Earlier this morning, FBI agents gave four members and associates of the Rise Above Movement, a Huntington Beach-based hate group, a rude awakening by arresting them for criminal charges related to the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The men now stand accused of violating federal rioting law during the Aug. 12, 2017 gathering of white supremacist hate groups that turned violent.
The defendants–Ben Daley, Thomas Gillen, Michael Miselis and Cole White–aren’t residents of Orange County. But before they traveled to Charlottesville, RAM experienced little to no trouble with the law for acts of violence members engaged in at political rallies in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, both noted in the affidavit accompanying the criminal charges. All that changes now. The four face counts of attending “Unite the Right” with the intent to commit violent acts and carrying them out when on the ground.
“This case should serve as another example of the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting the life, liberty, and civil rights of all our citizens,” says Thomas T. Cullen, U.S. attorney, in a press release announcing the charges. “Any individual who has or plans to travel to this District with the intent to engage in acts of violence will be prosecuted and held accountable for those actions.”
RAM, the subject of several in-depth ProPublica pieces that documented the group’s actors and activities, promote themselves as political “nationalists” banding together for healthy living through mixed-martial arts training and straight-edge ethos. It’s a flimsy veneer for RAM’s fascist sympathies and penchant for racist, antisemitic, anti-Muslim and anti-communist ideologies. The group has drawn from the ranks of Hammerskin Nation, one of the most notoriously violent skinhead gangs. They’ve prepared themselves for street brawls with antifa at various rallies since 2017, taping their hands like boxers.
The affidavit states that the four men arrested today were “among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville.” Daley, who’s attended the MAGA march last year in Huntington Beach, anti-immigrant rallies in Laguna Beach and a pro-Trump picnic at Fountain Valley’s Mile Square Regional Park, figures prominently in the investigation. Authorities obtained a search warrant for Daley’s Facebook. They found exchanges where he admitted to committing acts of violence at Charlottesville. “We had the[m] completely surrounded,” he wrote. “I hit like five people.”
Daley is shown grabbing a woman by the neck before slamming her down in footage from the melee. The affidavit noted that Daley and his associates acted “in concert with each other,” and “committed multiple acts of violence against counter protesters, which in some cases resulted in serious injuries.” Michael Miselis, a doctoral student at UCLA, is also shown shoving an African-American man down to the ground before striking him.
ProPublica journalist A.C. Thompson approached Miselis in the PBS/Frontline documentary Documenting Hate: Charlottesville where he denied being the man at the rally before speeding off in a Toyota (America First?). Following a ProPublica expose on Miselis prior to the charges, he lost his job as an aerospace engineer with defense contractor Northrup Grumman.
Investigators kept a keen eye on RAM’s social media platforms where they freely disseminated propaganda. Prior to Charlottesville, Daley and others are pictured training at Marblehead Park in San Clemente. According to state business filings, the hate group’s “Right Brand” apparel company is also based out of Huntington Beach. But RAM must be feeling the heat from all the recent attention–the Instagram page for the clothing line is now private.
The arrest of four RAM members and associates today contrasts starkly with the inaction taken after the MAGA march in Huntington Beach on Mar. 25, 2017 turned violent. Frank John Tristan, a Weekly reporter, identified the RAM member who punched him as Tyler Laube but the Orange Coast District of California State Parks police took didn’t lift a finger to investigate the incident or other assaults against two Weekly photographers–all caught on camera.
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!