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Sep 23, 2017

Street fight: A new wave of political violence

Co-produced with PRX Logo

On this episode of Reveal, you can text us to get something extra while you listen.

Here’s how it works. During the show, Al will tell you when to text us to see some of the things you’re hearing about. It might be photos of people in the story or a link to a video.

To try it out, press the listen button above and text “video” to 202-873-8325.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, Americans have increasingly turned to the streets to share opinions about the president and his policies. These tensions reached a boiling point last month as violent confrontations rocked Charlottesville, Virginia. There were more clashes weeks later in Berkeley, California, when members of the anti-fascist movement, or antifa, attacked several right-wing activists.

A team of our reporters was on the ground covering the event – literally on the ground, in host Al Letson’s case: Witnessing one such attack, he dove on top of a far-right activist to shield him from blows.

Who, exactly, was to blame? The activists on the left claimed their actions were appropriate retaliation for the death of Heather Heyer, allegedly murdered weeks earlier by a white supremacist in Charlottesville. Meanwhile, the right said that antifa activists aren’t fighting fascism; they’re militant thugs whose main goal is stifling free speech.

This week, we’re peeling back the curtain on a new era of ideological clashes around the country. With Berkeley as our focus, we investigate the claims, rationales and actions on both sides – and what’s next.

Dig Deeper

  • Read: Antifa has a rapid response team that targets alt-right organizers
  • Read: Charlottesville underscores how homegrown hate is going unchecked

Credits

Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal's radio stories is the audio.

 

 

  Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 - 00:10:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Al Letson: Hey folks, this is Al Letson and before we get started I wanted to tell you about something we're doing on today's show that will give you something extra while you're listening. That's right. Extra Al Letson, just for you. So, here's how it works. During the show, I'll give you shout outs so you can text us to see some stuff you're hearing about. It might be photos od the people in the story or a link to a video. You get the idea. Okay? Let's try it out. Get your phone out, I'll wait. Waiting for. Waiting for. And here we go. Text the word video to this number 202-873-8325. Again, that's video. Text it to 202-873-8325. Once you do that, you'll see a video with yours truly that kind of went viral and captures the scene that we talk about throughout the show. You don't wanna miss it. Seriously. That's video, 202-873-8325.
From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson.
A few weeks ago, I was covering protest in Downtown Berkeley.
Protesters: No KKK, no fascist USA.
Al Letson: Thousands of people marching through the streets to demonstrate against the planned right-wing rally. It was a beautiful day, the sky was clear, kids with signs walking next to their parents, protesters dancing and saying when on impromptu stage. It felt like a typical Berkeley protest. Pretty peaceful, until it wasn't.
Protesters: Nazis out of Berkeley. Nazis out of Berkeley.
Speaker 3: It's all good.
Protesters: Nazis out of Berkeley. Nazis out of Berkeley.
Speaker 3: I'm here in peace.
Protesters: Nazis out of Berkeley.
Speaker 3: I'm here in peace.
Protesters: You came to Berkeley to get all this attention but the people ain't gonna allow you to have it. You guys ain't worth-
Al Letson: I was following a crowd of people who were yelling at some right-wing activists and chasing them away. Now, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a middle-aged man with a video-camera being attacked.
Protesters: Hey, hey, hey. Asshole.
Al Letson: Stop. Stop. Stop.
Speaker 4: The first blow hit me on the head and then it clicked, it's like, "Oh no, this is not gonna be good." I remember getting hit a couple more times in the head and people forcing me down, and then it was like ... I just remember feeling the impact.
Al Letson: Five people dressed in black with masks on their faces brutally beat the man to the ground. They kicked, punched and hit them with poles while he laid there in the fetal position.
Speaker 4: I realized that I was in serious trouble but, I think even as they were pummeling me and I was going down ... it was going through my head, it's like, "I can't believe this is actually happening to me." I mean, I knew there was a risk ...
Al Letson: All of this happened so quickly. I didn't know who he was, what he'd done or why they jumped him, but in that moment I thought, "They're going to kill him."
Speaker 4: Yeah, I was feeling everything and I thought, "This is it. I'm gonna die." It's like, they don't seem to be worrying to light up and nobody's around. Then I think I started a quick prayer. I thought, "I hope this is quick this really hurts, I don't want this to go on another five minutes."
Al Letson: Stop. Stop.
Al Letson: When I saw what was happening, I did something kind of crazy. I didn't really think about it, I just reacted. I ran over to help him. I pushed someone out of the way and dropped on top of the man, shielding him with my body. Time seemed to slow in that moment. I braced myself for a beating that never came. Others came over to break up the fight, the mob moved on. After that, I don't remember what happened but other reporters were rolling video and the scene of me, a black journalist, protecting a white, right-wing activist, went viral. When it was over, I was sitting on the curb of the street, adrenaline pumping through my blood, flog from a smoke grenade clouding my eyes, a crowd moving around me, and I wondered, how did we get here?
Today, we're going to peel back the layers and find out why all these people converged at that one moment, at one rally, at one fight in Berkeley, and see how it connects to protests all over America. We're gonna do it, through the people who were involved in that fight. From the man who planned a right-wing rally that weekend.
Speaker 6: I'm pretty happy about the weekend went. It was pretty successful in terms of our goals.
Al Letson: To the man I protected from that attack.
Speaker 4: I just, I couldn't believe it, you know? You didn't know who I was, you know, for all I knew you might have figured out I was a Nazi.
Al Letson: To one of the guys in the crew that carried out the attack. He tells me that beat down was anything but random.
Speaker 7: Number one, his name is Keith Campbell, the man that you jumped on and saved, and he owes you a lot. He should be paying you a lot of money because he got off with a lot less than he deserves.
Al Letson: What does he mean by that? I'm gonna talk to him in a minute, but first I wanted to bring in Reveal's, Will Carless, who's being reporting on the rise of right-wing groups and the Antifascist, or Antifa, movement that has emerged to confront them. And Will, let's start with the man who said that he helped plan the beating at the rally. He says he's a member of Antifa and you'd actually been interviewing him for weeks before the rally, so tell me. Who is he?
Will Carless: Well, we don't really know exactly who he is. He won't give us his name. We only know him by Dominick, but he's an activist from the Bay Area, he lives in Oakland, he says he's been fighting Nazis for 20 years. He used to be in a group called the Anti-racist Action. He identifies as an anarchist and he's essentially a member of the militant wing of the Bay Area Antifa, which has been building up over the last year or so.
Al Letson: There's been a lot of talk about Antifa recently in the media. President Trump has called them out. Now that's quite a change for a small band of anarchists.
Will Carless: That's right. And what we've seen is Antifa really grow over the last year or so, but this is a movement that stretches right the way back to the 1920s and 1930s in Europe and that largely arrived in the US in about the late 1980s, and that's actually when Dominick got his start.
They started by outing neo-Nazis, mainly in the punk music scene, also going to music clubs, where racist bands wanted to play and exposing them to them. What this group has kind of turned into these days is a collection of ... most of them are anarchists, and they're all about shutting down hate speech. Their idea is that hate speech is not free speech. And so, if people want to come and be racist, and say racists things, and hurtful things, then they see their role as going in and shutting those people down, and not letting them into that community.
Al Letson: I think for a long time more mainstream progressives kept people like Dominic at arms-length, but as you and I saw at the Berkeley rally, something is definitely changed.
Will Carless: Yeah, you're right. I think the violence of the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville. And remember, that was just two weeks earlier. And specially the death of Heather Heyer, that had really changed the view towards Antifa, and that was most evident, I think, in the moment in Berkeley when the more militant protesters joined the main crowd. So you had this very diverse crowd of protesters, from young people to older people, to more moderate groups. And then, I actually got a message from Dominick and he says, "We're coming around the corner," and here they come. And there's about 200 of them marching in what they call a Black Bloc formation, which is these people dressed head to toe in black, marching in a very tight unit, banging on that shield. The main protesters were not scared of these guys. They were welcoming, they high-fived them, they were shouting, "Give it up for the Black Bloc." Like, "Here come these people." And the idea was that they were there to protect them, to provide security.
Speaker 9: This is a coordinated thing, folks. Just hang with this. We are unified in our politics of antifascism confronting white supremacy. Welcome Black Bloc.
Protesters: [inaudible 00:08:37]
Al Letson: It turns out, that Dominic and his crew weren't just there to provide defense. They also planned to go on the offensive. They had a hit list of several right-wing activists. We have a copy of that hit list. It's a colored flyer with the headline Know Your Nazi. To check it out, text hit list to that number we gave you before. In case you missed it, it's 202-873-8325. If any of those people showed up, Dominic was prepared to go after them. Couple days after the rally, we asked Dominic to come into the studio. He showed up and I have to admit he's a pretty intimidating dude. He's in great shape, his body is built like a boxer. And he eats like one too.
Dominic: Yeah, hard-boiled eggs, tuna fish, crackers, protein bars, oranges, muscle milk.
Al Letson: [inaudible 00:09:28]
Dominic: As much protein as I can get.
Al Letson: Dominic says they extricated three people the day of the protest, meaning they physically removed them. He was still pretty mad at me for stepping in and protecting Keith Campbell. He says they were targeting Keith for a reason.
Dominic: Really, I felt like you were standing in the way of a community response. They came for a fight. The community through their representatives and all these organizations mandated us to be the security for that, and to protect them, to be the first line of defense and also to extricate those that would be, wish to do them harm or-

 

  Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 - 00:10:04]
  Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 - 00:20:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Dominic: Also, to extricate those that would wish to do them harm, or to cause a scene, or to rile them up. There is no regrets. We have no regrets. The only regret I have is that I didn't pull you off so we could finish on him. I say that in the hopes that when he gets up, if whatever damage it is, or if he has to go to the hospital, that maybe he'll reevaluate what he's dedicated his life to as a 50-some year old man. Maybe he'll say, "Is this worth it to me? This movement that ... Am I willing to give my bones and my life to a movement that these people are calling a fascist movement?" I'm willing to give my life for the anti-fascist movement. Is he willing to give his for the fascist one?

 

Speaker 2: I was at the rally and I would say there were several Trump supporters here and there. You're talking about three individuals, so it's like 200 of you against three. That seemed like really unequal lots.

 

Dominic: The reason why the violence was only those three incidents was because there was overwhelming numbers. If there were overwhelming numbers in Charlottesville, maybe Heather Heyer would still be alive today. We don't know.

 

Speaker 2: The question that I have for you, is what does defense mean to you? Because defense, to me, means that you are standing in the perimeter and you are protecting people behind you, but if a guy is there with a camera and he doesn't have a weapon, running after and chasing him seems like offense to me.

 

Dominic: Sure, absolutely. When we say community self-defense, it's not just when the KKK rides into town with torches. That's when we organize and come together to respond. We respond beforehand and we organize beforehand. That means people that are known fascists, or known to attack us, or organize these fascist rallies that have led to people being murdered. The point is, is that you've got people in that movement around the periphery that are disaffected white men, or don't have a job, and need someone to blame. Just like people needed someone to blame in the 30s in Germany. I'm saying if this man, specifically Keith Campbell, now goes and kills someone, you have to live with that.

 

Speaker 2: I don't have to live with that, because I'm not the person behind him pulling the gun. You're saying that your defensive stance also includes offense, because it would have to be if that guy did not have a weapon, was not coming to attack you, all he was using was words, and you're saying that the way you defend your community is you go after and you get him. Because the path that he's taking could leads towards violence in the future, or the path that he's taking has had violence in the past. Either way, you feel like your defensive stance is to go out and get him if he's in your vicinity.

 

Dominic: I'm saying we use his own words directly, which he refers to, "I want to whoop their ass." He references knives. He openly communicates with white-

 

Speaker 2: He didn't have any of that, so-

 

Dominic: We're going to wait for him to have it?

 

Speaker 2: [crosstalk 00:12:53] I don't know. That's the question I'm asking you.

 

Dominic: I'm saying, no. I'm saying we break his legs now, so that then maybe he'll consider the next time if it's worth it to him.

 

Speaker 2: Do you think that that deterrence is actually going to stop them though?

 

Dominic: No, no I don't. I think what's going to stop them is what really happened and what should be the headlines of all the newspapers, was that such a broad coalition of people came out to stand up against white supremacy and say that in this day and age we stand up to people that espouse those ideologies.

 

Speaker 2: Here's the thing, here's the thing. You just said that you don't think that the deterrence is actually going to work. What's going to work is people gathering together, right? If that is what's working, then how is the violence working? Because you're saying that you're going to break his legs hoping that it's a deterrent, but then when I asked you, you said, "No, that's not the deterrent. The people are the deterrent." If the violence isn't the actual deterrence, but the people is, why not concentrate on peacefully gathering everybody together and showing that strength?

 

Dominic: Yeah, I should've made it more clear. Violence is absolutely the last line of defense. That's the last thing that we ever want to do and that's what I've been trying to say, is that the organizing has been done and gone into that. That coalition building, that is the nonviolence. The fact that we had to extricate three people, that's just one aspect of what's more important, which was the coalition and these groups that came together that haven't been able to work together for years.

 

Speaker 2: Do you feel like your movement is a revolution?

 

Dominic: I'm a revolutionary and I believe we absolutely need a revolutionary movement to actually get rid of institutional racism.

 

Speaker 2: At its root, a revolution and a revolutionary is a dream for what's possible, right? You have a dream, you have an idea. What is your dream?

 

Dominic: That we have a society that is communal, that there's a free association that is non-hierarchical, that doesn't have classes, that doesn't have one class of people lording over another, that isn't discriminatory based on sexual orientation, or color, or any of those other things. All that peace and hippie crap of egalitarianism and communal, non-hierarchical structures.

 

Speaker 2: You think that peace and hippie crap is going to happen through violence?

 

Dominic: No, I think that's a component of a winning strategy. The winning strategy is the coalition and that's what we've built and that's our strategy. Those that don't agree with it, don't have to participate. If the movement's really going to crush this new fascist era, it's going to be done by the coalition that was created. It's going to happen from the community building and recognizing that we're not just crazy anarchists that want to do property destruction, or want environments just to ... A mob mentality just to beat people up. Keith Campbell was targeted. Those people were targeted. What I saw when I saw him, is I saw that image of that car plowing through those people. When I saw Keith Campbell that day, all I could think of was that car plowing into those people in Charlottesville.

 

Speaker 2: Again, that was [Dominic 00:16:13]. He's a member of Antifa. He won't share his name with us not because he's ashamed of what he believes in, but because he doesn't want to get arrested. He wasn't the only one at the rally thinking about Charlottesville.

 

Mike McBride: I think for many of us, it was a heightened sense that, "Wow, these folks are very serious about causing harm."

 

Speaker 2: Mike McBride is a Pastor at the Way Church in Berkeley. He spoke at the rally from the back of a flatbed truck. He says, "On that day, social media was buzzing with rants from white supremacists threatening violence." He told his parishioners to be on guard.

 

Mike McBride: We told them, "You cannot walk through your own city by yourself at all today," because online there were people that were saying they were coming to stab and hurt people.

 

Speaker 2: Pastor Mike showed us a video he found on Twitter. Three 20-something white guys are driving around downtown Berkeley. It's just after the rally and they're furious that their side got crushed.

 

Speaker 4: All I could think of was, "There needs to be a fucking war [crosstalk 00:17:13] and these people need to be fucking destroyed."

 

Speaker 5: We need to form militias guys to carry guns so that ... Days like these make me so sympathetic to that guy who drove that Dodge truck into that crowd.

 

Speaker 2: It's kind of hard to make out, but one of the guys is expressing sympathy for James Fields, the man police say drove a car into protestors in Charlottesville killing Heather Heyer. We confirmed the video is real and the guys in it were at the rally. Now Pastor Mike says, "It's that kind of rhetoric that's getting people to rally around Antifa." He says, "In the past, that he was uncomfortable with Antifa's tactics, like trashing store windows and attacking police, but it's different when white supremacists are coming into your neighborhood and you don't trust that the cops will protect you."

 

Mike McBride: We literally have 200 years of organized white supremacists who have done harm to our communities and folks don't feel like their public presence requires some surveillance, or tracking, or following these people.

 

Speaker 2: We have some great photos from the Berkeley protests. They show how things went from peaceful to violent. To see them, text "Rally," to that same number. We saw where Antifa and their supporters are coming from, but what about their right-wing opponents? When we come back we'll hear from the people who organized the rally in Charlottesville.

 

Speaker 6: Honestly, going to MSNBC and them interviewing you and you saying, "Yeah, I actually think that we should kill every non-white on the planet," even if it's your true belief, that's not the objective of this rally.

 

Speaker 2: That's next on Reveal for the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Hey everybody, as you can tell today's show is really personal for me. After I got involved in the attack, I wanted to root out what was going on in all these political protests and what it says about America. Now, I'm going to bring that story to the stage in our first ever Reveal Live show. We'll bring you the story of what happened and how all of the people you're hearing in today's episode ended up colliding in Berkeley. The event will be on November 1st in Chicago as part of a partnership with WBEZ and Third Coast.

 

Tickets are limited, but you can get yours now by going to RevealNews.org/live. Again, that's RevealNews.org/live. Hope to see you there. Hey, while I have you, I wanted to take a minute to tell you about another podcast that I love. It's called, Sidedoor. Sidedoor is a podcast that ventures behind the scenes of the Smithsonian. It tells stories about everything from solving a murder mystery 150 years in the making, to an astronomer who transforms the night sky into a musical instrument. New episodes are released every other Wednesday.

 

  Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 - 00:20:04]
  Section 3 of 5          [00:20:00 - 00:30:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Speaker 1: To a musical instrument. New episodes are released every other Wednesday. Check it out on Apple Podcasts, radio public, or wherever you listen. And now, back to the show.

 

Al Letson: From the center for Investigative Reporting in PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. We started today's show looking at a single protest in the Bay area, because it's a microcosm of ideological clashes happening around the country. What's helping bring these people together is social media. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other platforms.

 

Now, in the days before the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, this is what you could hear on Discord.

 

Speaker 3: Were going to have all white people, we're going to have [inaudible 00:20:42], we're going to have, you know, tons of different types of people, every source of flavor of Alt-right.

 

Al Letson: It's an online platform, originally created for gamers to talk and text with each other. Unite the Right organizers planned Charlottesville on Discord. Reveal's Aaron Sankin got copies of the audio and text files from those online sessions from a media outlet called, Unicorn Riot.

 

Aaron Sankin: On Discord there was a server called Charlottesville 2.0 which was used by the organizers and participants in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville to communicate.

 

Al Letson: So from what you saw, what would you say the goals of the rallies organizers were?

 

Aaron Sankin: In those logs, there was the audio of a conference call on the platform that was hosted by a gentleman named, [Eli Mosley 00:21:26].

 

Eli Mosley: I'm going to give everyone a couple minutes to essentially get that open.

 

Aaron Sankin: [crosstalk 00:21:31] Mosley played a lead role in organizing this event and was recently named as the new leader of a fairly prominent, white nationalist group called, Identity Europa. And in the call, you can hear Mosley very directly talking about his goals for the effort.

 

Eli Mosley: The purpose of this is to gain sympathy for, you know, pro-right advocacy, so the idea of like basically being edgy for edgy's sake is just not something that you need to do. Honestly, like going up to like MSNCB and then them interviewing you and you saying something is like, "Yeah I actually think that we should kill every non-white on the planet," like I again, I don't necessarily like you know have an issue with listening to that on a Podcast, or whatever, but if you are going to do something like that, like just, let's say, like even if it's your true belief, like that's not the objective of this rally.

 

Aaron Sankin: What they wanted to do here was advocate for a narrative that portrayed their cause in a flattering light. But you know in this case, that cause was white supremacy.

 

Al Letson: How did they think they could re-brand white supremacy into something more palatable to the mainstream?

 

Aaron Sankin: They expended a lot of effort making sure that they were putting on a really positive face for the cameras. Organizers said that KKK members would be turned away at the door if they showed up in their robe, their full robe, and white hoods. They didn't say that KKK members were not welcome, but they did say, they should not be wearing those obvious signs of the Klan.

 

The second strategy, and I think this one is really crucial, was that they really wanted to draw a contrast between themselves and the counter protestors. They were really obsessed with Antifa. The word Antifa appeared in these chat logs, just over 700 times. And that's about the same frequency as the word white appeared. So they talked about Antifa constantly.

 

And they believe if Antifa responded to their peaceful protest with violence, the public looking on from the sidelines would naturally see them as the more reasonable party.

 

Al Letson: At the August Charlottesville rally where things did get out of control, they were chanting, "blood and soil," and "you will not replace us."

 

Speaker 6: "You will not replace us. You will not replace us. You will not replace us."

 

Al Letson: [crosstalk 00:23:49] How does that mesh with the idea of them trying to play their white nationalism low key?

 

Aaron Sankin: There was a sensor in the top that they were really trying to push this friendly face onto this ideology, but at the same time, like, when you get all of these people there and they get all riled up and they get all excited, it's really hard for them to keep some of those more controversial elements of their ideology obscured.

 

Speaker 6: "Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil."

 

Aaron Sankin: [crosstalk 00:24:17] You could see that on the chat, which was still going throughout the rally. You would see people talking about like, just expressing disappointment that there were Nazi flags and Roman salutes.

 

Al Letson: If they were so concerned about being named as responsible for violence, how did they react when one of the participants drove a car through a crowd of counter protestors?

 

Aaron Sankin: People immediately started making jokes and turning the attack into memes that were mocking the people who were injured or killed. But the car attack meant that this entire event was a failure. They really wanted to be seen as the good guys here, and since the information about Fields came out pretty quickly, that he had Nazi sympathies and was a Trump supporter, you know, it's very hard to be seen as the good guys when your side is murdering innocent people.

 

Al Letson: How does all of this connect to what we saw in the Bay area protests a couple weeks later?

 

Aaron Sankin: The main through-line connecting what happened in Charlottesville and what happened in the Bay area, at least to my eyes, is this concept of provocation. Their goal was to get a lot of counter protestors out there and hopefully those counter protestors would you know embarrass themselves in the light of, to the public at large, just by throwing punches and fighting and looking unhinged.

 

Al Letson: That's Reveal's Aaron Sankin. I want to bring [Will Carlos 00:25:54] back into the conversation. Now, Will, we're going to hear from the guy who organized one of the right wing rallies in the Bay area that weekend. Tell me about him.

 

Will Carlos: Yeah his name is Joey Gibson and he lives in Vancouver, Washington. And he's really hard to categorize. He identifies as a Japanese American, he says he's just a free speech advocate, and he founded a group called, Patriot Prayer, which has been organizing rallies mainly on the West Coast, but in other places, too. These rallies have often gotten violent, they sometimes have white supremacists and other racists showing up, so he's kind of gotten in with a bad crowd, although he says he's not a white supremacist himself.

 

He's got a background of being, I guess he's an agitator. I mean, he gets out there, and he kind of gets in people's faces and pokes them with a stick. And that's exactly what he was trying to do in San Francisco.

 

Al Letson: Yeah, Will, you also found out that Joey was one of the people on that Antifa hit list we heard about earlier. Now, I was there when Joey showed up at the rally in Berkeley.

 

Speaker 6: "[inaudible 00:26:56]."

 

Al Letson: He's a 33 year old guy, with a shaved head, and a trimmed beard. He says he went there holding up his hands to show he didn't want trouble. But to me, his body language was really aggressive. And it seemed like he was trying to rile up the left wing protestors and get them to come after him, and that's exactly what happened.

 

People started chasing him, someone pepper sprayed him. He did eventually make it to a line of police officers for safety. Now I spoke to him about that recently, and asked him what was going through his mind at that time.

 

Joey Gibson: I was scared, I was extremely afraid. You know what I mean, I knew we were going to take a beating.

 

Al Letson: Why would you go over there if you knew you were going to get beat? I can't understand that unless you specifically wanted to get beat.

 

Joey Gibson: It was to expose them for who they are.

 

Al Letson: So your job, then, was to get them to take the bait and go after you?

 

Joey Gibson: They could've made the right decision and not attack us, but yeah it was ... we left it up to them.

 

Al Letson: So you want them to look bad, that's your goal?

 

Joey Gibson: I want them to look how they really are, how they really feel on the inside. This is America. We have that right to be able to walk in there, especially with our hands up, and to not get assaulted.

 

Al Letson: You know we have a reporter here that's been doing some looking into all of this stuff with the far right and so forth, his name is Aaron Sankin. And he has a story about Charlottesville that the Unite the Right organizer, Jason Kessler urged people to help bait Antifa into attacking the Proud Boys. How is that different from you trying to bait Antifa?

 

Joey Gibson: You have to understand, Unite the Right is a justification to team up with extremists. That's totally different from what I'm doing. I'm trying to help justify people for moderates to come together.

 

Al Letson: But Joey, you're using the exact same tactics as the white supremacists are using, because they want to make Antifa look bad and you want to make Antifa look bad.

 

Joey Gibson: Was that wrong of me though? To want to make Antifa look bad? But not look bad in a way where it's a lie. I just want them to be exposed.

 

Al Letson: Do you think Antifa is as bad as white supremacists?

 

Joey Gibson: Yes. Not as a whole, but you can't fight hate with hate. You can't do it. And so when you have a bunch of hateful people, white supremacists, Antifa, they're extremists and they're just as bad and they're ... I think they're just as much of a treat to this nation.

 

Al Letson: If you look at the numbers of fatalities within this country, white supremacists by far have killed way more people than anybody in Antifa has. Like I don't think Antifa has a number killed-

 

Joey Gibson: Why does it have to be one or the other? Aren't they both bad?

 

Al Letson: Do you think it's shocking that people come out to oppose Nazis and white supremacists? Being a Nazi used to be a bad thing that everybody could agree on, like it's bad.

 

Joey Gibson: Yeah, oppose them. But people are using that, they're using that term Nazi so much, that they're diluting and you know what I mean, that's the biggest problem. Go fight Nazis, fight real Nazis, fight racists, white supremacists, whatever. Go do your thing. But stop labeling everyone as white supremacists. Stop labeling everyone as Nazis. Like, it's crazy. It's insane right now.

 

Al Letson: But the problem is that so many people-

 

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Joey Gibson: [inaudible 00:30:00] right now.

 

Al Letson: Butt the problem is that so many people on the far-right are associating with people who are Nazis. People who are against gays, who are against Muslims, who are against Jews, who are against African Americans. So, it's really hard to say that, you know, I'm going to march with this far-right group that believe all these things, and think that people aren't going to lump you in with those individuals.

 

Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:30:27] day to warn you. That's what real love is-

 

Al Letson: We have video footage of you at a rally in Oregon where I guess you're doing security for these preachers-

 

Speaker 3: For your sins. Your sin of homosexuality, your sin of being a transgender.

 

Al Letson: Who are screaming at people about how they're going to go to hell because there gay.

 

Joey Gibson: Yeah. And that was wrong, I shouldn't have done that. Because that, not only do I not believe that, I don't believe gay people are less loved by God than straight people.

 

Al Letson: So why'd you do it?

 

Joey Gibson: Because they had done, okay, I'll tell you why I did it. Here's what my justification was. So, they had been there for me in the past in terms of trying to keep me safe in some really scary situations. And it was like a free speech thing.

 

Al Letson: Do you understand how seeing a video like that could shape an opinion about who you are?

 

Joey Gibson: Absolutely. One hundred percent.

 

Al Letson: Let me ask you this. If I was to hold a rally in downtown Berkeley I would not be attracting white supremacists to come to my rally.

 

Joey Gibson: How do you know that?

 

Al Letson: Because I don't align with white supremacists.

 

Joey Gibson: But neither do I.

 

Al Letson: But the white supremacists are coming to your rallies and supporting you. That's the point I'm trying to get to. Because there must be something in your message, that they feel connects with what they believe.

 

Joey Gibson: I don't think so. I think that their, the thing that their attracted to is number one, people constantly say I'm racist and I'm a white supremacist, that's one problem. Okay, that does not help me. But the other thing to is, it's hatred for the left.

 

Al Letson: So here's the thing though, is that I think when the Antifa or when people on the left look at your movement, they see your association with Kyle Chapman. He is kind of the poster boy for that movement, that violent, you know white supremacists side of the movement.

 

Speaker 4: Whether you call it the white genesis or the war on whites, it's essentially the same thing, it's a war on Western Civilization.

 

Al Letson: He advocates violence against Antifa. And so when they see your association with these things, of course people are going to say well if you're associated with it, then you must be a part of it.

 

Joey Gibson: Kyle Chapman's probably one of the most misunderstood people. He's not a white supremacist. He's not even, I mean you can talk to him, but I don't even, he's not even a white nationalist. He is concerned about the way that whites are being treated, okay, in this country right now, culturally. I mean, it's a fact, like I'm not a person that's going to run around and say whites are victims, okay. I don't believe that. But it's, I mean whites have to pay more than blacks to go to college. You know what I mean. There's a huge problem with the way whites are being treated-

 

Al Letson: Wait, hold on, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Hold on, hold on. Whites have to pay more than blacks to go to college?

 

Joey Gibson: Yeah.

 

Al Letson: That's totally untrue.

 

Joey Gibson: Its tuition in state colleges. Yes it is, it's totally true.

 

Al Letson: That's totally untrue. That, let, can I tell you why I know that, that's untrue?

 

Joey Gibson: Why?

 

Al Letson: Because like, I have a child that's black and I have a child that's white and there both going to be paying the same thing. Like I know that for a fact. So, they can't be, that's just not true and I don't have a child that's biracial, I have a child that's white. So, I know for a fact, that black people and white people are paying the same things.

 

Joey Gibson: No. Not in state colleges.

 

Al Letson: I'm telling you in state colleges, please listen to me man, like-

 

Joey Gibson: I had to pay more because I'm Asian.

 

Al Letson: Joe, Joe-

 

Joey Gibson: I'm telling you, Asians pay the most.

 

Al Letson: Joe, I'm telling you my friend, that's not true.

 

Joey Gibson: Well why don't we, there's no point arguing about it, just look it up-

 

Al Letson: No I don't-

 

Joey Gibson: Do some research on it and-

 

Al Letson: I'm not going to argue with you, I'm not going to argue with you about it, because I'm telling you the facts and you are perpetuating something that isn't true. It's built on a myth that perpetuates the idea that white people are wholesale victims in the United States. I am telling you, as somebody, like I'm a reporter, but I'm also a parent of a black and white child. That both of those children will be paying the same thing when they go to state college. Because my daughter is in state college now and my son is getting ready to go to state college. So I know this for a fact. I've looked at it. I'm paying this, so I know for a fact. And I know for a fact that this is how it works throughout the entire United States.

 

Joey Gibson: Maybe you're right, maybe your right and I have to do the research, but you know, I have and maybe I was completely wrong, but I mean there's no point arguing it. I'm just saying that-

 

Al Letson: Joey I just keep going back to, I just keep going back to the idea that if we don't figure out how to back away from this cliff that we're on right now, we're all going to go over.

 

Joey Gibson: Yeah.

 

Al Letson: Both sides continue to push and push and push each other, until the point when we get to that cliff, you're going to push each other off the cliff and the country's going to go with you.

 

Joey Gibson: That's, I know. That's a legitimate concern, you know. That's why I'm, I'm really, you know there's some major shifts going on. I know that, that's hard for you to believe. But, there's some major shifts going on. In Patriot Prayer. And, I don't disagree with you. I think you're right.

 

Al Letson: Again, that was Joey Gibson, head of the right-wing group, called Patriot Prayer. Our reporter Will Carless is back with me. And Will, it seems like that is a, I don't know, it feels like that resentment is an entry drug into white supremacy.

 

Will Carless : What Joey saying is straight out of the white supremacists playbook in 2017. It's what the pinstriped Nazis are saying across the country. You don't hear in America these days very much that there's a big difference between the races or that black people are somehow inferior to white people. Things have changed in terms of the way people talk about this. So what the white supremacists say now, is they say that white people are under attack. They say that there's a white genocide going on and that white people are, you know, that they're facing all of these challenges from all different directions. So, he's certainly spinning some of the lines of some of the people who've been showing up at his protests.

 

Al Letson: So what we've heard that the goal for the organizers, in both rallies in Charlottesville and in Berkeley, was to make the Antifa look bad. It seems like that's worked.

 

Will Carless : Yeah, to a certain extent. I mean, I think you have to differentiate between the protestors who were actually there, so the more moderate, you know leftists who are kind of out there, protesting. I don't think the Antifa have in their minds at all. In fact, I think they've probably, I think those people probably have a more positive view of Antifa. Because they were there and they know that it was largely a peaceful rally with a few isolated kind of scuffles.

 

But if you look at the way this played out, in the broader media context across the country, then yeah, I mean there's been a big backlash against Antifa. Not only is President Trump talking about them, you've got the Mayor of Berkeley immediately saying Antifa should be labeled as a gang. You've got Nancy Pelosi saying that they must be condemned. There's certainly been a big kind of PR backlash, but at the end of the day you know these Antifa guys, they don't care. I mean, there not going to stop doing what they're doing because the PR has been spun against them.

 

Al Letson: They say they don't care, but it looks like law enforcement might be targeting them.

 

Will Carless : Yeah, and that is a concern. I mean, we've seen reports that the DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, is looking closely at these guys and has been for several months. And that's certainly at the top of the mind of a lot of people I'm talking to. I mean, let's put it this way, after my story came out on Antifa a couple of weeks ago, a few of the people who were quite happy to talk to me, no longer answer my messages.

 

Al Letson: That's Reveal's Will Carless. He writes about extremist groups in our newsletter, The Hate Report, along with Aaron Sankin. You can subscribe to it by going to Revealnews.org/hate.

 

So, we've heard from the right wing group and Antifa members. Next, I talk to the man who I protected from getting beat during the Berkeley protest. That's coming up on Reveal, from the Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX.

 

From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal, I'm Al Letson. We're ending today's show where we started. In the middle of a fight.

 

Speaker 6: Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop!

 

Al Letson: We're putting so much emphasis on this one fight because it's telling us a lot about what's happening around the country and not just with protests. But with America itself. The attack happened at a relatively peaceful gathering in Berkeley. Five members of Antifa were beating and kicking a man. Now, I was there reporting on the rally, I saw the fight and jumped in. Putting my body between the man and his attackers. I didn't know who he was. But as we've heard, members of Antifa did. They told us they had targeted him for a reason.

 

Speaker 7: His name is Keith Campbell, he is a known fascist, he's been known not only to intimidate, we have screen shots of him-

 

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Speaker 2: He's been known, not only to intimidate, we have screenshots of him talking about knives. He encouraged people to come and fight.

 

Al Letson: After the incident, people on social media said that I protected a white supremacist. So we called Keith up to find out who he was.

 

Keith: I'm an artist, I'm a writer, amateur photographer. I spend a lot of time writing and that's where I feel most at home.

 

Al Letson: Keith is 54. He lives in the Bay area with his family and likes to wear American flag T-shirts. He says he's a journalist for conservative websites, but Antifa members accuse him for using his camera to dox people. Doxing is when someone posts private information about you online, often with photos or videos. At the rally, Keith had his camera out and was filming the protest when he was attacked.

 

Keith: You know I think on the first hit to the head, I realized that I was in serious trouble. But I think even as they were pummeling me, and I was going down, like it was going through my head, it's like, "I can't believe this is actually happening to me." I mean I knew there was a risk, and you know then later, seeing the video."

 

Speaker 4: "Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop."

 

Keith: [crosstalk 00:41:27] Of what you did, and I just couldn't believe it. You know, you didn't know who I was. For all I knew, you might have figured I was a Nazi or an alt-righter or something because that's kind of how we're painted in the media. But I just don't get that. I owe you my life.

 

Al Letson: Keith I'll be honest with you buddy, you know I've been looking at your Twitter feed and there's a lot of things that I'm uncomfortable with. I actually interviewed some Antifa people who were at the rally. The person I spoke to, he says that you are on a hit list.

 

Keith: I know.

 

Al Letson: They have a group of targets that they are going after.

 

Keith: I know.

 

Al Letson: And so their rationale for going after you is because they say that when you go to these rallies, you are there to primarily dox them. That you are there to tell people who they are, put all their information out, and you know a lot of things that I've seen online have said that for many months now, you've been harassing a lot of the people who are in the Antifa movement. And I'm curious, you know, what your thoughts are about that?

 

Keith: Yeah, sure. In regards to you know the whole doxing things, yeah I know people are saying that I would dox them. I've never tried to unmask any Antifa, and you know I would never try to unmask any Antifa.

 

Al Letson: Do you think that the Antifa are on par with the white supremacists?

 

Keith: Not as a whole, no. But I think there are people on the far left are probably equally as bad as the people on the far right. But I don't think that's the largest amount of people, of them, no, on either side.

 

Al Letson: [crosstalk 00:43:42] I guess what I'm saying, is the moral equivalency, right? Like, do you think that white supremacy and people like Richard Spencer and the people that came out in Charlottesville, do you think that they equate with the Antifa? Because the Antifa primarily has risen to fight white supremacy. And white supremacy, we can look at the model of Germany when Nazis were in power, you know, what that looks like?

 

Keith: Yeah.

 

Al Letson: Millions of people die. And so the Antifa came, has come about, to fight against that. So I guess my question is, is do you think those two things are equal?

 

Keith: No. You know I was concerned when Trump when it looked like Trump might get first elected that a lot of bad people on the far right would come out of the woodwork and seek legitimacy or get legitimacy. And it kind of seems to have happened.

 

Al Letson: Do you think that the work that you've been doing though has helped them? I mean it seems to be that you're supporting them.

 

Keith: Certainly not my intention to support anybody on the far right, no. I know there's people have been there when I, you know, I've been filming. There's obviously, you know, Charlottesville, you know. When you have large groups of people that gather, people are going to get in. And I think it's important that they be, that cancer be [exised 00:45:18] out of the movement.

 

Al Letson: But you're adding to it. I mean I think if Richard Spencer was following you, all the Tweets that you'd put out, he would like. He would click that little button with the heart and say, there we go. I'm good.

 

Keith: He might until he found out what I really believed, and that I completely disagree with him.

 

Al Letson: But how would he know what you really believe because everything you put out lines up with what he believes? What I'm trying to get at Keith, is that we live in this culture where maybe there is a disconnect between the things that we put out in the world and who we actually are. But that disconnect has consequences.

 

Keith: Yeah. You're right.

 

Al Letson: I'm looking at a Tweet that you said, "Hey Berkeley Antifa, you effing pussies. Accept the challenge. You're no good with your fists anyway." Now that was July 13th. On August 19th, this is before the event that happened. You got, "Why don't you pussies come out to Berkeley and we'll talk about that." All of those statements are provocation. You're pushing, you're pushing, you're pushing.

 

I don't think it's a long jump for me to go from reading these statements to seeing what happened to thinking that you went out there to stir it up.

 

Keith: Yeah, yeah I don't know what to say. I know I obviously said that stuff, I've never-

 

Al Letson: The Tweets that you have here, I've got a bunch of them, of you saying, you know, "get the F out of America, Muslims, or renounce Islam." "Not my country. If you follow Islam, you don't belong in the US." "That effing religion is a cancer to the world and has no place in the west." "If you follow Islam you need to go where it's practiced, not in the USA."

 

So all of those things that you're saying there, feed into the bigger ideas that Richard Spenser is pushing of, a white ethno-state. And so, do you understand what I'm saying? Like how those two things play together?

 

Keith: Yeah. No, I totally get it. And I don't think that ... I think a white ethno-state would be horrible and I don't think that people should be segregated at all. And I kind of-

 

Al Letson: Let me ask you this, you're a member of the Oath Keepers. And you know the Oath Keepers as an organization, they say ghat they're really like all about the Constitution. The reason why I bring that up, because the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. You know, so the part that I am unsure of with you is that if you're an Oath Keeper, you believe in the Constitution, you believe in the freedom of speech, that's a really important thing for you, correct? The freedom of speech?

 

Keith: Yes.

 

Al Letson: And so therefore, I'm curious if you believe in the First Amendment, the part where it talks about the guarantee of freedom of religion. Because you don't get to pick and choose if that's the case. You don't get to say, like, "Oh it's freedom of religion for people who are of Christian denomination." That's not in the document. You don't get to say like, "Oh it's freedom of religion for everybody except Islam." That's not in the document.

 

Keith: You're right.

 

Al Letson: Do you have any regrets about that?

 

Keith: Yeah I do, I have a lot of regrets about you know things that I've said and who hasn't said stuff and later realized that they might have been wrong or at least shouldn't have said that? Or you know I think that's why it's good to talk to people who don't hold your belief, so you either learn that maybe your beliefs are correct and it strengthens you or you learn that you're wrong. That you maybe you need to change or pivot and reexamine the beliefs that you have or the things that you value. And you know I'm not above changing, or you know admitting I've made mistakes in looking at things, and looking at where I can change and become a better or different person.

 

Al Letson: Let me just say to you, man, that when I saw you on that ground, it wasn't ... the first thing that didn't come to my mind was that, oh there's a white guy on the ground and he may be an alt-right or he may be a ... he may be somebody that doesn't want me in this country. The first thing that I saw, was a fellow American on the ground and he needed help. And that's why I went and helped you because you were a human being and I value your humanity.

 

And I would say that when I look at the statements that you've made ... and if I did the same thing, if I used the exact same reasoning, you might not be here today.

 

Keith: Yeah I think you're right.

 

Al Letson: Can you change Keith?

 

Keith: Yeah.

 

Al Letson: Can you change the way you think and look at things?

 

Keith: Of course. As long as I'm alive, yes of course.

 

Al Letson: Keith I know that this was not an easy conversation to have. And I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk.

 

Keith: I knew it wouldn't be, I knew it wouldn't be an easy one so it's all right I knew.

 

Al Letson: Keith Gamble told me he could change. Looking at his Twitter feed, he seems to have dialed back his anti-Islamic rhetoric, but he continues to agitate Antifa, calling them brainless, murderous, thugs. Joey Gibson, of Patriot Prayer, told me, there was a new direction for his organization but he's still holding rallies where he says his goal is to make Antifa turn violent, and look bad. As for Dominic, he didn't see any problems with his methods and he told me, he has no regrets.

 

We had a whole team of reporters and producers working on today's show. Will Carlos, Trey [Bundee 00:52:03], Aaron Sankin, Emily Harris, Stan [Alcorn 00:52:05], [Moenda Hasey 00:52:06], Harriet [Rowen 00:52:06], Scott [Fan 00:52:07], Rachel [DeLeon 00:52:08], [Katherine Miskowsky 00:52:09], Patrick Michaels, [Eric Segara 00:52:11], Emanuel Martinez, Aubrey [Aiden-Bouie 00:52:14], and [Kate Tellorico 00:52:15].

 

We had help from editors, Andy [Donohue 00:52:17], [Xeva Brandstedder 00:52:18], and Michael [Corey 00:52:19]. Michael Montgomery was our lead producer this week. Our lead sound designer and engineer is Jim Briggs. He had help from [Katherine Raymando 00:52:26] and [Kat Chutnit 00:52:27]. Additional audio from Chris [DeRose 00:52:29].

 

Our head of studio is [Krista Sharffenburg 00:52:31], Amy [Powell 00:52:32] is our editor in chief, Suzanne [Reiber 00:52:34] is our executive editor and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by [Comorado 00:52:39], Lightening.

 

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva & David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the [Hising 00:52:50] Siemens Foundation, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

 

Reveal is a co-production of the center for investigative reporting, and PRX. I'm Al Letson. And remember, there is always more to the story.

 

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