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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Proud Boys Organizing Around Local Anti-LGBTQ Issues to Gain Members, Attention and Influence

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Founded by Gavin McInnes as pro-Trump men’s drinking club in 2016, the Proud Boys transformed into the paramilitary vanguard of the MAGA movement in late 2020, providing security for campaign rallies and then playing an outsized role in the Capitol insurrection.

One thing hasn’t changed since Jan. 6: Members of the self-proclaimed “Western chauvinist” group whose professed values provide a soft cover for thinly veiled white supremacy, remain an intimidating presence in cities across the country, further polarizing local struggles around issues of race, sexual orientation and police accountability.

California’s Central Valley, where at least three active chapters feed members into flashpoints of conflict up and down the Highway 99 corridor, provides an example of how the Proud Boys remain a polarizing force in the culture wars that are rending the United States.

This is the third installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California’s San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

In early April, an estimated 50 or 60 Proud Boys and other far-right allies reportedly showed up in Fresno kitted out in ballistic vests and equipped with hunting knives and bear spray. Facing off against local residents demonstrating to preserve an iconic theater at the center of an LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood, one Proud Boy allegedly shoved a pregnant woman to the ground. Mark Mazzola, president of the Fresno chapter, confirmed to a local news outlet that his group received reinforcements from Modesto and Bakersfield.

Weekly protests against the pending sale of the Tower Theatre began in February. The owner is currently leasing the theater to the proposed purchaser, Adventure Church — part of the Foursquare denomination, an evangelical Pentecostal spinoff — for Sunday services. Local residents organized under the banner of Save the Tower Theatre Demonstration Committee oppose the sale on grounds that the church violates the commercial zoning for the property and that it represents the loss of an important facility in the heart of one of the Central Valley’s few LGBTQ-friendly areas. In the past, the theater has been used by an array of performing arts groups and has hosted Reel Pride, Fresno’s LGBTQ film festival.

Understanding the neighborhood anchored by the Tower Theatre is crucial to appreciating why residents are so strongly opposed to the sale to Adventure church, said Jaguar Bennett, a local comedian and community theater actor. He compared the Tower District to a small-scale Berkeley or Greenwich Village.

“Tolerant, inclusive — we believe in diversity,” he said. “We believe in art. We believe in living your own life. We are kind of a beacon, not just for Fresno, but the entire region. The Central Valley is the most conservative part of California. The Tower District is the most LGBTQ-affirming neighborhood. Between Sacramento and LA, this is it. We’re a safe space for LGBTQ youth. You can see a play. You can see a band. You can shop in a thrift store. You can have a nice meal. You can do it all in three blocks.”

Following the April 11 debacle, the police increased their presence at the weekly protests, and established a separation between the opposing groups. Since then, Bennett said, the Proud Boys haven’t been a problem.

“Unless there is an opportunity to assault us or incite violence, there is no purpose for them to be there,” he said. “They’re only there to try to cause violent trouble. If the opportunity to cause violent trouble is removed, they’re not interested.”

One of the Fresno members framed the Proud Boys’ opposition to the Save the Tower Theatre committee as a matter of preventing the progressive values of the Bay Area and Los Angeles from creeping into the Valley.

“Those places are cancer,” said Chongo, the nickname for the Fresno chapter’s sergeant at arms, during an April 1 interview with conservative podcaster Todd Cotta. “If we don’t protect the Central Valley, our farmland areas, that cancer’s gonna spread here. Then, next thing you know, California’s a disaster.

“We need to fight that fight,” he continued. “What I mean by that — it doesn’t have to be physical. It’s always going to be the last resort, but we’ve got to stop that before it hits here. And we’re doing something in the Tower District….”

Two months later, addressing Modesto City Council, Chongo used almost identical language to argue against improving police oversight in the wake of an officer fatally shooting a man experiencing a mental health crisis.

“If anything, we are defenders of this country,” Chongo said. “Somebody’s gonna stand up. Somebody has to stand up. Because if we don’t, this country’s gonna burn. The cancer is already spreading into this community. It’s gonna hit the rest of the Central Valley. You got LA and San Francisco in ruins.”

On the issue of the Tower Theatre, Chongo told Cotta the Proud Boys got involved as a matter of supporting religious freedom.

“Well, we’re just standing up for it because we believe it’s a freedom of religion, which is our right as American people,” he said. “Say the Tower Theatre loses, and they don’t get their church. Well, there’s a church just north of the Tower Theatre — they’re gonna go after that church? I have a Bible study on Fridays. Pretty soon, they’re going to come after where I have my Bible study, and I can’t have it.”

Bennett said there’s no merit to any argument that the church losing the fight for Tower Theatre would be the first domino in a sustained assault on Christendom across the region.

“In a region as conservative as Central Valley, even our freaky people are not indisposed to religion,” Bennett said. “There are plenty of churches, and many of them are LGBTQ-affirming. I don’t even think anyone would care if this church would have even bought a building in our neighborhood that was properly zoned.”

It’s common to hear Proud Boys across the country ardently argue that they are not homophobic.

Addressing Modesto City Council on June 22, a Proud Boy who identified himself as “Eric” attempted to deflect criticism of the group by saying, “We love anybody of any sexual orientation.”

Apparently unaware that crossdressing is not a sexual orientation, he continued: “In my chapter alone, we had a transvestite, happily, loved him.”

The Proud Boy’s further comments undermined his initial proclamation of acceptance.

“We welcomed him openly,” he said. “We only removed him after we discovered he started using methamphetamine, because that’s something we don’t allow. Because as Proud Boys, we believe in upholding the Constitution, the American family, as well as the nucleus [sic] family, which the left is tearing apart.”

Beyond the fact that the Proud Boys were started as a drinking club, allegations of members’ drug use, including from one-time ally Omar Navarro, have proliferated for years, and Chairman Enrique Tarrio once said, “We’re pro-drugs.” Also, Eric’s claim that the left is “tearing apart” the nuclear family aligns with a view that heterosexuality should be regarded as normative rather than promoting inclusion.

“They want to build a society that is built on hierarchy, one that strengthens existing hierarchies and that perpetuates inequalities that we have,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They believe that men are superior to women, that cisgender people are superior to transgender people. Really, strengthening the social stratifications that exist — that underlies all the political projects that they pursue.”

Beyond counter-protesting the LGTBQ community and allies, Proud Boys in the Central Valley have forged an alliance with Don Grundmann, an anti-gay crusader from the Bay Area who is gearing up for his third annual Straight Pride rally outside of Planned Parenthood in Modesto in August. Although they distanced themselves from the first Straight Pride rally in 2019, the Central Valley Proud Boys showed up to support Grundmann in 2020. Another group calling itself the Central Valley Militia unfurled large banners reading “Patriots Against Pedophilia: One Solution Luke 17:2” alongside an image of an assault rifle. Whether intentional or not, the message could be read as a conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia, with a clear call for violence.

Grundmann came to the June 22 Modest City Council meeting to publicize his event and defend the Proud Boys, whom he credited with providing security at the 2020 event; the Proud Boys have been regularly attending city council meetings to express opposition to a city-sponsored effort to improve police accountability.

“These are Christian gentlemen who want to defend the foundations of our nation,” he said. “I believe that’s fantastically important.” Ironically, the Central Valley Proud Boys organizer quoted in the Modesto Bee‘s coverage of the 2020 event identified himself as “Odin,” which is the name of a Norse god that is revered in the modern religion Heathenry. Meanwhile, Grundmann’s National Straight Pride Coalition openly flaunts its homophobia, with a manifesto on its website describing the organization as “the frontline of the religious war between Christianity and its Satanism/Humanism opponent,” and as readying for a battle “to stop the Jihad of the LGBT War Machine upon the children of our nation.”

Although Grundmann denies being a white supremacist, “Caucasians” are singled out, along with “Western Civilization,” on the National Straight Pride Coalition website as being “under unprecedented, sustained and coordinated attack within our society, culture and nation.” Grundmann made national headlines when he made a gaffewhile addressing Modesto City Council in 2019. The audience erupted in laughter when Grundmann, evidently flustered by sustained booing, said, “We’re a totally peaceful racist group.”

Beyond the Central Valley, Proud Boys also showed up to protest a meeting of the Los Alamitos USD School Board in Orange County as it approved new social justice standards. The Orange County Register reported that Superintendent Andrew Pulver switched the meeting from in-person to virtual because of concerns about potential unrest. In previous weeks, a proposal to add an elective ethnic studies class — also ultimately approved — had drawn protesters. Chad Loder, an antifascist who monitors Proud Boys and other far-right actors in southern California, identified a member of the Bakersfield Proud Boys chapter at the May 11 protest, along with Marcus Kelly, who was previously arrested in Fresno for illegal possession of pepper spray while rallying alongside the Proud Boys.

Miller said two important things are at play in the Proud Boys’ increased engagement with local issues. Getting people involved in local politics has been a historical strength for the political right, providing opportunities for Proud Boys to build coalitions. And culture war issues offer a ripe opportunity for organizing.

“One of the things we saw as a flashpoint in the past was drag-queen story hours,” Miller said. “Drag queens would read to children in libraries. This became really a point of organization for the far right, with Proud Boys going to community meetings and pushing back against this kind of programming. They realize this is a real flashpoint for the culture war. This will bring them attention and recruits.”

This is the third installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California’s San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Listen: Candidate to Oversee All Minnesota Elections Questions if Non-English Speaking Citizens ‘Should Be Voting’

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A Republican candidate to become the Minnesota Secretary of State is questioning if citizens in that state who don’t speak English or who have a disability should even be allowed to vote.

Kim Crockett, a former vice president at a conservative think tank, was speaking about a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that found people with a disability and people who do not speak English can be allowed to receive help in voting.

“So, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that indeed you can help an unlimited number of people vote if they are disabled or can’t read or speak English, which raises the question, should they be voting?” she said during a September 2020 radio interview, HuffPost reports.

If elected as Minnesota’s Secretary of State Crockett would oversee all elections statewide, and be responsible for enforcing election laws while ensuring citizens are allowed to vote, and ensuring policies are in place to help them do so.

Crockett has a history of antisemitic remarks and supporting Donald Trump’s Big Lie that he won the 2020 election.

HuffPost reports on Crockett’s antisemitic remarks:

“I think of America, the great assimilator, as a rubber band, but with this — we’re at the breaking point,” Crockett said, according to The New York Times. “These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible.”

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party put out a press release noting that in 2022, “Crockett was heavily criticized for playing an anti-Semitic video during the Republican State Convention, which depicted a Jewish philanthropist as a puppet master controlling Minnesota’s Secretary of State, who is also Jewish and election lawyer Marc Elias, who is also Jewish.  Casting a Jewish individual as a puppet master who controls events is a common anti-Semitic trope.”

Heartland Signal published the audio of Crockett’s remarks, which you can hear below or at this link.

 

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Rick Scott Tells CPAC Democrats’ Policies Are ‘Evil,’ the ‘Militant Left’ Is the ‘Enemy’ and the ‘Greatest Danger We’ve Ever Faced’

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U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) gave a lengthy speech at CPAC on Friday in Dallas, telling far right conservatives that Democratic policies are “evil,” the “militant left” is the “enemy” and “the greatest danger” America has ever faced while claiming Democrats are “wacky” socialists, and socialism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million people,

After calling U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) “one of the most principled individuals I know” who “will always stand up for what he believes,” Scott told attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the “militant left wing in our country has become the enemy within” and is “the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.”

Scott took his audience on a long tour of 20th century history, but along the way equated “the militant left” with “the woke left” who he says has now “seized…control of our economy, our culture and our country.”

He then equated “the woke left” with the entire Democratic Party, suggesting Democrats are socialists, and socialists are communists before declaring: “Socialism leads to two things, poverty and depression. Socialism is not a new idea. It’s one of the dumbest, oldest, most despised ideas of the 20th century that resulted in the deaths of 100 million people.”

READ MORE: ‘Wants to Steal Your Money’: Ron Johnson Thinks Rick Scott’s Social Security Plan Is ‘Not Cruel Enough’ Say Critics

Scott is likely referring to mass killings under communist regimes, including the Holocaust, genocides, crimes against humanity, and even mass famines – none of which have anything to do with socialism or the Democratic Party.

“When you turn on the news at night do you even recognize the country you see?” Scott asked. “Are you worried for your family? Are you worried for your freedoms?”

“The woke left now controls the Democrat Party, the entire federal government, the news media, academia, big tech Hollywood, most corporate boardrooms, and now even some of our top military leaders,” he said.

“They are working hard to redefine our country, silence their opponents – and that means that each of you.”

“They are destroying everything they touch, and they’ve got their hands on everything. Here’s the thing about what they’re trying to destroy: American patriotism. Border security. American history. Gender. Traditional morality. Capitalism. Fiscal responsibility. Opportunity. Rugged individualism. Judeo-Christian values. Free speech. Law enforcement. Religious liberty. Parental involvement in schools. And even private ownership of firearms.”

“The woke left wants all of that gone. They want to end the American experiment,” he claimed.

READ MORE: ‘It’s in the Plan!’ Fox News Host Slaps Down Rick Scott Over His Proposal to ‘Sunset’ Social Security

“They want to replace freedom with their control. The elites in the government are telling us what we can and cannot believe what we can think and what we can do. They want to completely control our lives. Woke government schools. Woke government run health care. Woke government run media. Woke government run everything. In their new socialist order, everyone will obey and no one will be allowed to complain. You do speak up, boom, you’re going to be canceled. Your views if you don’t conform with big tech, Fauci, or Neil Young, you’re gonna be taken off Spotify, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.”

“The militant left in America or the modern day version of book burners,” he said, one of his few remarks that drew applause.

Senator Scott continued his attack.

“The modern wacky left Democrat has never read George Orwell,” he continued. “They don’t know they’re making his predictions come true. Let’s be clear. What the militant left is now proposing is not simply wrong, it is evil.”

“It is evil and the results are evil,” he added, minutes later asking: “Is this the beginning of the end? Of America?”

“It’s time to take our country back.”

Watch a portion of Sen. Scott’s remarks below or at this link.

 

 

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

74 Year Old Who Sent Over 60 Anonymous Threats of Violence and Death to LGBTQ People Sentenced to Prison

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A 74-year old Long Island, New York retired high school teacher was sentence to 30 months in prison after spending eight years sending anonymous letters threatening to bomb, shoot, and kill more than 60 LGBTQ people, government officials, businesses, and organizations.

Robert Fehring “was arrested in December and subsequently pleaded guilty in February as part of a deal with prosecutors to one count of mailing threatening communications,” Buzzfeed News reports.

“The defendant has a First Amendment right to hold bigoted beliefs; he does not have a right to threaten people based on his bigoted beliefs,” prosecutors told U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert in their 11-page sentencing memo last month. “It is now time for the defendant to face the consequences of his hate-filled conduct.”

Buzzfeed published some of Fehring’s threats, including one sent last year to the owners of New York’s historic Stonewall Inn, considered the iconic birthplace of the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

READ MORE: Fox News Vilified LGBTQ People on Most Days in the First Half of the Year – and Almost Every Day of Pride Month: Report

(Caution: graphic and possibly triggering.)

“ALL OF YOU SHOULD BE SHOT, HUNG, EXTERMINATED,” he wrote. “WE WILL BLOW UP/BURN YOUR ESTABLISHMENTS DOWN. WE WILL SHOOT THOSE WHO FREQUENT YOUR DENS OF FILTH, SHIT, SCUM AND PERVERSION . . . JUST A MATTER OF TIME. PLEASE . . . CATCH AIDS AND DIE . . . JUST FUCKING DIE!!”

Threatening to bomb a Pride parade, Fehring wrote: “THIS WILL MAKE THE 2016 ORLANDO PULSE NIGHTCLUB SHOOTING LOOK LIKE A CAKEWALK.”

49 people were killed in that Florida mass shooting, targeting the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities in 2016.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York detailed more of Fehring’s actions, including sending letters in which he “threatened to, among other things, use firearms and explosives against the recipients.”

“Two such letters threatened that there would be an attack on an LGBTQ+ event in Huntington, New York that would be like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  Another letter threatened that radio-controlled explosives would be planted at a beach club in Long Beach, New York that had hosted a LGBTQ+ event.  In another letter sent in June 2018, Fehring threatened the operators of a water ferry service from Sayville to Fire Island, New York that they should ‘screen everyone coming on board with a metal detector’ and that ‘a thorough search of your boats would be in order.'”

READ MORE: Newsmax Host Says Pride Month Makes Heterosexuals ‘Feel Marginalized,’ LGBTQ People Are No Longer ‘Persecuted’

A letter to a “barbershop purported to be from People Who Hate Gays … and In Particular [n-word] Gays and stated, ‘your shop is the perfect place for a bombing … or beating the scum that frequents your den of [expletive] into a bloody pool of steaming flesh.'”

The DOJ’s press release adds that on “November 18, 2021, the FBI Civil Rights Squad and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a search warrant at Fehring’s home in Bayport, New York, and recovered copies of letters containing threats, supplies used to mail threatening letters, 20 LGBTQ+ Pride flags that were stolen from flagpoles in Sayville, New York in July 2021, and reconnaissance-style photographs from the Eisenhower Park Pride event.”

“The FBI also recovered electronic devices owned by Fehring that contained internet searches for Fehring’s victims and related LGBTQ+ affiliated events and businesses,” it adds. “Law enforcement officers also recovered from Fehring’s residence two loaded shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns, and a stamped envelope addressed to an LGBTQ+ affiliated attorney containing the remains of a dead bird.”

 

 

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