Earlier this week, Buzzfeed reported that Patriot Front, a three-year-old a white supremacist group labeled “one of the most active hate groups in the United States,” is actively training in preparation for violence following the upcoming presidential elections.
The group, which was created in the aftermath of the 2017 melée in Charlottesville known as the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, now has several hundred members training with the ultimate goal of creating a white ethno-state. According to the report, the group celebrates Hitler and Mussolini and wants to “expel immigrants, people of color, and Jews, remaking the fabric of America.”
Patriot Front members reportedly participate in mandatory weight-loss regimens and workouts, and train in “hand-to-hand combat” in anticipation of future conflicts no matter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
“It does not matter what people personally believe about it,” wrote the organization’s leader, Thomas Rousseau (h/t Buzzfeed News). “Casting a ballot is a submissive gesture to legitimize tyranny. It is fundamentally amoral. It is done as an insult to the nation’s cause and the organization.”
The white supremacist group is one of several militant gangs that have emerged in the U.S. following President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Among the most infamous of these groups is the Rise Above Movement (RAM), a white supremacist group that refers to itself as the “premier MMA (mixed martial arts) club of the Alt-Right.” RAM made headlines over the past few years for violent encounters during protests in Huntington Beach, Berkeley, and Charlottesville. Their members would then glorify their antics in propaganda videos.
Four RAM members, including co-founder Ben Daley and UCLA doctoral student Michael Miselis, were arrested by the FBI in 2018 for their role in the violence that erupted in Charlottesville at the hands of participants in the Unite the Right gathering. They pled guilty and were sentenced. RAM co-founder Robert Rundo and two other members were later arrested on rioting charges in relation to a rally in Huntington Beach but were released after the charges were dismissed by a district judge.
Since being released, Rundo has taken to writing blog posts espousing RAM’s violent ideology. His posts include “Combat Sports For The Future of Nationalist,” where he referred to mixed martial arts as a “weapon” for white supremacists.
“This sporting culture is something we can lay claim to, this is something we are setting the trend in,” Rundo wrote. “What better trend to set for our people to become in shape, active, and capable. Meanwhile, the left is burning itself out pushing drug culture, consumerism, and apathy.”
Other such groups include the Proud Boys, a far-right male chauvinist hate group that promotes political violence in the U.S. Under the leadership of Vice co-founder and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and now under chairman Enrique Tarrio, the gang has made it its mission to target leftists at protests. Some of their members even wear “Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong” shirts, referring to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s murders of leftists and socialists.
This is Gavin McInnes, founder of The Proud Boys, talking about why he created them & what their purpose is.
They are still not designed as a terrorist group.pic.twitter.com/6TljU51tH3
— Rational Disconnect (@RationalDis) May 31, 2020
For a time, the Proud Boys had a “tactical defense arm” known as the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK), led by convicted felon Kyle Chapman. The group used hand-to-hand combat as well as weapons like knives to attack protestors. The aim of the group was to “protect and defend our right-wing brethren” through “street activism, preparation, defense and confrontation.” They also claimed that violence was the only way to save Western civilization from “globalism, radical Islam, and communism.”
There are several MMA fighters who have shown support for the Proud Boys, including Ultimate Fighter veteran and pioneer Tara LaRosa. The fighter tweeted a fake list of anti-fascist activists and organizers ahead of a Proud Boys rally in Portland. The list, which was devised on 8chan — an extremist forum where white supremacists and domestic terrorists have uploaded their manifestos — is actually a list of people who signed an anti-Trump petition from refusefacism.org.
Then, during a protest in Portland, Oregon, LaRosa pinned a demonstrator on the ground in an attempt to restrain her. When the pinned woman gasped “I can’t breathe,” LaRosa responded with “I don’t care.”
LaRosa later claimed that the woman she pinned down approached her and shouted, “Fuck Proud Boys,” after which a fight broke out. No arrests were made.
There is a clear trend between the rise of far-right militias in the United States and their attraction to combat sports such as MMA. For some, it is a community-building tool for like-minded white supremacists. For others, it is a necessary weapon in their ongoing conflict against anti-fascists and progressive Americans.