Many activists in Berkeley last weekend described Sunday’s demonstrations as a decisive win for the left, and a triumph of love over hate. But who, exactly, were the ones who lost?
Local organizers, and politicians too, made it clear before the Aug. 27 demonstrations that racists are not welcome in Berkeley. That message came through loud and clear, especially in the wake of Charlottesville, which saw the tragic death of activist Heather Heyer, and actual white supremacists marching through the streets with torches, chanting messages of anti-semitism.
A number of conservative activists — including those who organized, then canceled, events in the Bay Area last weekend — have pushed back against the racist label, which they say is being misused by the left to silence them. A number of them have denounced white supremacy and violence — and are not, in fact, white — and say they are against what they see as too much censorship and increasingly violent tactics by the left. An interest in patriotism, and a desire to be able to express it without fear, is also a running theme. Some of those figures have risen to national prominence this year by attending high-profile rallies — including those in Berkeley in February, March and April — and have attained a kind of cult following by live-streaming their confrontations with those who oppose their views.
In some cases, that may be a smokescreen. Who, after all, will admit to outright racism, particularly as they work to gain more moderate allies? And it’s not always clear where people actually stand: There is evidence of efforts by some on the right to “obscure their racism” to gain sympathy for their cause, according to a recent report by Reveal.
With more political demonstrations and rallies heading our way, it’s a good time to get a better understanding of some of the players on the right who’ve been taking a stand in Berkeley this year. It may be even more important as more criticism has arisen about “violent extremism” on the left. That could mean more room for conservative activists, as well as provocateurs, to organize, and pick up support.
As Berkeleyside has reported, thousands of people attended Sunday’s demonstrations in Berkeley to speak out, with exuberance and creativity, in favor of inclusivity and tolerance. But those who came to Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park wearing Trump gear or trying to have a different conversation — estimated at 2-3 dozen — were ultimately shown the door. At various points, groups of anti-fascists and others on the far left, homed in on opponents, shouting them down and using whistles to drown them out. People were chased out and, in some cases, cursed and spat on, struck and pepper-sprayed. Some members of the media and at least one amateur photographer were among those who were targeted. (So was Vito Gesualdi, who has been trying to inject his own form of humorous commentary into Berkeley’s political clashes this year.)
Most of the known targets, however, were people in patriotic or pro-Trump garb, people with flags, or those who were recognized as prominent conservative commentators. There is extensive background online, from a wide range of sources, about many of the individuals listed below. This is not meant to be a comprehensive report on each one. This guide is offered as a starting point for those who want to learn more. (See a similar explainer by Berkeleyside of those who attended the April 15 violent rally.)
Amber Cummings, the organizer of last Sunday’s anti-Marxism rally in Berkeley, called it off two days earlier due to safety concerns, she said. Cummings said she would still come to Berkeley alone to speak, but said others should stay away. Cummings, a transgender woman, later told KTVU she was “sucker punched” in Civic Center Park on Sunday while dressed as a man, and had to be rushed away by officers in a van, according to ABC7, “because of the crowd.” Cummings said before the rally that her event was not about hate speech or white supremacy, but was focused on free speech. She said she’s against how “anti-American hatred” and “Marxism is being taught” at UC Berkeley. Cummings said she doesn’t think it’s right she can’t walk on campus or through city streets with an American flag without getting harassed. Cummings sold tokens on her Facebook page to raise money for Kyle Chapman, also known as Based Stickman, for his “great work,” as first reported by the Daily Californian. (Chapman is facing a felony charge for carrying a heavy stick at a prior Berkeley rally and was ordered by the court in August to stay away from Civic Center Park.) Cummings has said she plans to return to the park Saturday, Sept. 2: “I am coming in peace and I want to speak in peace. I will not be bullied by Antifa and BAMN they will not shut down my free speech rights.” There are reports online that a canned food drive has been planned for the same time and place, but questions have been raised as to whether that event is legitimate or is simply meant to provoke. “We’re aware of it,” a city spokesman said. “If there are any general concerns we’ll prepare accordingly.”
Scroll through the photo gallery that follows using the right and left buttons to navigate.
Joey Gibson founded the group Patriot Prayer in Vancouver, Washington, and has held a number of rallies around the Northwest. Gibson is half-Japanese and has repeatedly disavowed racism and white supremacy. He organized the San Francisco rally that was supposed to have taken place last Saturday, Aug. 26, but called it off because he said he had concerns about violence. Gibson says his group is not racist and has nothing to do with white supremacy: “I don’t believe in white supremacy. Otherwise, I’d have to punch myself,” he said in a video last month about what Patriot Prayer stands for. “What I’m trying to do is bring people together who believe in freedom.” He describes his main beliefs as love, peace and free speech. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Gibson holds his events in “established centers of liberal/left politics, all with the clear intent of attempting to provoke a violent response from far-left antifascists.” SPLC acknowledges, however, that Gibson has “openly denounced” Nazis and white supremacists, and says he works to exclude them from his events. According to a Weekly Standard reporter who was with Gibson on Sunday, Gibson was beaten and pepper-sprayed and required treatment at the hospital after being assaulted in Berkeley.
In what became among the most famous video incidents in Berkeley on Sunday, Trump supporter and video blogger Keith Campbell was briefly assaulted by members of the crowd until Reveal host Al Letson used his own body to cover Campbell. Campbell later told Reveal — a project of longtime East Bay journalism organization the Center for Investigative Reporting — “antifa members know him from his conservative youtube channel Patriot Warrior Media – where he’s known as KPikklefield – and targeted him specifically.” Campbell, who reportedly lives in the Bay Area, said his camera was knocked from his hand and he was hit over the head. The incident happened just after Gibson and his sidekick Tusitala “Tiny” Toese sought refuge behind the police line after they reportedly were attacked.
According to a piece in The Intercept on Thursday, “Campbell makes no secret of his far-right politics, working with groups like Proud Boys, a fraternal organization described by its founder Gavin McInnes as a group for ‘Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.'” The Intercept also notes that Campbell’s work “had attracted almost no attention until Sunday, when he was beaten by anti-fascist activists in Berkeley.”
He’s just one example of myriad individuals who have come to Berkeley to make a name for themselves to fight what Campbell has called “the efforts of the left to destroy free speech, capitalism, and the American way of life.” Campbell still has a limited subscriber base on YouTube, though some of his videos have gone viral and been viewed many thousands of times. Despite the widely viewed video of his beating, and Letson’s intervention, Campbell hasn’t won much support: A fundraiser he launched Tuesday, to help replace his equipment and pay for things like medical and legal expenses, has raised just $1,550 of his $20,000 goal.
Irma Hinojosa and Johnny Benitez
Irma Hinojosa, who is based in Bakersfield, describes herself as a nationalist and a Trump supporter. She’s a co-host on a show called, “The Right View by Deplorable Latinas” and says she covers “rallies & protests for the truth.” She labeled a two-hour live broadcast Sunday on Twitter as, “protesters … surrounding & mobbing us. They think we’re all white supremacists, thanks to the media.” It’s received more than 111,000 views. At one point, in the video, a friend walks up to Hinojosa and pauses, then jokes: “Hey, what are you Nazis doing here? Fascists.” She replies, “Trying to talk to people.” She later wrote on Twitter: “We were having peaceful dialogue at first, dispelling with Nazi narrative. I could see peoples faces change & willing to listen. Then violent leftists showed up & BLM. All it takes is one person to scream Nazi & the rest follow without question. Zealot cult mentality. I went to #Berkeley to dispel with media narrative labeling ALL of us White supremacist Nazis & to accurately cover it. Can’t rely on media.” Hinojosa has posted online about subjects such as “the burden of illegal immigration” and criticisms she has with Islam.
As filmed by Hinojosa, her close friend Johnny Benitez got into a heated interaction with the crowd in Berkeley. Hinojosa has described Benitez as a Proud Boy who’s come to battle in Berkeley before. One crowd member called Benitez a “cocksucker,” and others chanted at him: “Go home Nazi scum.” Benitez, aka Juan Cadavid, has been profiled repeatedly in the OC Weekly. The paper has called him a “rising star in alt-right circles,” and reported in August that Orange County Republicans “barred him from representing the party” after seeing a video of Benitez talking about subjects “they deemed anti-Semitic.” On Twitter, Benitez has called for violence, including for “right wing death squads” against Mexicans. He has also spoken about “Jewish problems” and said Holocaust remembrance groups are anti-European. Hinojosa said police had to escort the pair out of Berkeley, though she said they were still left in an unsafe situation. She said she was struck in the wrist Sunday and her phone was hit out of her hand. Hinojosa said someone sprayed her legs twice with an unknown substance, and that, once she and her associates managed to reach their car, it was struck with a bat.
Jovi Val (Jovanni Valle)
Jovi Val, or Jovanni Valle, of New York City is a Proud Boy who was written about extensively online after reportedly being attacked in July following a Milo Yiannopoulos book party. According to a friend of his, writing on a fundraising website, “a liberal smashed a beer bottle over his face when Jovi asked the man’s girlfriend to stop stomping on his MAGA hat that fell on the floor.” He did an interview with Proud Boy Magazine about the experience, and now calls himself “Based Scarface.” As of Friday evening, he was still in San Francisco, according to his Facebook page. Earlier in the day, he wrote, “Good morning my fellow patriots! Should I stay in Cali and work on building my platform in Berkeley? #ScarsandStripes.” He recently called Colin Kaepernick “disgraceful” and criticized ESPN for reassigning sportscaster Robert Lee “just simply for his name.” In the same post, he described Palestinian-American political activist Linda Sarsour, co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March, as “Jihadist.” He has a Facebook live program where he discusses these and related issues.
Arthur Schaper, donning a “Make America Great Again” hat and wearing a banner in support of President Donald Trump as a cape, said Sunday his goal is to “take the Trump movement everywhere.” In response to a Berkeleyside tweet that included Schaper’s photograph, another rally attendee wrote, “this guy didn’t last long. I saw him running away at Center & MLK as he was chased out.” Wrote another, “Take it back where you came from, Arthur Schaper.” Schaper wrote his own account of being pepper-sprayed (allegedly by an “Antifa thug”), chased, surrounded and spat on in Berkeley on Sunday before eventually being escorted away, through the crowed that had cornered him, by a police officer.
According to an in-depth feature on him in the Los Angeles Times in June, Schaper is “so abrasive that the local Republican Party has disavowed him.” He was described at that time as “a 36-year-old unemployed Torrance resident and blogger” who “usually shows up at public meetings in his red Make America Great Again cap, wearing a Trump flag as a cape. He records his escapades on cellphone video, narrating in real time as he trolls in real life.” Schaper has been outspoken about illegal immigration and has received funding from an anti-LGBTQ group to help with his activism, according to the LA Times.
Berkeleyside saw Schaper being chased from the park, and posted video of it on Twitter.
Crowd just chased Trump supporter out of the park, tore sign, chanting "go home" pic.twitter.com/koWNCaPW2y— Berkeleyside (@berkeleyside) August 27, 2017
“The Battle of Berkeley, August 27, 2017 was no defeat, but a consummate victory for conservatives,” Schaper wrote Wednesday, in a piece on website Townhall entitled “I Survived Berkeley (And I Will Return).” He wrote, “The presence of peaceful Trump supporters compelled the liberal media to report our side fairly. The violence and destruction, as lamentable as it may have been, signaled that the corrupt, vile, immoral, secular forces which have sought to undermine our country are falling away.”
Ansen Hatcher, who identified himself to Berkeleyside as a North Carolina resident and former Marine, said that is one of the main reasons Trump supporters, free speech advocates and their allies came out to Berkeley on Sunday.
“I think they were getting tired of seeing the violence in the streets,” he said. “They wanted to show up and show the world that antifa and the alt-left in general — many of these alt-left groups are somewhat violent. They want to kind of shine that light in that direction.”
Hatcher, who described himself politically as an Independent and dropped several reference to Zen Buddhism and mindfulness during an interview with Berkeleyside, said he helped do some of the online organizing for last weekend’s events in the Bay Area. Hatcher said he was introduced to Cummings and Gibson by a “group of people” that he knows, and began to help them from afar. (He was not in Berkeley last weekend.) Hatcher would only describe the group as “a collection of people whom I was talking with,” and declined to name it — “just out of respect for them.”
Though few and far between, by all reports there were some Berkeleyans among the conservatives at Civic Center Park on Sunday. They included Berkeley High graduate Jourdin Davis and members of the UC Berkeley chapter of the College Republicans.
Chase, a UC Berkeley sophomore, in conversation at Civic Center Park #Berkeley pic.twitter.com/UoxAimPZYi— Berkeleyside (@berkeleyside) August 27, 2017
UC Berkeley students Ashton and Chase. "We believe in free speech." Civic Center Park. #Berkeley pic.twitter.com/JUg8Ito6pA— Berkeleyside (@berkeleyside) August 27, 2017
One bearded photographer, clutching his camera, was attacked and chased from the park into nearby Addison Street where counter-demonstrators struck him. His shirt was torn and he was knocked to the ground. At the same time, other members of the crowd surrounded the scene and shouted “no violence, no violence,” and “just get him out of here.”
Police swooped in from the east and escorted him out. By the end of the day, police said at least two people were taken to the hospital with injuries, while another four were injured but declined medical transport. Thirteen people were arrested, and charges have been filed in at least one case.
Kristopher Wyrick and Harlan Pankau
One of the people who was arrested was Kristopher Wyrick. He said he and a friend, Harlan Pankau (also arrested) were among a group of people who came to Berkeley from San Diego to “try to create dialogue and find common ground with other people” in the Bay Area. He said they often attend events or walk around carrying flags and wearing Trump gear. “The conversation comes to us,” he said. “I just want to be able to talk to people and communicate and I’m tired of not being able to do that. Nobody should be afraid to go speak their mind at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.”
Wyrick brought his wife and 17-year-old son with him to Berkeley. He said he was arrested after antifa and other members of the crowd surrounded his family and friends and began challenging and taunting them. He said he and his son got shoved from behind. So he put up his shoulders and pushed his way through the crowd so his group could escape. “It was getting really scary really quick,” he told Berkeleyside on Thursday. Wyrick was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully fighting or challenging someone to a fight in a public place, police said.
Wyrick, a 39-year-old mechanic from Alpine, California, said he’s a conservative, a Republican and a member of the NRA. But he said he has no issue with anyone of any race, religion or gender. Wyrick said he and his allies have nothing to do with white supremacy or racism, and are tired of being painted with that brush by people who want to silence them. He said he’s proud to be an American, and that anyone can be part of that movement. He said his group is “just a band of patriots” who wants to be able to have conversations with those with different views. “My umbrella is the American umbrella,” he said. “Color lines, I don’t see them.”
Footage of Wyrick went viral online earlier this year after he spoke out before the San Diego Board of Education about an anti-bullying program related to Islam. He said it should not be part of the curriculum because no religion should be promoted in schools — particularly as specific references to Christianity and Judaism have been scrubbed in recent decades. Wyrick said he hasn’t been charged with any crime since getting home, but that he is strongly considering whether to file a civil rights lawsuit against Berkeley officials and other politicians given what went down: “It was just crazy,” he said. “Nobody was there to help us.”
A number of other San Diego residents told Berkeleyside they also came to Berkeley to promote free speech and dialogue Sunday. One estimated dozens of people were part of the group.
Ryoga Vee: Not a Trump supporter, there for free speech
Ryoga Vee, writing about Sunday in Berkeley on Twitter, said, “Shit got bad. We had to get extracted out by the @Oathkeepers.” He was streaming live on Periscope for much of the day. Vee, who describes himself as mixed-race, is a Sunnyvale-based software tester who, according to Forbes and ESPN, has competed in four American Ninja Warrior challenges. (In 2012, he answered questions in a YouTube video about what that’s like.) Vee had been scheduled to talk Saturday at Gibson’s “Patriot Prayer” event in San Francisco, and later posted a transcript of his remarks on his Twitter feed. Vee describes himself in those remarks as a liberal and said the goal of the Saturday event was primarily to speak out against censorship. He wrote that he’s not a Trump supporter, but began showing up to political events after seeing “the savage acts of violence done to peaceful Trump supporters in San Jose, CA last year. There were no Nazi flags or KKK hoods at that gathering — just a bunch of mostly elderly men and women who were attacked and beaten in the streets while the police stood by.” Vee also took to Reddit to spread his message this past week, and wrote that he and all of Saturday’s other speakers were “a mix African American, Hispanic, transgender and Japanese and Samoan.” Vee (Bio: “A Parkouring Ninja Free Running MMA, Antifa fighting Superhero! I’m a geek who loves to nerd out, jump things and punch people in the face”) wrote on Twitter that, “Whatever you think about me, I’m clearly not a #Nazi or supporter #Fascism. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just ignorant. #PatriotPrayer.”
Vincent James and The Red Elephants
Also in attendance Sunday, and documenting events, was Red Elephants live-streamer and founder Vincent James. Red Elephants describes itself as a “Conservative group sick and tired of political correctness metastasizing in society and destroying every facet of original humanity we have left.” The “organization of like-minded conservatives” is made up of members who espouse “the liberties, freedoms and constitutional rights of the American people.” The group has a robust presence online, including nearly 200,000 followers on Facebook and 26,000 followers on YouTube. Read more background on the Elephants in a recent OC Weekly feature, which says, “The collective’s main claim to fame is livestreams of events that are transformed into glitch-heavy videos that depict the Left as the sole aggressors in political clashes, which, for Red Elephants, justifies the violent reactions of the alt-right.”
James interviewed a Hispanic father and son who said they were beat up by antifa; the son said he had been wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat when the assault happened. (Update, Sept. 6: Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer posted video that appears to show the young man wielding pepper spray after a crowd had already begun to curse at and chase him and his father from the area. The beginning of the interaction is not shown in the video.)
James and two others also posted video of themselves driving on Sunday expressing disgust about how the day had gone. The segment in the car was part of a 2.5-hour livestream posted on The Red Elephants account. A Twitter user identified only as “Kherman112” said he excerpted video of the drive. It has since been shared extensively on social media and has been viewed thousands of times. Kjerman112 said he works with a group called “Project Exile” to “defend these cities that are under attack by AltRight groups.”
In the video, one of the young men urges listeners to get armed and form militias. He also expresses empathy for the white supremacist charged with killing activist Heyer in Charlottesville when he drove into a crowd. The website deathandtaxesmag.com identified the speaker as Nick Ryan.
“No amount of love or diplomacy is going to stop the Marxist scourge,” says Ryan, in the brief video. “There needs to be a fucking war and these people need to be fucking destroyed.”
Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for continuing coverage.