In Kessler’s view, his friends within the neo-Nazi and white supremacist milieu aren’t hurting anybody. In any case, he said, he’s more concerned about the “little white girls being blown up by” Islamist terrorists.

The Anti-Defamation League, which studies trends on the extreme right, has a different take, noting that white racists and anti-government militants have left a long trail of violence in their wake, killing some 255 people and injuring more than 600 in terror attacks over the past quarter century, according to a recent ADL report.

In a March attack, a white supremacist and former U.S. Army soldier impaled an African-American man with a 26-inch sword near New York’s Times Square, killing the victim. In Portland, Oregon, another white supremacist, Jeremy Christian, allegedly stabbed two men to death on a commuter train on May 26 while shouting anti-Muslim statements.  And earlier this month, law enforcement investigators found bomb materials at the Florida home of a 21-year-old member of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group, leading to federal charges.

“Kessler is representative of what hate looks like today, operating at the center of several movements that have arisen over the last few years,” said Oren Segal, Director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “He clearly sympathizes with white supremacists, but like many on the alt-right seeks to deflect such notions by presenting his words and activity as a mere response to multiculturalism and an assault from the left.”

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California Hate Crime Against Sikh Man Yields Prison Terms For Assailants

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.
by A.C. Thompson 

Wearing a slightly baggy suit, a maroon turban wrapped around his head, Maan Singh Khalsa looked across the courtroom at Judge Patricia Scanlon and wiggled his right hand.

The damage was obvious: Most of Khalsa’s pinky finger was missing.

“My attackers hit me with their fists, knocked off my turban, and yelled, ‘Cut his fucking hair.’ They yanked my hair through the window and used a knife to saw parts of it off. In the course of the attack, as I tried to protect my hair and my head, my right finger was stabbed, and eventually required amputation.”

Khalsa, an Indian immigrant and adherent of the Sikh faith, spoke softly and calmly during the hearing on Thursday. But with those words he was trying to close the book on a hate crime case that gained national attention last fall.

Khalsa was attacked last September on a roadway in Richmond, California, a tough oil refinery town perched on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Now, on the left side of the courtroom, confined to a cage made of glass and black steel, stood Khalsa’s assailants, Colton Tye Leblanc, 25, and Chase Little, 31.

The episode started on the night of Sept. 25, 2016, when LeBlanc, Little and three other men working for an oil services company pulled up to a stoplight in a Ford F-150 pickup truck. Khalsa was driving a car in the next lane over. Somebody in the truck hurled a beer can at him. Soon the situation turned violent, with LeBlanc and Little, both white men, punching Khalsa, an IT specialist for the Social Security Administration, through his car window.

Then the knife came out.

“Observant Sikhs like me keep our hair unshorn in order to live in harmony with the will of God. Cutting a Sikh’s hair is one of the most humiliating things anyone can do a Sikh,” Khalsa told the court.

Before the assault, he said, “I was so carefree. I considered myself an American like everyone else. I had never worried about being the victim of prejudice. I enjoyed my life fully.”

The violence has been transformative. “When the traffic light turned green I was able to drive away from the attackers, but my life is forever changed,” said Khalsa. Now, he said, “It is difficult for me to go out in public.”

Khalsa said he has suffered short-term memory lapses, depression, bouts of anxiety. He said he has trouble typing and using his right hand in general.

After Khalsa shared his story with the court, LeBlanc and Little pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and hate crimes charges. Neither man offered an apology.

Scanlon handed each of them a three-year state prison term, with any restitution payments to be discussed at a later court hearing. It was a negotiated outcome, a deal struck by defense attorneys and County Prosecutor Simon O’Connell.

Back in November, LeBlanc’s attorney, Joseph Tully, dismissed the notion that his client targeted Khalsa due to Khalsa’s ethnicity or religion. “This was simply a fight over a beer can at a stoplight which can’t be elevated to a hate crime under any circumstance,” he said at the time.

Now, even as LeBlanc and Little prepared for an extended stay in the state penal system, Tully remained defiant, claiming to have amassed evidence essentially clearing his client and portraying Khalsa not as a victim but an aggressor, who had used his car as a weapon at some point in the altercation.

“I’ve laughed every time I’ve heard that,” responded O’Connell, the prosecutor. “The defense kept saying they were going to present all this exonerating evidence, but then they turned around and quite readily agreed to plead to the charges.”

Though Khalsa “might have panicked” while behind the wheel, he didn’t do anything malicious, said O’Connell.

For O’Connell, the conviction of LeBlanc and Little represented a significant victory.

Hate crime cases are especially challenging for prosecutors, who must prove not just that a defendant has committed a crime, but that he or she was motivated by animus towards the victim’s race, religion, nationality or other identity characteristic. In 2015, California prosecutors secured convictions on hate crimes charges in less than 50 percent of the cases they filed, according to figures compiled by the California Department of Justice. O’Connell’s colleagues in the Contra Costa district attorney’s office dropped hate crimes charges in another high-profile case, the murder of Will Sims, an African-American musician who was beaten and shot to death in November 2016 after a dispute in a bar.

For Khalsa, the morning in court was an opportunity to live out the principles of his faith.

At one point he looked directly at his assailants:

“As a Sikh, I believe that all of us are one human family, and that we must treat everyone as equals regardless of our many differences. Mr. Little and Mr. LeBlanc, I hope that one day you will come to share this view. I still consider you my brothers, and I hope that you will learn about me and my community, and one day consider me your brother, too.”

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