Congratulations, Huntington Beach, you have been identified as being the home base for Southern California’s newest hate group.
The … uh … honor? … comes courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Hate and Extremism Report.
You’ll recall that the Mongomery, Alabama, civil rights organization, which attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph J Levin Jr. founded in 1971, began by fighting poverty, racial discrimination and the death penalty. In the mid-1980s, the focus shifted to right-wing extremism.
On Wednesday, the SPLC released “The Year in Hate” intelligence report, which includes a hate map and the revelation that the nonprofit now counts 954 hate groups in the United States, with 75 of them in California.
More than half of those are in Southern California, including the region’s newest: the Huntington Beach-based Rise Above Movement (RAM).
Surely you remember RAM’s coming out party: the March 25, 2017, Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach. Some were seen holding up a large white banner that stated “Defend America.” Our intrepid photographer Brian Feinzimer snapped a photo of this.
Feinzimer and Julie Leopo, another photographer shooting the rally for the Weekly, were struck with a flagpole held by a woman, which caused our courageous reporter Frank John Tristan to intervene in hopes of calming down the situation.
That’s when the two men seen in the video here attacked Tristan.
After studying smartphone videos and social media posts, Tristan concluded that one of the two men who attacked him is RAM member Tyler Laube, 22, of Redondo Beach. (The other attacker was not a member.)
He has been convicted of fighting with a paramedic at a supermarket, illegally possessing a switchblade, disturbing the peace, and DUI, according to Los Angeles County court files. In 2015, Laube pleaded no contest to felony robbery charges — prosecutors said he partnered with another man to rob a 7-Eleven and another convenience store at gunpoint. While in jail before trial, Laube told a detective that he’d gone to a Hollywood strip club and gotten high on Xanax — the potent, often-abused prescription benzodiazepine — before acting as the wheelman in the robberies, which occurred early in the morning in Redondo Beach, according to court transcripts.
Because the rally was at Bolsa Chica State Beach, the agency in charge of law enforcement is the state parks service, which refused to investigate the assault on Tristan despite being provided mountains of evidence from ProPublica and then-Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano.
Captain Kevin Pearsall, a regional superintendent with the parks police, blamed a lack of resources for making them unable to investigate … so go nuts, perps!
Rise Above Movement members were also accused of manhandling a journalist and stomping, punching and kicking leftist counter-protesters at an April 2017 Trump rally in Berkeley. A former Marine and founder of Identity Evropa, another white supremacist organization, punched a female antifa member in the face.
However, the only person arrested by Berkeley police that day was RAM member Robert Rundo, 27, of San Clemente. Prosecutors declined to file charges. Rundo and Ben Daley of Torrance were the ones who’d been seen roughing up the Mother Jones reporter covering the rally.
Daley was arrested in Los Angeles County in 2014 for illegally carrying a concealed snub-nose .357 Magnum revolver. Police say there was also an array of bullets in his pickup truck, including .38-caliber ammunition and .223 rifle rounds, the latter used in bolt-action hunting rifles and military-style assault weapons. Daley was ultimately convicted and sentenced to seven days in jail.
In June 2016, RAM members beat up and chased off a small crowd of counter-protesters who showed up to an anti-Islam gathering of about 300 people in San Bernardino. That clash produced a video where RAM members boast about the damage they inflicted to their targets.
Rundo is heard on that video saying RAM members are fans of “14 Words,” which is this white supremacist slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
In 2009 in Queens, New York, which is where Rundo grew up, he was flanked by several other men when he confronted two Latino men in a store. He chased them to the street, where one victim tripped and fell, prompting Rundo to pounce on him and stab him in the right hand, right elbow, left arm, chest and neck.
Then-19-year-old Rundo struck a deal with the court to plead guilty to gang assault charges in exchange for two years in state prison. He served about 20 months.
Among those who also violently clashed with college students in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Daley says in the ProPublica story that came out two months later that he was bound for basic training in the U.S. military.
Daley is at the nearest right, Rundo is at the far left and Laube in holding the flag in Feinzimer’s shot of the RAM members holding the Defend America sign that opened this post.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.