And I never said I didn't have an agenda. Living in a state completely ruined by y'all idiot fucks kinda necessitates one. Truth is, we all have agendas.
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zsomething wrote:Whenever you make a conservative "LMFAO" you know you hit a nerve and they're uncomfortable at seeing the kind of group they're part of. "Laughing off" is their favorite technique. Lots easier than actually disproving things.
And I never said I didn't have an agenda. Living in a state completely ruined by y'all idiot fucks kinda necessitates one. Truth is, we all have agendas.
Bless your pea pickin bigoted heart! You sure make a lot of assumptions but I'm quite sure you've been told that before. A lack of facts and ignorance of the truth doesn't seem to slow you down at all.
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Portland suffers serious street violence as far right return 'prepared to fight'
Jason Wilson in Portland
The GuardianAugust 28, 2020, 5:45 AM CDT
Photograph: Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Photograph: Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Over the last three months in Portland, mass protests against police violence and racism gradually gave way to nightly often violent standoffs between a core of pro-Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protesters and law enforcement.
But in the past week the city has fallen back into a pattern of more politically polarized street violence which has marked the city throughout the Trump era, with broadly leftwing and anti-fascist activists sometimes facing off against far-right groups.
Last weekend a rightwing “Say no to Marxism in America” rally saw serious, widespread violence. Much of it came from rally attendees – who included members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys – and was directed not only at leftist counter-protesters, but also reporters.
Video: Portland FBI chief shift agency’s focus to acts of violence, federal crimes
Scroll back up to restore default view.
One rightwing protester drew a firearm on opposing protesters. Earlier, he had fired a paintball gun into the crowd, and a local journalist was caught in the crossfire. Others appeared to be armed with firearms and knives. Some carried wooden shields with nails driven through them.
One pro-Trump protester took to a snack van with a baseball bat. Others joined in and destroyed the vehicle.
Near the peak of Saturday’s violence, a reporter’s hand was broken by a rightwing protester with a baton, and video of the incident went viral on social media. That reporter, Robert Evans, has been covering the protests since they began, for Bellingcat and other outlets.
That assailant was identified by Bellingcat on Tuesday as Travis Taylor, a Portland-based Proud Boy who has been previously observed attending violent street demonstrations in the city.
In a telephone conversation, Evans told the Guardian that the rightwing demonstrators “absolutely came prepared to fight”, were “very aggressive from the jump” and were equipped with “knives, guns, paintball guns with frozen pellets, batons”.
Neither the Portland police bureau (PPB) nor the Multnomah county district attorney (MCDA) responded to questions about whether Taylor would be charged or prosecuted over the incident.
It was the worst violence of its kind in the city since an infamous afternoon in 2018, also involving Proud Boys, who came from all over the country to attend a rally that culminated in another vicious street brawl.
But as that precedent indicates, the polarized violence was not so much a new development linked to the massive anti-racism protests that have continued around the US, as a return to the dynamic that has afflicted Portland since the election of Donald Trump.
From 2017 to 2019, the city was a magnet for street protesters and street fighters from groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, who were regularly met by antifascist counter-protesters.
Photograph: Terray Sylvester/Reuters
A sign reading ‘Abolish PPB’ is seen on shields held by demonstrators during a protest in Portland, Oregon, at the weekend. Photograph: Terray Sylvester/Reuters
At rallies in 2018 and 2019 hundreds of rightwingers from all around the country descended on Portland, and rightwing media and e-celebrities worked hard to identify the city with “antifa”, a movement that conservatives from Trump down have sought to demonize.
Throughout this period, PPB were regularly accused by protesters and media outlets of heavy-handed, one-sided enforcement.
This year, however, as the Black Lives Matter protests sprang up in Portland, members of far-right groups had not been a significant factor during an unbroken 85-night streak of protests. Instead the focus of many protesters was the presence of federal agents in the city – which became a national scandal as local elected officials sought to force the Trump administration to withdraw them.
Mainstream media attention was then diverted after the apparent resolution of the conflict over the unwanted presence of federal agents. But now the renewed presence of rightwing groups in the city has some fearing the fresh violence will continue, especially because activists say the PBB has a record of not intervening to prevent rightwing violence.
Amy Herzfeld-Copple, the deputy director of Portland-based progressive non-profit, the Western States Center, wrote in an email that: “Portland police allowed alt-right and paramilitary groups to sow chaos and deploy violence against the community with apparent impunity.”
She added: “There’s a real risk that protests for racial justice and police reform will be subsumed by alt-right mayhem if city leadership doesn’t change its approach.”
The office of Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, did not directly respond on Monday to questions on last weekend’s violent events.
Not all locals blame PPB for the violence.
James Buchal, chair of the Multnomah county Republican party, wrote in an email that “as Republicans, we condemn the cowardly and totalitarian attacks on the pro-police demonstrators” by leftist demonstrators.
And not all locals consider the confrontation with far-right groups to be a distraction from the cause of protesting against police brutality against Black communities.
A spokesperson for Rose City Antifa, a long-established local anti-fascist network which has supported the protests downtown, wrote in an email: “Police brutality and white nationalist organizing are two sides of the same coin, and they should be addressed as such.”
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Whistle-Blower: D.H.S. Downplayed Threats From Russia and White Supremacists
The former head of the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence division has accused three senior leaders of warping the agency around President Trump’s rhetoric.
Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, directed the whistleblower to stop producing assessments on Russian interference.
Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, directed the whistleblower to stop producing assessments on Russian interference.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
Zolan Kanno-YoungsNicholas Fandos
By Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Nicholas Fandos
Sept. 9, 2020
Updated 3:26 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — Top officials with the Department of Homeland Security directed agency analysts to downplay the threat of violent white supremacy and of Russian election interference, according to a whistle-blower complaint filed by a top intelligence official with the department.
Brian Murphy, the former head of the intelligence branch of the Homeland Security Department, said in a whistle-blower complaint filed on Tuesday that he was directed by Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the department, to stop producing assessments on Russian interference. The department’s second highest ranked official, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, also ordered him to modify intelligence assessments to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups, according to the complaint, which was released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee.
In so doing, the two top officials at the department — both appointees of President Trump — appeared to shape the agency’s views around Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and interests.
Mr. Murphy, who was removed from his post in August after his office compiled intelligence reports on protesters and journalists in Portland, Ore., asserted in the complaint that he was retaliated against for raising concerns to superiors and cooperating with the department’s inspector general. He asked the inspector general to investigate.
“The protected disclosures that prompted the retaliatory personnel actions at issue primarily focused on the compilation of intelligence reports and threat assessments that conflicted with policy objectives set forth by the White House and senior Department of Homeland Security” officials, Mr. Murphy’s lawyers wrote in the 24-page complaint.
The department has stalled in releasing an implementation plan on combating white supremacy and other forms of domestic terrorism for nearly a year. Hours before the release of the complaint, Mr. Wolf highlighted the threat of “white supremacists extremists or anarchists extremists” in an annual address summarizing the work of the department. He said the department would release a blueprint to combat the threats this week, although it was not clear if it would be made public.
House Intelligence Committee Democrats said on Wednesday that the complaint detailed violations of law and abuses of authority that put “our nation and its security at grave risk.”
“We will get to the bottom of this, expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s chairman, in an accompanying statement.
The whistle-blower complaint comes almost exactly a year after Mr. Schiff’s panel publicized the existence of another intelligence-related complaint about Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., a document that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment by the House. Mark S. Zaid and Andrew P. Bakaj, the Washington lawyers who represented the Ukraine whistle-blower, whose identity remained anonymous throughout the impeachment saga, are now working for Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Schiff said in his letter that he had asked the national security official to sit for a deposition on Sept. 21, and a public hearing could follow. But this time, with fewer than eight weeks until Election Day, the House is likely to have little meaningful recourse beyond publicizing Mr. Murphy’s claims.
CNN first reported the existence of the complaint and the details about its contents.
In a statement, Mr. Zaid said that they had informed the executive and legislative branches of his claims and would cooperate with congressional oversight requests.
“Mr. Murphy followed proper lawful whistle-blower rules in reporting serious allegations of misconduct against D.H.S. leadership, particularly involving political distortion of intelligence analysis and retaliation,” he said.
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Wed 23 Sep 2020 15.00 EDT
Leaked chat logs show Portland-area pro-Trump activists planning and training for violence, sourcing arms and ammunition and even suggesting political assassinations ahead of a series of contentious rallies in the Oregon city, including one scheduled for this weekend.
The chats on the GroupMe app, shared with the Guardian by the antifascist group Eugene Antifa, show conversations between Oregon members of the Patriots Coalition growing more extreme as they discuss armed confrontations with leftwing Portland activists, and consume a steady diet of online disinformation about protests and wildfires.
At times, rightwing activists discuss acts of violence at recent, contentious protests, which in some cases they were recorded carrying out. At one point, David Willis, a felon currently being sued for his alleged role in an earlier episode of political violence, joins a discussion about the use of paintballs.
Where other members had previously suggested freezing the paintballs for maximum damage, Willis wrote: “They make glass breaker balls that are rubber coated metal. They also have pepper balls but they are about 3 dollars a ball. Don’t freeze paintballs it makes them wildly inaccurate” [sic.]
Willis did not immediately respond to voice and text messages sent to his listed cellphone number.
Another prolific poster is Mark Melchi, a 41-year-old Dallas, Oregon-based car restorer who claims to have served as a captain in the US army.
Melchi has been recorded leading an armed pro-Trump militia, “1776 2.0” into downtown confrontations in Portland, including on 22 August. At several points in the chat he proposes violence in advance of those confrontations, and appears to confess to prior acts committed in the company of his paramilitary group.
In advance of the 22 August protest, Melchi wrote: “It’s going to be bloody and most likely shooting, they’re definitely armed… so let’s make sure we have an organized direction of movement and direction of clearing or other Patriots will be caught in the possible cross fire. When shit hits the fan.”
He advised other members to ignore weapons statutes, writing, “I saw someone say bats, mace, and stun guns are illegal downtown. If you’re going to play by the books tomorrow night, we already lost. We are here to make a change, laws will be broken, people will get hurt… It’s lawlessness downtown, and people need to be prepared for bad things.”
Following these comments, several rightwing demonstrators were recorded using gas and bats on 22 August, where Melchi and his militia were also present.
In other remarks ahead of the day, Melchi draws on what he claims is his group’s history of traveling to multiple states to engage in violence at protests.
“My Group 1776 2.0. Has been fighting Antifa in Seattle, Portland, for months”, Melchi writes, adding “this won’t be a simple fist fight. People will get shot, stabbed and beat.”
He also claims police cooperation in interstate violence, writing “Yes, going after them at night is the solution… Like we do in other states, tactical ambushes at night while backing up the police are key. You get the leaders and the violent ones and the police are happy to shut their mouths and cameras.”
Melchi nevertheless recommends that members disguise themselves to avoid the consequences of homicide.
“We must be ready to defend with lethal response… Suggest wearing mask and nothing to identify you on Camera…to prevent any future prosecution.”
In response to detailed questions about these contributions, Melchi responded with an email that falsely suggested his comments might have been photoshopped, and concluded with direct threats.
Melchi wrote: “I suggest you don’t threaten combat veterans sweetheart, might get a little uncomfortable for ya big guy!”
Melchi’s sentiments in the chat logs were in keeping with fantasies of, and plans for, violence, which are constantly discussed by group members.
Although some members are connected with extremist groups or militias, on the whole they describe themselves as “patriots”, and they express no clear ideology beyond a hatred of the left, and a preparedness to use violence. The shared allegiances expressed in the group are mostly to the police, the United States and Donald Trump, a person whom some say they are prepared to kill for.
Ahead of 22 August, a user “Paige” says “I’m waiting for the presidential go to start open firing”.
Melchi, the militia leader, responds, “Well Saturday may be that go lol”.
Alex Newhouse, the digital research lead at the Center for Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute, said of the group that “the main mechanism that makes these communities so dangerous is the incessant desensitization to the idea of political violence”.
Newhouse said that the ideas expressed in the group were entrenched in “extreme nationalism – that a few strong men with guns can together take out an evil that is at once imagined as an existential threat, and pathetically weak”. Newhouse added that the group’s discussions “fit within a broader trend of rightwing extremists becoming more accelerationist over time”.
The chatlogs became fractious at the peak of Oregon’s recent wildfire emergency. While some members said they had gone to rural areas to “hunt” imagined antifa arsonists, others became concerned about the dangers.
As early as 9 September, the baseless idea that the fires were a coordinated arson attack was treated as settled fact, with Melchi writing: “People have officially died from these Antifa Fires. I’d shoot them on site” [sic], and another user, Dub, responding: “Yes sir if I see them they are getting dropped where they stand.”
When adverse consequences of vigilantism became evident, leadership attempted to bring the group back under control. After a member of the group reported that an associate had been arrested in Lane county for “holding [someone] at gunpoint”, the group’s administrator, who used the user name Patriot Coalition, wrote “STOP HOLDING PEOPLE AT GUN POINT- STOP PULLING YOUR WEAPONS… VIDEO- TAKE PICTURES AND CALL 911.”
Mary McCord is the legal director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law School, which on Wednesday released a series of fact sheets on anti-paramilitary laws in all 50 states.
Given details of the content of the chats, McCord said that “this is the kind of thing that might allow authorities to take action”, and that members of the group may “already be in violation of Oregon’s anti-paramilitary laws”.
The group also talked about coordinating at the rally with the Proud Boys, an extreme rightwing group. One user, identified as Bravo91 and a part of the group’s leadership, spoke of phone calls with the Proud Boys.
Along with antifascist demonstrators, Democratic politicians are also the target of violent fantasies in the chats. In particular, Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, is demonized and nominated as a possible target for assassination by the group.
On 24 August, a user identified as “Trent-Medford” writes, “Fuck wheeler… guess what soon as we are done with these punks. He’s next freakin coward !!!!!!”
User T Durden went further. In response to news that an alleged arsonist had been released on bail, and without encountering disagreement, they wrote: “Maybe we need to start taking care of the justice ourselves!”, adding, “Start with justice on our DA and then move on to the governor. Maybe by the time we get to the first judge, they will have changed their tunes.”
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In the wake of protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a member of the “Boogaloo Bois” opened fire on Minneapolis Police Third Precinct with an AK-47-style gun and screamed “Justice for Floyd” as he ran away, according to a federal complaint made public Friday.
A sworn affidavit by the FBI underlying the complaint reveals new details about a far-right anti-government group’s coordinated role in the violence that roiled through civil unrest over Floyd’s death while in police custody.
Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, is charged with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for his alleged role in ramping up violence during the protests in Minneapolis on May 27 and 28. According to charges, Hunter, wearing a skull mask and tactical gear, shot 13 rounds at the south Minneapolis police headquarters while people were inside. He also looted and helped set the building ablaze, according to the complaint, which was filed Monday under seal.
Unrest flared throughout Minneapolis following Floyd’s death, which was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video, causing Gov. Tim Walz to activate the Minnesota National Guard. As police clashed with protesters, Hunter and other members of the Boogaloo Bois discussed in private Facebook messages their plans to travel to Minneapolis and rally at the Cub Foods across from the third precinct, according to federal court documents. One of the people Hunter coordinated with posted publicly to social media: “Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off,” the complaint states.
Two hours after the police precinct was set on fire, Hunter texted with another Boogaloo member in California, a man named Steven Carrillo.
“Go for police buildings,” Hunter told Carrillo, according to charging documents.
Benjamin Ryan Teeter, left, a North Carolina resident charged with conspiracy to provide aid to a foreign terrorist organization, is pictured with Ivan Harrison Hunter, a Texas resident who was charged Oct. 19 in a federal criminal complaint with interstate travel to incidte a riot. The complaint alleges that he fired several shots into the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct building. This photo was included with the sworn affidavit, filed by the FBI, that serves as the basis for the complaint.
“I did better lol,” he replied. A few hours earlier, Carrillo had killed a Federal Protective Services Officer in Oakland, Calif., according to criminal charges filed against him in California.
On June 1, Hunter asked Carrillo for money, explaining he needed to “be in the woods for a bit,” and Carrillo sent him $200 via a cash app.
Five days later, Carrillo shot and killed a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz when authorities tried to arrest him, according to charges filed in California. Authorities say he then stole a car and wrote “Boog” on the hood “in what appeared to be his own blood.”
Brags on social media
A couple of days later, during police protests Austin, Texas, police pulled over a truck after seeing three men in tactical gear and carrying guns drive away in it. Hunter, in the front passenger seat, wore six loaded banana magazines for an AK-47-style assault rifle on his tactical vest, according federal authorities. The two other men had AR-15 magazines affixed to their vests. The officers found an AK-47-style rifle and two AR-15 rifles on the rear seat of the vehicle, a pistol next to the driver’s seat and another pistol in the center console.
Hunter denied he owned any of the weapons found in the vehicle. He did, according to the complaint, volunteer he was the leader of the Boogaloo Bois in South Texas and that he was present in Minneapolis when the Third Precinct was set on fire. Police seized the guns and let Hunter and the others go.
Hunter had bragged about his role in the Minneapolis riots on Facebook, publicly proclaiming, “I helped the community burn down that police station” and “I didn’t’ protest peacefully Dude ... Want something to change? Start risking felonies for what is good.”
“The BLM protesters in Minneapolis loved me [sic] fireteam and I,” he wrote on June 11. According to the complaint, “fire team” is a reference to a group he started with Carrillo “that responds with violence if the police try to take their guns away.”
“Hunter also referred to himself as a ‘terrorist,’ ” the complaint states.
A confidential informant told police that Hunter planned to “go down shooting” if authorities closed in. He didn’t. They arrested him without incident in San Antonio, Texas this week and he made his first court appearance Thursday.
Hunter is the third member of the Boogaloo Bois, a loose-knit group intent on igniting a second American civil war, to be charged in Minneapolis as a result of the unrest that followed Floyd’s death.
Michael Robert Solomon and Benjamin Ryan Teeter were indicted in September with conspiracy to provide material support for a foreign terrorist organization.
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Sacha Baron Cohen shares video of scary moment at gun rally that wasn't in the 'Borat' sequel
October 27, 2020
Sacha Baron Cohen appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Monday night where he spoke about being chased off the stage at a gun rally in Olympia, Washington while filming Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, and his harrowing escape. And for the first time, Cohen shared a video of that incident that didn’t make it into the film.
Cohen was performing at the rally as Country Steve, and duped the crowd into joyfully singing along to an incredibly racist, hateful song. What he was unaware of at the time though, is that he wasn’t the only one undercover. Cohen explained that some of the militia groups that were at the rally had been antagonizing the Black Lives Matter protest. Some BLM protesters decided to confront the militia groups, but first sent some of their own into the rally incognito to check out the situation, and Cohen said it was the BLM protesters who recognized him.
“They see me onstage, and everyone’s singing along, and one of them went, ‘Oh my God, it’s Sacha Baron Cohen.’ Starts laughing, tells the other one, word got out that it was me, and then the organizers and a lot of people in the crowd got very angry,” Cohen said. “They tried to storm the stage. Luckily for me, I had hired the security, so it took them a while to actually storm the stage.”
In the video, some young men can be seen hurrying toward the stage, one of them yelling into a bullhorn. Cohen hurriedly exits the stage and jumps into a waiting vehicle to escape. Though the remaining video is only from inside the vehicle, it’s easy to see why Cohen has said he was “fortunate to make it out.” Rally goers are pounding on the outside of the vehicle, and one even succeeded in briefly opening the door, causing Cohen to jump to grab the handle and use all of his weight to hold the door closed.
Cohen said he was wearing a bulletproof vest, which was probably a good thing, because it may only be thanks to a security guard that the vest wasn’t put to use.
“I mean, this was the first movie where I’ve had to wear a bulletproof vest. So, you know, we were aware that somebody—actually one of the guys that stormed the stage went for his pistol,” Cohen said. “So he went for his pistol and luckily enough I had—there was a very brave guard who actually grabbed his hand and said, leaned in and said, ‘It’s not worth it, buddy.’”
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The far right
‘Boogaloo Boi’ charged in fire of Minneapolis police precinct during George Floyd protest
Ivan Harrison Hunter, a Texas rightwing extremist, bragged about helping to set the fire then was seen shooting 13 rounds at the building
Lois Beckett and agency
Fri 23 Oct 2020 15.58 EDT
Last modified on Fri 23 Oct 2020 20.00 EDT
In this May 28, 2020 file photo, a protester gestures in front of the burning 3rd Precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department in Minneapolis
In this 28 May 2020 file photo, a protester gestures in front of the burning 3rd precinct building of the Minneapolis police department in Minneapolis. Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP
A rightwing extremist boasted of driving from Texas to Minneapolis to help set fire to a police precinct during the George Floyd protests, federal prosecutors said.
US attorney Erica MacDonald said on Friday that she had charged Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old Texas resident, with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot. The charges are the latest example of far-right extremists attempting to use violence to escalate national protests against police brutality into an uprising against the government, and even full civil war.
The case also reveals the extent of the coordination between violent members of the nascent far-right “Boogaloo Bois” movement operating in different cities across the country.
How Facebook and the White House let the 'boogaloo' movement grow
According to the criminal complaint against Hunter, on 26 May, as intense protests broke out in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd by a city police officer, a “Boogaloo Boi” based in Minnesota posted a public Facebook message: “I need a headcount.”
Hunter, a resident of Boerne, Texas, which is roughly 1,200 miles away, responded: “72 hours out.”
Another “Boogaloo Boi”, based in North Carolina, posted a public message the same day: “Lock and load boys,” he wrote, adding, “the national network is going off.”
“Boogaloo” has long been used on online message boards as an ironic term for a second civil war, one that might be sparked by any government attempts to confiscate Americans’ guns. But in 2019 and early 2020, the memes about a coming “boogaloo” began to coalesce into an anti-government, pro-gun movement, with armed “Boog bois” showing up at protests, some wearing the “Boogaloo” uniform of a bright Hawaiian shirt paired with a military-style rifle.
In the late winter and early spring of 2020, researchers noted a growing number of “Boogaloo” groups on Facebook, many of them posting explicitly about military tactics and killing government officials, as well as the proliferation of “Boogaloo”-themed merchandise for sale, such as flags, patches, and Hawaiian-print gun accessories.
Prosecutors say that Hunter would later describe himself to Austin police officers as “the leader of the Boogaloo Bois in south Texas”.
By 28 May, during a night of the most intense unrest and destruction in the city, Hunter was in Minneapolis, just as the 3rd precinct police station, known locally as a “playground for renegade cops”, was being set on fire.
Video shot that night shows a person later identified as Hunter firing 13 rounds from a semiautomatic assault-style rifle on the 3rd precinct police station while people believed to be looters were inside. He then high-fived another person and shouted, “Justice for Floyd!” according to the complaint.
Later, he privately messaged Steven Carrillo, another alleged “Boogaloo Boi” in California, urging him to “go for police buildings”, according to the federal criminal complaint.
“I did better, lol,” Carrillo allegedly replied.
Hours before Carrillo sent that message, according to the complaint, federal prosecutors say Carrillo had driven to Oakland with an accomplice, and, as protesters were demonstrating blocks away, shot two officers guarding a federal courthouse in downtown Oakland, killing one, David Patrick Underwood.
Carrillo was later charged with killing another law enforcement officer, a Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy, in an ambush attack in June.
According to the complaint, Hunter would later post multiple messages on Facebook bragging of his actions in Minneapolis on the night of 28 May and morning of 29 May, writing, “I set fire to that precinct with the Black community,” and, “My mom would call the FBI if she knew.”
“I’ve burned police stations with Black Panthers in Minneapolis,” he claimed in one message, and in another, “The BLM protesters in Minneapolis loved me.”
Police in Austin, Texas, stopped a pickup truck, in which Hunter was a passenger, on 3 June for multiple traffic violations. Hunter had six loaded magazines for a semiautomatic rifle in a tactical vest he was wearing. Officers also found multiple firearms in the truck.
Several days after the stop, federal agents learned of Hunter’s online affiliation with Carrillo. MacDonald said Hunter made his initial court appearance on Thursday in San Antonio, Texas. It is unclear if he has an attorney.
Hunter is the third alleged “Boogaloo Boi” to be charged in connection with protests in Minneapolis. Across the country, the “Boogaloo” movement has been linked to more than two dozen arrests and at least five deaths this year, including the alleged plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
“What are your beliefs that led you to join the org?” —Vincent KY
“At the core of my position are these principles: The categorical rejection of the notion of equality. The categorical rejection of universal democracy. Explicit In-Group preference.” —Logan TN
“In short: I cannot stand by idly while my people fall into despair, degeneracy, and ethnic replacement.” —Anthony IL
“I feel like jews immigrants and mustims are a malicious threat to the united States and it’s economy that’s why the people are in current state of civil unrest these n!##3π’$ are causing them selves to be shot by the police and Making the split even bigger I feel as if there’s going to be a huge race war and us whites will come out on top. How do you feel about this statement?” —Vincent KY
“” —Arthur TX
Those are just some of the hundreds of messages exchanged by the members of Patriot Front, a 3-year-old white supremacist organization that has grown into one of the most active hate groups in the United States. The messages reveal a sophisticated network of extremists who are training for violence.
The men, who believe the United States is a nation that belongs only to white people, wear uniforms made up of bomber jackets, face coverings, and beige khakis, mandate weight loss and intense workouts, and regularly practice hand-to-hand combat. Some openly call themselves “supremacist” and revere Hitler and Mussolini.
BuzzFeed News has received a cache of hundreds of messages exchanged by Patriot Front members on Rocket.Chat, an encrypted group messaging app. In logs of the chats, all from this year, around 280 members of the group discuss grandiose goals — creating a white ethnostate from the existing United States. The group wants to expel immigrants, people of color, and Jews, remaking the fabric of America.
And while what Patriot Front does in the meantime — putting up stickers bearing their logo in cities and college campuses, covering pro–Black Lives Matter billboards with their own propaganda, and marching in the middle of the night through empty streets — may seem small, it has recruited 21 new members in the last 30 days.
“Casting a ballot is a submissive gesture to legitimize tyranny.”
As the United States hurtles toward the presidential election, the country seems ready to forget that its own homegrown fascism predated President Donald Trump — and to ignore that it will last after he leaves office. Yet for its part, Patriot Front couldn't care less about the results of the upcoming election.
“It does not matter what people personally believe about it,” wrote the organization’s leader, Thomas Rousseau, who did not respond to a request for comment, in one of the chats. “Casting a ballot is a submissive gesture to legitimize tyranny. It is fundamentally amoral. It is done as an insult to the nation’s cause and the organization.”
In Vermont, Patriot Front has been active since 2018. One of its most disturbing incidents came in 2019, months after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, when the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, an LGBTQ center, and the Burlington Free Press, which had been doggedly reporting on the group, were vandalized.
As the home of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Burlington is often seen as a liberal bubble, which made Patriot Front’s attacks all the more shocking, Rabbi Amy Small of the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, told BuzzFeed News.
“A few months before the incident on our property, one of our synagogue members told me that on a nearby road she saw Patriot Front posters pasted on the streetlights and street signs, one after the next,” said Small. “She was beside herself with fear.”
“This was just raw intimidation.”
Authorities were called, but nothing could be done because no laws were broken. Then, one late afternoon in February, Small was driving up to the synagogue after some meetings.
“As I was approaching the synagogue, I saw the Patriot Front poster pasted onto our front sign,” she said. “It's very jarring, in a time when I know there's so much hate.”
Police removed the poster and launched an investigation, which eventually ended without charges. The response from the community was uplifting, Small said, as people left cards and signs of love and support. Together with other religious and LGBTQ community leaders, Smalls organized a rally on the steps of City Hall.
“All of a sudden this big pickup truck came loudly down the street honking. It had Patriot Front signs all over it,” Small said. “I saw all the officers that had been standing right near where I was go running toward it, but by then it tore away […] This was just raw intimidation.”
Patriot Front formed from the failure of another far-right group, Vanguard America. As one of its two leaders, Rousseau attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, during which a man who marched with them killed counterprotester Heather Heyer. In the aftermath, Vanguard formally dissolved, allowing Rousseau, then 19 years old, to push out a rival and rebrand the group around a cult of personality.
He and his followers are mostly zoomers, born in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s, and circle frequently around topics that include traditional masculinity, weight loss, and white power.
Rousseau keeps strict rules on the conversations in the forum, and his word is gospel. On a typical day, the chats are filled with lies they believe to be real (like antifa starting forest fires), paranoia, and machismo.
“While we were sparring, a van full of baptists from the area pulled up and piled out,” said Anthony IL. “They had a bunch of young boys with them. They stood there with their father and watched on as we fought each other in masculine competition. We got to show those boys something that they won’t see elsewhere, and a healthy dose of masculinity that is otherwise shunned nowadays. We make the change in the nation that we want to see, men.”
Like members of any social network, they also trade photos. Recent images from Rousseau's garage in Grapevine, Texas, out of which he sells extremist paraphernalia, show muscled men standing next to punching bags. The pictures were filtered in red, white, and blue.
Unlike extremist organizations like the Proud Boys that seek headlines, Patriot Front has a sparse aboveground presence. New members are carefully vetted and are given strict instructions on social media use.
The vetting takes place first online and then in person. New members undergo a rigorous process, in part because the group has been frequently infiltrated. One member, Michael IN, said he had to drive for four hours for his interview. Another was vetted by Patriot Front members carrying concealed weapons.
The chat is also a place they share videos of themselves that they also share on Twitter, Telegram, and TikTok, where a recent propaganda video received more than 1 million views.
TikTok removed the videos in response to questions from BuzzFeed News, saying “Hate speech is not permitted on TikTok.” Twitter, Telegram, and Rocket.Chat did not respond to requests for comment.
Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told BuzzFeed that Patriot Front is among the most prolific spreaders of “white power” propaganda in the United States, having put up flyers in over 1,000 places around the country in 2020 alone.
“[Rousseau] wants to really focus on spectacle, and he thinks that a performative show of strength is the most effective kind of propaganda that they can engage in,” she said.
Carla Hill, a researcher with anti-hate organization Anti-Defamation League, also said Patriot Front’s propaganda sets them apart. “In the United States, they lead white supremacist propaganda distributions,” she told BuzzFeed News.
On the chat logs, that propaganda plays out in real time.
On Sept. 28, Rousseau wrote, “Billboard coverup video is dropping today, keep an eye out.”
Fifteen minutes later, he posted a link to the video in which at least two Patriot Front members use climbing equipment to scale a billboard bearing the Black Lives Matter slogan in Houston. As thumping, testosterone-fueled music plays, they unfurl a homemade cloth banner that blocked the billboard with the words “The United States is no longer of America now we are on our own” written in red, white, and blue letters.
Members were excited: “I hope to do something that based one day,” one wrote.
Although the status of an investigation, if any, into the alleged Houston vandalism could not be determined, law enforcement has arrested several members on suspicion of vandalism in the past.
Most recently, Rousseau was arrested this August in Texas on suspicion that he, Cameron Rathan Pruitt, 21, and Graham Jones Whitson, 29, had vandalized county property by putting up stickers. According to the police report, Rousseau claimed that “he was promoting the group listed on the stickers but not part of it.” (Rousseau and his associates were fined and released.)
In February 2019, three members, one of whom was 18, were arrested in Boston. According to Mass Live, they were allegedly putting up posters that said, “Reclaim America” and “your speech will be hate speech.”
Police said one of the men arrested, 26-year-old Matthew Wolf, was a former member of the National Guard. Among those arrested were two men carrying a knife and a trowel, leading to weapons charges for both. In court, the lawyer blamed their actions on “youthful stupidity,” while the Boston mayor issued a statement against hate.
Several members have also been arrested on charges of illegally possessing firearms.
The same month as the Boston arrests, Joffre James Cross III, whom the SPLC determined was a Patriot Front member, pleaded guilty to gun charges. Authorities found a Vyatskie Polyany 7.62 caliber rifle and three home-assembled weapons: a .45 caliber pistol, an AR-15-style rifle, and an AR-10-style rifle. Cross is a former private in the US Army who previously had served time in prison after selling drugs to an undercover FBI agent.
In 2018, the Daily Beast reported that 19-year-old Jakub Zuk was arrested for owning five guns without a license in Illinois. Zuk also allegedly threatened a judge in anti-Semitic flyers, according to the Daily Beast.
Despite their bravado, Patriot Front is also paranoid.
That fear sometimes manifests discussions on how to deal with the girlfriends that some of them claim to have, whom they often see as liabilities.“Generally, if you are a man of action and confident in what you believe in your woman will naturally follow,” wrote Vincent MA.
“Ideally, if you can get away with lying to your significant other about your activism, you should do that,” wrote Paul TX. “From what I’ve heard women are a weak point in terms of OPSEC and could very well hurt you if they find out.”
The obsession with secrecy also led to a Wikipedia editing war in September.
On Sept. 11, an editor added Patriot Front to the list of groups opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Three days later, Anthony CA noticed, saying, “We got name dropped here.” Later that day, the edit was removed. “NO KNOWN ACTIVITY BY GROUP KNOWN AS PATRIOT FRONT (they're pussies)” the person wrote in Wikipedia's change log.
That removal was reverted, after which the same person took the name of the group out again, saying, “Patriot Front is not an active participant show proof otherwise or stop reverting it.”
By the end of the day, the Wikipedia editors lost, and Patriot Front no longer appeared on the page.
In their chats, members of Patriot Front revealed the real reason they wanted their name removed. Not because they weren't opposed to BLM, but because they were mad at being listed together with the so-called boogaloo boys, the loosely knit extremist group tied to the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“Boog boys r a joke most of the time,” wrote Mark ND. “I’ve seen maybe 10 who don’t simp for BLM or Antifa.”
“The whole ‘Boogaloo’ thing is a reminder that if you joke about anything long enough, you’ll stop joking,” Rousseau responded. “A offhand forum slapstick joke could become something that someone shoots someone over if its left to fester and rot like the mold-like idea it is.”
They’re also not impressed with the Proud Boys, whom they repeatedly call “cucks.”
“There is no ‘endgame.’”
“They are nothing but Republicans with slightly higher T levels,” wrote Calvin CO, referring to testosterone. “I have zero respect for their organization, although some of their members might be able to be salvaged. If we do take on a large number of PBs, we need to knock the cuckshit out of them first.”
“And Proud Boys are a bunch of cucks,” wrote Arthur TX. “They call themselves ‘Western Chauvinists’ which means they are a bunch of liberals who don’t like PC culture and ‘snowflakes’ yet they are too scared to actually stand up to these things in a meaningful way lest they be called RACISTS!!!!”
“In many ways, a lot of people in the white power movement are not fans of Trump, but they do see him as useful to their movement, introducing some of their ideas and carrying out some of the policies that they favor,” said Miller, the analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But in some ways, they see him as buying them time.”
To them, Trump is an old man holding up crumbling institutions, enacting policies that incrementally forward the cause without remaking the institutions themselves. When he’s gone, the rubble will remain, and to many he’ll be nothing but a tool they used to build the white power movement up.
The members of Patriot Front think that time is on their side. And with a leader still in his early twenties, they take a long view.
“There is no ‘endgame,’” Rousseau wrote. “The nation doesn’t ‘end.’ We’re not conventionally political to the point where there’s a defined ‘end’ of service. It’s not an office, a seat in congress, a law, or a percentage of representation.” ●
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'The possibility of real-world harm is high': Experts warn of violence from QAnon around the election
,Yahoo News•October 28, 2020
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On Oct. 17, roughly 100 people reportedly gathered in a conference room at a resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., for Q Con Live, an all-day event featuring speeches from some of the most prominent disciples of the QAnon movement.
Among the conference’s “all-star lineup” of speakers was Alan Hostetter, a retired police officer turned yoga instructor who has become a key figure in California’s anti-lockdown movement, which emerged this spring in opposition to state and local “stay-at-home” orders designed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
According to an audio recording of his speech obtained by hosts of the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast, which has been tracking the growing conspiracy movement since its early days, Hostetter, who claims the coronavirus pandemic has been exaggerated by the media and that masks are part of a tyrannical effort to control the public, can be heard describing the U.S. as on the brink of civil war and suggesting that President Trump must be reelected in order to prevent the country from descending into violent conflict.
This kind of “second civil war” rhetoric is more commonly associated with far-right extremist movements like the “boogaloo” and antigovernment militia groups (who’ve also seized on anti-lockdown protests) than with QAnon. But experts who study QAnon say they’ve observed an increase in calls for offline action among the movement’s followers, adding to the growing risk of postelection violence posed by a variety of extremist groups.
A person wears a QAnon sweatshirt during a pro-Trump rally on October 3, 2020 in the borough of Staten Island in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
A person wears a QAnon sweatshirt during a pro-Trump rally on Oct. 3 in the New York City borough of Staten Island. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Just two days before the event in Arizona, disinformation experts highlighted concerns about the risks presented by the rapid recent expansion of QAnon during a virtual hearing with members of the House Intelligence Committee on combating the spread of false information online.
Melanie Smith, head of analysis at the research firm Graphika, told members of the committee that she now considers QAnon to be “the most pressing threat to trusting government, public institutions and democratic processes.”
“I believe QAnon poses a threat to the election in two main ways,” Smith told Yahoo News. “The first lies in its ability to fit any event in the news cycle into an overarching conspiracy framework. The sheer size of this community and its capacity to shape the political conversation, particularly on the right wing of the political spectrum, cannot be underestimated.”
Beyond the messages coming directly from the anonymous “Q” himself (or herself, or themselves), who, Smith noted, “has consistently posted about issues like ballot harvesting and rigging since April,” she said, “we have already seen the QAnon movement broadly support narratives that undermine the integrity of this election and aim to delegitimize the results in advance.”
Second, Smith pointed to the “marked increase in the offline mobilization of this community in the past few months.” Combined with the “numerous violent acts committed by individuals who identify as QAnon supporters,” Smith said that “in this context I believe QAnon represents a threat to fair participation in the election in terms of voter suppression and intimidation.”
Cindy Otis, a former CIA officer and vice president of analysis for the Alethea Group, a disinformation investigations and remediation firm, said many QAnon followers “have shown us time and time again that they are willing to take action in actual physical fashion based on their beliefs.”
Otis told Yahoo News, “The possibility of actual real-world harm coming as a result of all of this, I think, is high.”
Donald Trump Jr speaks during a rain shower to an audience wearing ponchos at a Fighters Against Socialism campaign rally in support of his father, U.S. President Donald Trump. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Donald Trump Jr. at a Fighters Against Socialism campaign rally in support of his father. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
In a militaristic-sounding video posted to Facebook last month, Trump’s son Don Jr. declared, “We need every able-bodied man and woman to join the army for Trump’s election security operation.” (Emphasis added.)
Hostetter told the Q Con meeting: “We are conditioned from the time we are children in this country to always think that violence is a horrible, horrible thing, until we go back and reflect on our Revolutionary War; they picked up guns at some point and said ‘enough’; until we reflect on the Civil War, we ended slavery by picking up guns and dealing with it that way.
“We don’t want that to have to happen, but it always has to be something in the back of your mind. We’ve never been as close to it as we are today since the Civil War, and you have to be thinking like that.”
“It comes at a time when people end up picking up guns,” Hostetter continued, adding, “I’m not advocating that. I think through the ballot box on Nov. 3, it’s going to be such a huge victory that we will avoid violence by a landslide election.”
Despite his insistence that “nobody wants violence,” Hostetter’s comments, along with those made by several other speakers at Q Con, seem to underscore what some disinformation experts see as a threat to election integrity posed by QAnon — a cultlike movement founded on the belief that Trump is secretly working to dismantle an international child trafficking ring run by a satanic cabal of global “elites” including high-profile Democrats and celebrities.
Not only do such comments demonstrate a receptivity by some Q followers to the idea of political violence, but they show how the fringe QAnon conspiracy has evolved into an increasingly popular worldview in which everything from the coronavirus pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement — and potentially the outcome of the election — can be explained away as part of a plot by Democrats and their allies.
During the past three years, QAnon’s core myth, which is steeped in anti-Semitic tropes about “global elites,” has spread from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream social media platforms, inspiring a number of real-world acts of violence, including at least one murder. Last year the FBI identified conspiracy-driven extremists, including QAnon, as a domestic terrorist threat, which it predicted would likely increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.
The movement has sped up its growth since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, infiltrating new audiences by adapting in response both to the news cycle and to increased oversight from social media companies.
People, including one person holding a "Save Our Children" sign that refers to a QAnon conspiracy theory, participate in a protest against racial injustice in Portland, Oregon, U.S., August 22, 2020. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)
People, including one person holding a "Save Our Children" sign that refers to a QAnon conspiracy theory, in a protest against racial injustice in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 22. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)
Otis, the former CIA officer, told Yahoo News that in order to understand the threat QAnon poses to the integrity of the election, “it’s important to realize the extent to which QAnon has spread as a belief system in just the last three years.”
In addition to promoting misinformation about child trafficking and the coronavirus, adherents of that belief system during the past several months have served as a particularly receptive audience for Trump’s efforts to sow distrust in the outcome of the November election by preemptively accusing Democrats of rigging the election against him.
Otis pointed to the Trump campaign’s solicitation for supporters to register as poll watchers, which she said quickly circulated throughout QAnon groups and pages across social media and was even “part of a Q drop” by the anonymous “Q” as a potential catalyst for violence at the polls.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on October 27, 2020 in Omaha, Nebraska. With the presidential election one week away, candidates of both parties are attempting to secure their standings in important swing states. (Steve Pope/Getty Images)
President Trump at a campaign rally on Tuesday in Omaha, Neb. (Steve Pope/Getty Images)
Beyond potential Election Day violence, Otis warned that the widely held belief that Democrats will interfere in the election stands to undermine trust among QAnon followers in the legitimacy of the results — setting the stage for further potential violence if Trump loses.
“I think Q believers are one of those groups that will not in any way be convinced if the election results are anything [other] than Trump wins,” she said. “The evidence shows us that we should be concerned about whether or not they believe in the results of the election.”
Though Otis said she thinks the threat of violence by QAnon believers will be greatest if Trump loses, she noted that “broadly, we’ve seen on forums and in their groups that they think Trump not only knows exactly who they are but is a huge supporter and is encouraging them to take action to continue in this belief system.”
“I think if he does win they will feel emboldened, essentially, to take action,” she said.
A supporter of President Donald Trump holds an U.S. flag with a reference to QAnon during a Trump 2020 Labor Day cruise rally in honor of Patriot Prayer supporter Aaron J. Danielson, who was shot dead in Portland, Oregon, after street clashes between supporters of President Donald Trump and counter-demonstrators, in Oregon city, Oregon, U.S. September 7, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
A Trump supporter holds a U.S. flag with a reference to QAnon during a Sept. 7 rally. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Daniel Rogers, chief technology officer of the Global Disinformation Index, emphasized that the proliferation of QAnon and its assorted conspiracy theories are part of a “much larger problem of the warping of reality” which, he said, “captures the state of the election.”
“This will be a referendum on reality,” said Rogers, who also teaches a course on disinformation and narrative warfare at the New York University Center for Global Affairs. “Reality is on the ballot.”
Also at risk in this election, Rogers said, is the health of our democratic systems.
“Once you buy into one conspiracy theory, once you no longer trust the ‘system,’ every part of the system is under threat,” he said. “At the end of the day, what’s written in the Constitution and in the law books is only valuable if enough people believe in it. Otherwise it’s just ink on a page.”
Rogers said the erosion of trust in our political system is “in large part the result of the degradation of our information environment due to the nature of the internet economy,” in which “whether or not QAnon has any basis in reality is far secondary to whether or not QAnon gets a lot of engagement on social media.”
Though he said the trajectory from widespread belief in conspiracy theories to the collapse of democracy is “very predictable,” Rogers emphasized that it’s “not inevitable,” noting that lawmakers and tech companies have already become increasingly aware of the dangers created by this business model and taken steps to try to fix it.
That said, “when the establishment in power benefits from it, then nothing will get done.”
Three Marine Corps veterans and their porn-actor neo-Nazi guru were arrested last month on charges that they engaged in an interstate gun-running scheme, comprised of a band of violent fascists who had recently moved to Idaho with the intent of making it a base of operations for their plans to engage in acts of domestic terrorism, federal prosecutors revealed this week.
According to the grand-jury indictment filed this week by prosecutors in North Carolina, the men’s schemes went well beyond those with which they have been charged—namely, buying semiautomatic rifles, altering them into automatics, then shipping them from Idaho to North Carolina. The foursome not only engaged in paramilitary training in the Idaho desert, they surveilled two separate Black Lives Matters marches in Boise this summer and discussed killing participants. They also plotted to assassinate BLM founder Alicia Garza.
Three of the four men—Justin Hermanson, 21, who used the code name “Sandman”; Liam Collins, 21, aka “Disciple”; and Jordan Duncan, 25, aka “Soldier”—had met while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. The fourth—Paul Kryscuk, 35, whose nom de plume was “Deacon”—was a porn actor (under the stage name “Pauly Harker”) who had lived most of his life on Long Island, New York. He met the other men online in the now-defunct neo-Nazi message board Iron March, and was the group’s general leader, though all they identified as members of the terrorist organization Atomwaffen Division.
Back in 2017, when Iron March was still active, the men had discussed among themselves how to create “a modern day SS,” as one of them put it, referencing the Nazi paramilitary organization Schutzstaffel, the indictment says. Kryscuk outlined the group’s long-range plan then:
"First order of business is knocking down The System, mounting it and smashing it’s face until it has been beaten past the point of death … eventually we will have to bring the rifles out and go to work.”
“Second order of business ... is the seizing of territory and the Balkanization of North America. Buying property in remote areas that are already predominantly white and right leaning, networking with locals, training, farming, and stockpiling.”
“Start buying property now in the types of regions mentioned above and get to work on building your own group. …As time goes on in this conflict, we will expand our territories and slowly take back the land that is rightfully ours. ... As we build our forces and our numbers, we will move into the urban areas and clear them out. This will be a ground war very reminiscent of Iraq as we will essentially be facing an insurgent force made up of criminals and gang members.”
Kryscuk bought a home in the Boise area in February 2020 and moved there, and Duncan and Collins gradually followed suit. Hermanson—who was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and remains an active member of the Marine Corps—joined them in July for a training exercise in the Idaho desert. The participants compiled a video of the live footage from that training, showing Kryscuk and another person firing a variety of rifles. At the end, the four men—all outfitted in Atomwaffen masks—are seen giving the Nazi salute beneath a Sonnenrad, an occult Nazi symbol. The final frame reads: “Come home white man.”
Prosecutors say the purpose of the gun-running scheme was “to regularly and repetitively manufacture and transport firearms and firearm parts, to include suppressors, in a manner that the government would not know the recipients had them, for criminal purposes”—namely “in furtherance of a civil disorder.”
The “civil disorder” included attacking the Black Lives Matter movement, including its leadership. Garza reported in a tweet last week that the FBI had informed her that her name had appeared on a list of targets found in one of the men’s homes in Boise.
“This is why this President is so dangerous,” she added. “He is stoking fires he has no intention of controlling. I’m ok y’all, but this shit is not ok.”
The neo-Nazi gang had twice conducted surveillance on BLM events in Boise: First, on July 21, at a rally on the campus of Boise State University, Kryscuk was observed within visual range of the event, first sitting in a parked vehicle and driving around the gathering slowly.
Then, on August 18, Kryscuk was observed lurking in the vicinity of a BLM rally/protest at a park in downtown Boise.
Kryscuk and Duncan just last month discussed in a text chat how things would go down after their group—which they called “the BSN” (a prosecutors office spokesman declined to explain the meaning of the acronym)—attacked BLM marchers as they envisioned:
“How the BSNs finna be pulling up to chipotle after hitting legs," Duncan asked.
"Death squad," Kryscuk answered, adding: “Assassins creed hoodies and suppressed 22 pistols.”
"People freaking tf out," Duncan replied.
"About what," Kryscuk asked.
"'The end of democracy'," Duncan wrote.
"One can hope," Kryscuk answered.
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Why do men join the Proud Boys? "Most of it is just to fight," Schultz said. "They want to join a gang. So they can go fight antifa and hurt people that they don't like, and feel justified in doing it."
Schultz, 51, joined the Proud Boys in the fall of 2017 and left in May 2019. He says he quit, but the Proud Boys say he was "kicked out." His exit should not be interpreted as a total repudiation of all the Proud Boys stand for, or a new enlightened state opposed to all political violence. Schultz still shows up at rallies, and he's still motivated by antipathy toward antifa. He defends his past actions with the Proud Boys, including violent threats, as justified to fight antifa. Or he dismisses them as just "jokes."
The blurred line between what's ironic and what's sincere is a feature of the new far-right that was born on the internet in the Trump era. (Schultz said the word "joke" about three dozen times in the couple hours CNN interviewed him.) It's harder for someone to be held accountable for what he believes if it's not clear what, exactly, he believes. And it allows him to try on a persona with the safety valve of being able to say later it was all fake.
A flyer warning about Russell Schultz and the Proud Boys. CNN has blurred parts of this image to protect an individual's personal information.
A flyer warning about Russell Schultz and the Proud Boys. CNN has blurred parts of this image to protect an individual's personal information.
In person, Schultz is mild-mannered and polite. In his old Proud Boys videos, he's menacing. He now says he was just emulating the promo videos of professional wrestlers.
He liked the Proud Boys' joking and the drinking. But he began to notice some patterns among those who joined. "They join the group now because it gives them a sense of belonging. They have this inner-person side that they want to be, but they're afraid to be.
"They're men who've never had wingmen before," he says. "They're afraid to say what's on their mind for fear of getting into a fight. But if they have that guy or that group behind them, they're more bold in saying what they think, because they think someone has their back. ... The Proud Boys are the vehicle that attracts those people and accepts them in."
Ahead of what he called a "pro-Jesus march" in December 2018, Schultz posted a video warning antifa not to disrupt it. He says, in part:
"At the last rally I nearly ran over you with a car and I didn't feel bad about it one bit. You're lucky I didn't kill you because I wouldn't feel any remorse. ...
"You shoot me with feces -- I can't prove -- you can't prove you didn't put something in it like HIV. ...
"I am going to shoot you. And here's where the best part of the odds is, I still have a chance to fight for my freedom in court. You don't have a chance to fight for your freedom cause you're f**king dead. See I'm going to shoot you in the chest or your head. Center mass. ...
"It might be in your best interest not to show up with feces infested with HIV, whatever it is, and live, live so you can see what we're planning in 2019. Cause if you shoot us with feces there's a good chance you might not survive to see 2019."
When CNN said these looked like violent threats, Schultz defended them. "They are violent threats and it's for good reason, too," he said. "Antifa was saying they were going to come over and start throwing urine and feces on us. And so that was my way of saying, 'OK, if you do that, that's a threat.' I don't know if it was AIDS-tainted. And I made that threat so they wouldn't come over. And they didn't come over. So, it worked."
He explained all of his past commentary by saying, "Anything I ever did that was incendiary was so that (antifa) would see it and react to it."
He says he wanted more antifa activists to show up at right-wing rallies -- not for the street battle, but for the more important media battle.
"I'm not baiting them into doing violence. I'm baiting them into showing up in enough numbers. Because when you see enough people in Black Bloc, people get scared," Schultz said, referring to the activist tactic of wearing black clothes and face coverings to avoid identification. "The people that aren't involved in (the protests), that don't think about it -- they see all these people looking like ISIS."
"Scorned ex-girlfriends are the worst. As soon as you break up with them, they want to lie to the world and say how small your equipment is," Tarrio told CNN, in reference to Schultz. "Currently there is no criminal activity happening in the Proud Boys."
Asked what Tarrio would say about him, Schultz said, "Oh, he'll probably talk crap about me. I don't care. ... Enrique always deflects."
As we watched the video of the man in the Proud Boys polo punch the woman in Washington, we asked Schultz: Did he feel like he helped bring the nation to this point, with his propaganda?
"Yeah. Honestly, I had a role in it. I never advocated for the violence to come out of it, though."
In other words, he still says it was just a joke.
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In 2018, a far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, posted a video to YouTube claiming he had been attacked by an African migrant in Rome.
The thumbnail image and eight-word title promoting the video indicated Robinson was assaulted by a Black man outside a train station. Then, in the video, Robinson punched the man in the jaw, dropping him to the ground.
The video was viewed more than 2.8 million times, and it prompted news stories across the right-wing tabloids in Britain, where Robinson was rapidly gaining notoriety for his anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views.
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For Caolan Robertson — a filmmaker who worked for Robinson and helped create the video — it was an instructional moment. It showed the key ingredients needed to attract attention on YouTube and other social media services.
The video played into anti-immigrant sentiments in Britain and across Europe. It also focused squarely on conflict, cutting rapidly between shouts and shoves before showing Robertson’s punch. It also misrepresented what had actually happened.
“We would choose the most dramatic moment — or fake it and make it look more dramatic,” Robertson, 25, said in a recent interview. “We realized that if we wanted a future on YouTube, it had to be driven by confrontation. Every time we did that kind of thing, it would explode well beyond anything else.”
Robertson would go on to produce videos for a who’s who of right-wing YouTube personalities on both sides of the Atlantic, including Lauren Southern, Stefan Molyneux and Alex Jones.
The videos were tailored for the “echo chamber” that is often created by social media networks like YouTube. To keep you watching, YouTube serves up videos similar to those you have watched before. But the longer someone watches, the more extreme the videos can become.
“It can create these very radical people who are like gurus,” said Guillaume Chaslot, a former YouTube engineer who has been critical of the way the company’s algorithms pushed people to extreme content. “In terms of watch time, a guru is wonderful.”
Tech companies, regulators and individuals across the globe are struggling to understand and control the enormous power of YouTube and other social media services. In 2019, YouTube made “important changes to how we recommend videos and prevent the spread of misinformation and hateful content,” Farshad Shadloo, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement. It barred Molyneaux and Jones. But extreme videos continue to spread.
In time, Robertson said, he realized that the videos he worked on stoked dangerous hatred. And in 2019, at a conference in Britain run by a left-wing newspaper, The Byline Times, Robertson distanced himself from his work with the far-right. His change of heart was met with some skepticism.
“He was presented as a prodigal son,” said Louise Raw, an anti-fascist activist who was onstage for Robertson’s mea culpa. “But he has not been held to account.”
Now Robertson is detailing the ways he and his collaborators searched for confrontations to gain popularity on YouTube.
Efforts to contact Robinson were unsuccessful, and Jones did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Southern said she should not be described as a far-right activist, saying she is merely a conservative. She was not involved in “some horrible far-right grift that tried to deceive people into watching our content,” she added. “We were just doing what any other YouTuber does.”
Raw footage of the episode in Rome, provided by Robertson and reviewed by The New York Times, shows that the YouTube video was edited to give the false impression that Robinson was threatened. The full footage shows he was the aggressor.
When the man noticed he was being filmed from across the street, he approached the camera, and Robinson shoved him into an oncoming car. As the man protested, called Robinson crazy and told him to live his own life, Robinson escalated the argument.
“There’s one way this is going to go,” he told the man. “You’re going to end up knocked down unconscious.”
Over the more than two years he helped produce and publish videos for Robinson and others, Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.
“It meant that we did more and more extreme videos,” Robertson said.
Robertson grew up in Ireland, and after his parents divorced, he moved with his father to a predominantly working-class area in the north of England. Realizing from a very young age that he is gay, he often felt like an outsider. But he said he encountered more overt homophobia when he moved to London for college and walked through the largely Muslim neighborhoods at the East End of the city.
After the 2016 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — where a Muslim man pledging loyalty to the Islamic State group killed 49 people and wounded 53 more — Robertson developed an extreme animosity toward Muslims, particularly immigrants. His anger was fueled in large part, he said, by videos he watched on YouTube.
He began watching videos from mainstream outlets, like an episode of the HBO show “Real Time With Bill Maher” in which Sam Harris, an author and a podcast host, advocated greater criticism of Muslim beliefs. YouTube’s recommendation algorithm suggested more extreme videos involving personalities like Robinson, a former member of the neo-fascist and white nationalist British National Party who was born Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
In 2017, Robertson contacted Robinson and soon began working with him as a video producer. By the end of the year, he was also collaborating with Southern, an activist from Canada.
Knowing what garnered the most attention on YouTube, Robertson said, he and Southern would devise public appearances meant to generate conflict. That December, they attended a women’s march in London and, with Southern playing the part of a television reporter, approached each woman with the same four-word question: “Women’s rights or Islam?”
They often received a confused, measured or polite response, according to Robertson. They continued to ask the question and sharpened it. Southern, for example, said it would be difficult for Muslim women to answer the question because their husbands would not let them attend the march. That caused anger to build in the crowd.
“It appears in the videos that we are just trying to figure out what is going on, gather information, understand people,” Robertson said. “But really, we were trying to find the most incendiary way of making them mad.”
The thumbnail image for the YouTube video was indicative of a confrontation: a woman screaming as Southern walked away. As he often did, Robertson sharpened the video’s visual contrast — lightening the white colors and darkening the blacks — to subtly make the scene seem more dramatic.
Southern described the situation differently. “We asked the question because we knew it was going to force people to question their own political views and realize the contradiction in being a hard-core feminist but also supporting a religion that, quite frankly, has questionable practices around women,” she said. And, she added, they used video techniques that any media company would use.
The next year, Robertson and Southern traveled as far as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to create similar videos. Over the lifetime of Southern’s YouTube channel, according to channel statistics reviewed by the Times, her videos were viewed more than 63 million times.
More than 71% of people who viewed these videos had not subscribed to her YouTube channel. In 2018, at the height of her popularity, at least 30% of the views occurred after the videos were automatically recommended to the viewer by YouTube’s algorithms.
Molyneux shied away from the kind of conflict that Southern embraced. He fashioned himself as an online philosopher. But the material Robertson edited slipped in “far-right ideas that appealed to the ethnonationalists — the extreme right-wing audience,” he said.
In 2018, the pair traveled to Poland for a video that painted the country as a place free of hardship and strife. The subtext was that was because Poland is predominantly white. In an email to the Times, Molyneux said, “It was nice being in a country wherein I didn’t have to hire protective security.” He added that he felt the same way when he visited Hong Kong.
By early 2019, Robertson said, he grew disillusioned. There was a noticeable drop in traffic on Southern’s YouTube channel. Around the same time, YouTube began to remove more videos the company thought encouraged violence and spread misinformation.
After an Australian man killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand — driven in part by anti-immigrant beliefs propagated by YouTube — Robertson realized, he said, that the videos he had made led to the same kind of violence in the Orlando nightclub in 2016.
“I felt like I had gone full circle that day,” he said.
Now Robertson oversees Byline TV, a video offshoot of The Byline Times. He also runs a new organization, Future of Freedom, which seeks to de-radicalize right-wing extremists. He is still counting YouTube views.
Robertson recently boasted in a text that in one day a video targeting Jones, the conspiracy theorist he once worked with, had been viewed more than 250,000 times.
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