Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Community Organizing, Featured, Southwest
This following report from Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA), documents defense against a campaign by police and Alt-Right trolls to harass and attack a worker cooperative in Oakland, known as Hasta Muerte Coffee.
“We’re parked down there. Can you drop us off, possibly? I’m terrified.” – Troy Worden
On February 16th, “a sergeant and president of the Latino Police Officers Association of Alameda County,” and a member of the Oakland Police Department, walked into the newly opened Hasta Muerte Coffee shop, a cooperative run by workers of color, and located in the working-class and predominantly Latin@ neighborhood of Fruitvale, which is rapidly undergoing gentrification. Instead of a hot cup of coffee and a handshake however, the sergeant was promptly refused service and told that the store had a policy of not serving law enforcement. Very quickly, news of the interaction spread and in response, Hasta Muerte issued a statement on their Instagram page about a week later:
OPDs recent attempts to enlist officers of color and its short term touting of fewer officer involved shootings does not reverse or mend its history of corruption, mismanagement, and scandal, nor a legacy of blatant repression.
The facts are that poc, women, and queer police are complicit in upholding the same law and order that routinely criminalizes and terrorizes black and brown and poor folks, especially youth, trans, and houseless folks.
For these reasons and so many more, we need the support of the actual community to keep this place safe, not police.
In return, the Oakland Police Association wrote a letter to the space asking to further discuss the matter, and by the 8th of March, the story had blown up in the local news, before spreading into the mainstream and then being picked up in the far-Right press by outlets like Breitbart, Fox News, The Daily Caller, and InfoWars. As could be expected following such reporting, the store was hit by a wave of death threats, online harassment, and negative and untruthful reviews on Yelp.
But while the simple assertion of autonomy in the face of a police department known over the decades for racism, corruption, murder, brutality, and human trafficking was causing a stir in the media, in the streets, many Oakland residents flocked to support the space. Soon, #HastaMuerteCoffee became a popular hashtag, as people took selfies in front of the store, and lines soon formed outside the door as people rallied to show support. While the police, media, and the far-Right attempted to shame the space, instead they helped mobilize the surrounding community who was empowered by Hasta Muerte taking a brave and firm stance against white supremacy and police brutality.
But while the situation in the Fruitvale was brewing, on March 3rd, fascists harassed and threatened a leftist bookstore in Berkeley, CA. The right wing group consisted of members of the Proud Boys and a number of local allies in the alt-lite, a far-right constellation that shares many beliefs with the alt-right but stops short of calling for an explicitly white supremacist ethnostate. Participants included Rob Cantrall, Lauren White aka Lauren Order, and Jacob Ku. Soon after Jourdin Davis and Alexandria Davis joined them. Rob Cantrall, wearing his yellow and black Proud Boys shirt, shouted at the volunteers of the bookstore and told them that he would burn the store down. This was captured on video and reported on by local media. Only a day later, a left-wing bookstore in San Diego on a local campus which had been the site of months of alt-right activity, was set on fire in an arson attack.
— Xoel Tena (@joeltena) March 9, 2018
Then, a little over a week later, focus on the part of the far-Right turned towards Hasta Muerte, as OPD was successful in putting a target on the shop’s back. Soon, posts were placed on Facebook from prominent far-Right activists calling for a protest, and plans were made for the fascists to return to the East Bay.
Then, starting around 10 AM, a small group assembled outside Hasta Muerte on March 18th to support OPD, including Jacob Ku from the March 3rd attack on the Berkeley bookstore. For the second time in as many weeks, members of the Proud Boys and their allies harassed and threatened East Bay communities. This marks the first time the far-right has abandoned the usual Berkeley locations and shifted their activity to Oakland, specifically in the working-class and largely Latin@ Fruitvale neighborhood. This group of trolls arrived waving symbols of nationalism and support for the police and border patrol, and included several familiar faces, such as Troy Worden, Ashton Whitty, Lindsay Grathwohl, Will Johnson, and Jeanne Solnordal. They were backed up by Jeffrey Perrine, Russ Wilcox, and more. Ironically once again, the police came to the defense of the small right wing group, who had mobilized to attack those who refused the authority of the police.
Since the failed Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017, the far-right has found it increasingly harder to organize in public. In Northern California, we saw an end to the fascist so-called “free speech rallies” that had been the primary organizing form for the right. In order to hold on to their movement’s dwindling momentum, the local broader Right has switched gears and chosen to refocus their attention on immigration and sanctuary cities. The alt-right, which hadn’t attended events in Northern California in months, decided entryism was again worth a try at a Kate Steinle vigil and anti-sanctuary city protest in San Francisco in December 2017, organized by Lindsay Grathwohl. It seemed possible that an agenda centered on immigration could hold the big tent together just a little longer.
This was reflected again on March 18 outside Hasta Muerte, as the diverse far-right participants brought US flags, apparel that said “ICE,” and shouted into their megaphones that they want ICE to come and deport people. According to an East Bay Express reporter Darwin BondGraham that was on the scene, one person screamed, “If Trump isn’t your president, you’re probably an illegal.” An odd thing to say in a country where literally the vast majority of the population hates the President.
— tree (@treekisser) March 18, 2018
The response from the community was swift, and the Right was quickly outnumbered, embarrassed, and frightened. In defense of Hasta Muerte, a large crowd gathered and stood between the right wing agitators and the coffee shop. Jacob Ku pepper sprayed at least one anti-racist activist and used a stun gun during the incident. At this point, the police moved in and separated both sides, with the bootlickers then moving across the street.
In attendance at the right wing demonstration outside Hasta Muerte was:
Troy Worden (Pittsburg, CA) & Ashton Whitty (Martinez, CA)
Troy Worden and Ashton Whitty are associated with the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) at UC Berkeley. Worden is a current member and former president of the club, and Whitty (a Diablo Valley College student) briefly joined BCR while attending classes at the UC during the spring 2017 semester. Worden and Whitty, as well as their BCR cohorts, are closely affiliated with various individuals and groups in the alt-lite and the alt-right.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 27, 2017
Ashton Whitty posting a flyer for Patriot Front, an offshoot of Vanguard America, a violent nazi group. This is the group James Alex Fields marched with before attacking anti-racists with his car and killing Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. pic.twitter.com/4X9FTaLE9W
— Berkeley Antifa (@berkeleyantifa) March 5, 2018
Even before he was ousted from his position of BCR president due to having national socialist (nazi) followers and being too extreme, Worden networked and organized with Kyle Chapman and the Proud Boys, Martin Sellner of Generation Identity, and Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa.
Former member of #Berkeley College Republicans, Ashton Witty, graduated from doing podcasts attacking immigrants with neo-Nazis who attended Unite the Right in #Charlottesville to now being featured on InfoWars. pic.twitter.com/5thuFeCVuR
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) January 25, 2018
Worden’s presence in spaces has led directly to violence against leftist organizers in the past. After Worden crashed an anti-Milo Yiannopoulos meeting at UC Berkeley, fascists arrived and threw a leftist organizer to the ground. NoCARA has previously shared information on BCR and their violent alt-right connections, most notably here and here.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) December 5, 2017
Leader of Berkeley College Republicans is also a big fan of Sellner, and wrote about his brand of white nationalism in Alt-Right paper. pic.twitter.com/bUeoFLbH3v
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) September 24, 2017
Ashton Whitty has also gone on in recent months to make a name for herself as a YouTube personality, appearing on podcasts with neo-Nazi and Alt-Right organizers such as James Allsup who attended Unite the Right in Charlottesville, and also appearing on InfoWars, where she recently was seen holding a flyer of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front in Austin, Texas. On St. Patrick’s day, Whitty posted a photo of herself holding a sign reading, “It’s Okay to Be Irish,” a reference to the meme, “It’s Okay to Be White,” which originated from the neo-Nazi message board, /pol/ on 4chan.
Jacob Ku has been attending far-Right rallies and events in Northern California since 2017. Over time, it has appeared that Ku has become increasingly willing to engage in violence. Jacob Ku arrived with Rob Cantrall and Lauren White on March 3 when Cantrall told volunteers at the bookstore that they were going to burn the store down. Ku obviously came prepared for violence at Hasta Muerte. He wore a helmet and was armed with both pepper spray and a stun gun, both of which he used on patrons of the coffee shop.
Lindsay Grathwohl (San Lorenzo, CA)
someone plz show this post to the folks at Hasta Muerte Coffee in Oakland CA, in case they're wondering who's throwing up fascist graffiti in their bathroom pic.twitter.com/RlQVUuQucs
— ` (@ductgrain) March 21, 2018
Lindsay Grathwohl is the daughter of Larry Grathwohl, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Weather Underground. Lindsay Grathwohl has been heavily involved among local MAGA organizers. She maintains close associations with Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer, Kyle “Based Stick Man” Chapman, and Will Johnson. In December 2017, Grathwohl organized a Kate Steinle vigil event in San Francisco. This rally temporarily reunited alt-right white supremacists with those in the alt-lite after their difficult splits following the events in Charlottesville in August 2017.
Will Johnson (Tracy, CA)
Will Johnson is a far-right livestreamer, organizer, and internet personality. His livestream news show, Unite America First, is based out of Tracy, CA. Johnson is a mainstay at far-Right and pro-Trump rallies, and often travels to events in Sacramento, the Bay Area, and even out of state. Johnson is African-American and is often pointed to by rally organizers as evidence of the far-Right demonstrators ‘not being racist.’ Despite this, Johnson has long been involved in demonstrations that have offered a platform to racist speakers that think he is subhuman and should be sent ‘back to Africa;’ such as neo-Nazi social media star Baked Alaska. Johnson has also actively organized and shared space with other prominent members of the Alt-Right, and even with known white supremacists. Johnson has organized events with Proud Boys, and past attendees of his events include White nationalists like Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa and lone wolf neo-Nazi Chris Locke. On March 25th in Sacramento, Johnson videotaped himself fist bumping a member of the Golden State Skinheads during a pro-Trump rally.
Johnson was also present at the ‘Mother of All Rallies’ or MOAR event in Washington DC last year, and after members of a local chapter of Black Lives Matter were invited to come on the stage in a gesture of free speech, Johnson interrupted them to chant, “USA! USA!,” when the impromptu talk by the BLM group began to anger the MAGA crowd. In response, Jack Posobiec claimed that “Black Lives Matter,” not Johnson, was leading the crowd in a chant of “USA,” and proceeded to claim it was a great moment of unity. This exemplifies Johnson’s usefulness to the wider far-Right, which at times includes open fascists and neo-Nazis: a useful black token that helps them avoid charges of racism, while also advancing their actual racist politics under the cloak of “America First!”
Jeanne Solnordal (Piedmont, CA)
Jeanne Solnordal is a lawyer, and along with her husband Borgar Solnordal is a real estate investor, owning several properties in Oakland and the surrounding Bay Area. Both of the Solnordals are owners of Marsol Management Group. In January 2018, Jeanne Solnordal uploaded a video to YouTube in which she urges homeless people in an Oakland encampment to vote Republican in the 2018 midterm election while also repeating racist nationalist talking points about immigration.
Solnordal has been attending right wing events in Northern California since late 2017 and at times has traveled throughout California and other states for political activity. She also has a history of showing up to leftist events to disrupt and harass. The day before Solnordal showed up at Hasta Muerte, she took the time to go on Facebook and share a conspiracy theory originating from the neo-Nazi forum /pol/ on 4chan. Solnordal also wore an ICE hat outside Hasta Muerte and advocated for immigration officials and the police to come into the neighborhood.
Russ Wilcox (Modesto, CA)
Russ Wilcox is a member of the far-Right III% militia and an associate of the California Valley Patriots. Wilcox was pictured with other militia members at the April 15, 2017 rally in Berkeley that several white supremacists attended hoping to engage in violence and against locals. Militia members worked directly with the Berkeley police and rally organizers to help facilitate what ended up being a white power recruitment rally in downtown Berkeley.
Jeffrey Perrine (Citrus Heights, CA)
Jeffrey Perrine is a far-right/alt-lite rally goer and livestreamer from Citrus Heights. He is connected to Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, and various far right live streamers and news outlets. He is also friends with known neo-Nazi Chris Locke. Perrine has frequently attended pro-Trump and far right rallies over the past year, but more recently he has begun to show up to leftist and even liberal events to livestream, harass, and disrupt. Jeffrey has been observed yelling in the faces of high schoolers and harassing protesters at the Sacramento Women’s March. He also showed up to a protest against Jeff Sessions with several patriots and Proud Boys, where the group followed demonstrators while shouting anti-immigrant slogans, at one point directing a racial slur at a black protester.
The demonstration by the right was short-lived, and soon they regrouped and headed to the Temescal farmers market with intentions of confronting Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf regarding her recent warning about ICE raids. The second location saw a larger group, with the original bunch from Hasta Muerte being joined by a few Proud Boys as well as Jourdin Davis, Guy Decker, and others in the alt-lite. Like their time at Hasta Muerte, this second action by the right was also a flop. Most of them never got close to Schaaf and they were again confronted and driven out of the space by the local community.
Joined Hasta Muerte group at Temescal farmers market:
Jourdin Davis (Berkeley, CA)
Jourdin Davis is a far-right organizer from California currently living in Berkeley. He has attended events in the area since the March 4, 2017 rally in Berkeley. In December 2017, Davis organized a rally against sanctuary cities, to which he welcomed white supremacist Chris Locke after Chris stated that he would come armed. Davis was also present with Jacob Ku and others when the Berkeley bookstore was threatened. In the past, Davis has admitted to trying to infiltrate local antifa groups and has even lied to his allies that he used to be a “member of antifa.” NoCARA has previously written about Davis here.
Guy Decker is a usual attendee at right wing events in Northern California and has even traveled as far as San Diego to take part in far-Right demonstrations. Decker has been known to stalk leftists and film radical events, antagonizing and harassing many along the way. Decker has a long history of violence and has also been arrested for making terrorist threats in the Bay Area while under the influence of methamphetamine. NoCARA previously wrote about Decker here. Recently, Decker has been covering events and news for Ben Bergquam’s Frontline America.
This group of right wing trolls left Oakland terrified. They were clearly unprepared for the community’s fast and strong response to their flash demonstration. This incident provided one example of what autonomous community defense can look like, as well as showing the need to further develop networks ready to respond quickly to fascist and racist provocations in our neighborhoods.