Rise Above Movement

The “Rise Above Movement,” which claims to have about 50 members, is an overtly racist, violent right-wing fight club that attends rallies around the country to do open combat with counter-protesters.

In Its Own Words

“We had them completely surrounded. I hit like 5 people.”
— RAM member Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, of Redondo Beach, California, referring to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 in a social media chat on Aug. 11, 2017

“Death to antifa!”
— RAM member Robert Boman on April 15, 2017, in Berkeley, California.

Background

The “Rise Above Movement” is a Southern California-based racist fight club that first rose to prominence on the racist “alt-right” rally scene in 2017 and is often photographed in bloody confrontations with protesters.

In October 2017, the website ProPublica released an in-depth investigation that supplied most of the details now known about RAM’s activities. The report identified RAM leadership and cataloged violence perpetrated by the group at four different rallies in 2017. ProPublica’s investigation revealed that many of the group’s leaders have felonies on their records, and that RAM has recruited members from Hammerskin Nation, the largest skinhead gang in the U.S.

RAM trains members in mixed martial arts, skills they put to use assaulting people at rallies.

In an interview with ProPublica’s reporter, an anonymous RAM leader said the group was not racist. It’s not uncommon for a group like this to make that claim, but in RAM’s case it rings particularly hollow. Members are on video referencing David Lane’s neo-Nazi motto the “14 Words,” and just a sample of leaders’ social-media accounts reveals ugly, racist memes and posts riddled with bigoted sentiments and racial slurs.

Their recruitment strategy, including promotional videos featuring their workout and training routines, is targeted toward men who find the idea of a real-world fight club appealing. White supremacy supplies the justification for violence, but ultimately this group has been about street fighting. They’ve won praise from far-right media outlets that applaud the zeal with which they assault political opponents.

On Oct. 2, 2018, U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, whose district includes Charlottesville, Virginia, called the group antisemitic and violent in announcing charges against RAM members 25-year-old Benjamin Drake Daley of Redondo Beach, California, 34-year-old Walter Gillen of Redondo Beach, California, Michael Paul Miselis, a 29-year-old Lawndale, California resident, and 24-year-old Cole Evan White of Clayton, California.

“In our view, they were essentially serial rioters,” Cullen said during a press conference at the federal courthouse that stands only a few blocks from where the Aug. 11-12, 2017, rally turned deadly.

According to a Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA) article

... the Rise Above Movement, is a loose collective of violent neo-Nazis and fascists from Southern California that’s organized and trains primarily to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies. They have been a central participant in the recent wave of far-Right protest movements in California during the first half of 2017 which have attempted to mobilize a broad range of right-wing constituents under the banners of protecting so-called 'free speech,' unyielding support for Trump, and antipathy toward Muslims, immigrants and other oppressed groups.

The group is inspired by identitarian movements in Europe and is trying to bring the philosophies and violent tactics to the United States.

Online, RAM pitches itself as a positive influence on recruits and members, saying it encourages an “active lifestyle and common values” among young people.

An article published at www.nocara.blackblogs.org and cited by prosecutors in the Charlottesville charging documents describes RAM as “mostly equal parts Identity Evropa’s flaccid identitarian discourse (itself inspired by fascist organizations like Generation Identity from France) and the fetishization of masculinity, physical fitness, and violence mixed with the shallow anti-corporate and anti-consumerist themes of the film Fight Club.

The group meets regularly in Southern California parks and trains in physical fitness, boxing and other fighting techniques.

Photos posted on RAM’s social-media accounts frequently show members working out and sparring with each other.

But the workouts are more than just for physical fitness, the FBI and federal prosecutors say.

In the charging documents for the four men arrested Tuesday, prosecutors said RAM actively seeks out violence aimed at people they believe are political opponents and counter-protesters.

A man the FBI identified as Gillen is shown in one picture attacking a counter-protester at a rally in Berkeley, California, in 2017.

Cullen, the Virginia prosecutor, said that’s all part of RAM’s core motivation — seeking out opportunities to commit violent acts.

“This is a group that aggressively subscribes to an antisemitic, racist ideology,” Cullen said. “These guys came to Charlottesville to commit violent acts.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this profile failed to properly quote and attribute information first reported by Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA). We regret the error and apologize to NoCARA for not properly citing their work.