Nothing beats the radical Right when it comes to internecine warfare.
With membership and participation in decline, Joey Gibson’s far-right Patriot Prayer organization—the allies of street-brawling Proud Boys in an ongoing series of right-wing, pro-Trump protests in the Pacific Northwest’s urban centers, especially Portland and Seattle—has devolved in recent weeks into a cesspit of internal squabbling, accompanied by fever-pitched talk of committing violence, some of it directed at each other. It’s bubbled up in recent weeks in threats directed particularly at Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who is blamed by the region’s far Right in all of their complaints about the city (where few of them actually live). Reggie Axtell, who is a leader in both Patriot Prayer and the regional Proud Boys chapter, posted a hateful video rant on Facebook in January directed at the mayor: “I promise you this, Ted Wheeler: I’m coming for you, you little punk. And all your little antifa bastards. I’m coming for you fuckers, too!”
The frequent street rallies organized by Patriot Prayer the past couple of years seem to have fallen into disarray, so Gibson and Axtell have come up with a fresh strategy for attacking antifascists in downtown Portland: “demasking” their street-fighting opponents and posting the results on social media.
For the moment, however, those plans may have been derailed by the fissure within the ranks of Patriot Prayer, leading one of Gibson’s top lieutenants and biggest brawlers—a hulking Samoan named Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who has been a bloody fixture at most Patriot Prayer rallies—to announce that he was no longer associated with the group. Instead, he was embracing the regional Proud Boys organization—who in fact had come to dominate the scene at Patriot Prayer events, both in raw numbers and in the intended violence that occurred around them.
What appears to have happened is that Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys have disassociated from each other. In the wake of the break, the “Patriots” have posted menacing videos threatening actual violence against their former comrades-in-arms.
The aggressive tactics, as It’s Going Down reported, included a number of seemingly spontaneous street confrontations, including an incident in which Haley Adams stalked a group of Martin Luther King Day marchers.
This cluster of far-right activists, mostly based in the exurban and suburban areas around Vancouver, WA, which sits across the Columbia River from Portland, have been ratcheting up the violence inherent in their rhetoric for the past year. Even before the June 30, 2018, event that turned into a riot, Patriot Prayer had been vowing to “cleanse” the streets of Portland.
Joey Gibson and “Tiny” Toese both sported “Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong” shirts sold by the Proud Boys, featuring graphics showing people being pitched out of helicopters, at events this summer and fall. And both talked increasingly about the need to “step things up.”
In an October video he made with a YouTube QAnon conspiracy theorist named Tiny Mercado, Toese brandishes his fist and promises “antifa” that they will learn “the hard way” if they keep fighting him.
Mercado shouts: “We have guns, niggas! We will never, we will never submit to you motherfuckers. We will never submit to you. You all gonna get hurt.” Toese mentions that “they’re threatening me with five years”—an apparent reference to an ongoing investigation by Portland police into his activities, which have included a number of assaults at various venues—and promises: “I ain’t goin’ down.”
Mercado continues ranting about “antifa”: “Imma tell you right now, soon as you see them in the hood, that’s it! It’s over for them! … Kill them! If we don’t kill them, they’re going to kill us!”
Another social-media video posted in October by Axtell is filled with similarly murderous intent, voiced by an anonymous off-camera “Steve,” while Axtell counsels against murdering antifascists.
“Yeah, but killing ‘em ain’t the fucking point, dude,” Axtell says at one point.
“Well, you ain’t gotta kill all of ‘em,” replies Steve.
“What, you’re just gonna kill a couple of ‘em? That’s it?”
“That’s it. They will get the point.”
“Well, how many of them do you think you need to kill before they get the point?”
“Ohhhhh… a hundred seventy-five.”
“You’re gonna kill 175 …”
“Well, not me myself.”
Another couple of Patriot Prayer and Proud Boy stalwarts, Russell Schultz and Haley Adams, posted a video in November boasting that Schultz had nearly run over an antifascist protester while leaving a Portland parking garage. A few weeks later, Schultz talked further about running people over in a December video in which he announced his intent to kill any antifascist who flings human waste at him. “At the last rally, I nearly ran you over with a car, and I don’t feel bad about it one bit. You’re lucky I didn’t kill you, because I wouldn’t feel any remorse,” he said, warning them against flinging feces at him: “I am going to shoot you. And here’s what the best part of the odds is. I still have a chance to fight for my freedom in court. You don’t have a chance to fight for your freedom, ‘cause you’re fucking dead.
“See? See? I’m gonna shoot you in your head or your chest. You are not going to survive. I will survive and take my chances in court.”
One of Patriot Prayer’s younger recruits, a man named Skylor Jernigan, chimed in with a social-media video making similar promises, though this time harkening to the lethal attacks on a Portland commuter train in 2017 by a man named Jeremy Christian, who had also attended Patriot Prayer rallies. “I’m fuckin’ tired of it,” he said. “You’re really gonna be gettin’ it, OK? You’re gonna be getting knives put into your throat, you’re gonna be getting bullets put into your head if you don’t stop this shit with us. OK?”
Gibson claimed the “increase in aggressive tactics” was necessary, but he insists that somehow the “demasking” will be “nonviolent.” He told Guardian reporter Jason Wilson that his plan meant that activists would forcibly remove the masks: “We’re gonna take them off.”
The escalation included bringing cadres of “Patriots” to the International Workers of the World offices in Portland on two occasions: first, on Jan. 17, when Toese and Adams led an attempt to interrupt a meeting of Democratic Socialists of America, which mostly devolved into shouting; and second, on Jan. 19, when Gibson led about 30 members of his groups to the same building and attempted to create a confrontation.
In the meantime, Toese went on a far-right podcast and explained that he didn’t really have any problems with white supremacists. “I don’t give a fuck if real racists come to the rallies, real alt-right,” he said. “We’ve been trying to beat these people up for a long time, it ain’t gonna work. The only thing that we can do to solve this whole fucking problem with Nazis and all this shit is to have a civil conversation. And both sides understanding what the other side wants.”
It’s not clear what precipitated Toese’s falling-out with Patriot Prayer, but it appears to revolve around Haley Adams, who has been an increasingly visible presence at the organization’s events over the past year. Social-media conversations suggest that Adams may have been planning to “dox” some of the Proud Boy participants, which led Toese, who’s become increasingly loyal to the Proud Boys over the same period, to denounce Adams. According to one account, Adams has actually been denounced by Proud Boys’ “elders.”
In response, Adams’ most fervent defenders in Patriot Prayer—namely Reggie Axtell and Russell Schultz—have taken to social media to make the split with Proud Boys clear and unequivocal. “Haley Adams has my full approval to say whatever she wants to say,” Schultz said in his video. “If the Proud Boys want to attack her, that just tells me they are getting triggered and beat by a little girl.”
Calling the Proud Boys “beta,” Schultz went on to promise he will “kill” any Proud Boys who want to fight him over the dispute. “This shit cannot happen,” he said. “You are a psycho, you need to get out of the fucking movement. If you’re afraid of being doxxed, get out of the fucking movement, you don’t need to be here, you’re a cancer. You have a problem with me, want to come at me, I’m gonna fucking waste you. You have no chance against me. I may even come looking for you one day.”
Joey Gibson, who has been touring the state to promote the idea of individual counties declaring themselves “gun sanctuaries” free of the strictures of recently enacted gun-safety legislation, has been conspicuously absent from the discussion. However, Axtell claimed in a Facebook comment that Gibson had told him he stood with the people running the organization he founded.
But then, it was only last May Day that Gibson vowed eternal fealty to the Proud Boys, too.