When a group of young white men showed up to Huntington Beach for a pro-Trump rally in March, they brought a big “Defend America” banner with them. Four symbols painted on it showed a roll call of their enemies: communists, prescription drug abuse, antifa and ISIS (even though militant Kurds proudly wave antifa flags after advancing against the Islamic State, go figure!). Not content with simply exercising free speech, the DIY Division (as the group was then known) got in a little bash at the beach when the rally later turned into a melee, including an unprovoked assault on then-Weekly intern Frank John Tristan.
Re-branded as the “Rise Above Movement” (RAM), the Southern California-based hate group traveled to rallies in Berkeley and Charlottesville to export its violent street fighting while law enforcement barely seems to care. But thanks to a brilliant, lengthy ProPublica profile by a trio of amazing journalists—A.C. Thompson, Ali Winston, and Darwin BondGraham—RAM is in a spotlight they may not want. Members create a white supremacist counterculture that isn’t personality driven like other alt-right social media ideologues. They conceal their identities, never give interviews and try not to draw individual attention to themselves.
After weeks of investigation, ProPublica pulls away at the skull bandannas that RAM hides behind, identifying core members, digging up their criminal histories and interviewing one of their unnamed founders at an OC restaurant—betcha they chatted over Mexican food! RAM claims to roll 50 members deep with training aimed at their unified goal: fighting political enemies in the street. In Huntington Beach, that meant RAM member Tyler Laube clobbering Tristan with cheap shots during the #MAGA march. ProPublica couldn’t track him for an interview, but found a rap sheet with weapon possession, assault and DUI convictions. Laube was on probation for a 2015 robbery conviction when the incident in HB happened.
In OC, the unnamed RAM leader told journalists that the fight club grew organically out of political conversations struck up at gyms with Trump supporters, including active Marines, who felt the President’s agenda didn’t go far enough. He claims the group isn’t racist—something that doesn’t hold much muster with overt anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism easily documented from members online—and solely believes in a white politics grounded in identity pride and a “they took our jobs” sense of economic anxiety.
The other OC angle to pay attention to in the story is Vincent James Foxx of The Red Elephants who didn’t want to be interviewed for the ProPublica piece. While not a member of RAM, he embedded himself with them during a Berkeley brawl earlier this year live-streaming the action for The Red Elephants. Foxx is no citizen journalist covering protests with political commentary. Pro Publica points out he incites some of the violence he documents. “Get that fucking cuck!” Foxx yelled when a RAM fighter and other men began beating up a protester. Hell, Fullerton police and the Orange County District Attorney’s office put left-wing live-streamers P.M. Beers and A.J. Redkey through hell for a lot less after covering a Kelly Thomas verdict protest.
And that’s the moral of the story. Law enforcement hasn’t given much of a shit about RAM whether it’s California State Parks Police refusing to investigate the Tristan assault to Alameda County prosecutors dropping assaulting an officer and resisting arrest charges against San Clemente RAM brawler Robert Rundo whose rap sheet includes stabbing a Latino man multiple times during a gang assault in Queens, New York.
While RAM’s unnamed spokesman only claims a worldview closely aligned with fascism, the group certainly mimics its mass movement building through pitched political brawls in the streets, ones that served as preludes to fascism in the past and are only furthered by indifferent policing now.
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!