According to the League of the South’s website, Saturday’s “Rally to Restore Florida Sovereignty” was supposed to get the group “off and running in 2018.”
Instead, the neo-Confederate hate group started the year with a face-plant.
Even before it began, the demonstration was diminished by the January 24 arrest of Tyler Watkins Davis, the fourth LOS member to be charged in the parking garage assault of DeAndre Harris that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last August. And when around 30 LOS members showed up to Tallahassee’s Old State Capitol building, they were further upstaged by more than 150 protesters from the Tallahassee community. While many of those present in the small LOS group had traveled from other cities and states to attend the rally, the counter protest was local. The organizer, Richard Garzola, is a football player at Florida State University.
By the time LOS arrived, the counter protest was in full swing, so rally goers walked to their designated spot amid shouts of “shame, shame, shame.” The enthusiasm and sophistication deficits were apparent from the start. The counter protesters had come equipped with amps and a microphone, but LOS demonstrators only had two grainy megaphones and a speaker playing the car horn tune from The Dukes of Hazzard on repeat. Twice during the event, counter protesters paused to let LOS members speak, but even then it was difficult to make out what they were saying. Throughout the two-hour demonstration, passing cars cheered the counter protest and mocked LOS. Passengers in a car waiting at a stoplight directly in front of the LOS group displayed a sign that read “Racists are poopheads.” Even a passing jogger stopped to heckle the visiting hate group.
As the event was winding to a close, James M. O’Brien, a Florida LOS member from Gainesville, grabbed the megaphone and had an exchange with one of the counter protesters, who engaged him respectfully. O’Brien claimed that his organization was all about peace, freedom and self-determination. When he praised the Nation of Islam for their racial separatist ideology, the counter protester called him on his blatant hypocrisy.
“That sounds a lot like segregation, sir,” he said. “That sounds a lot like 1963.”
O’Brien wasn’t being strictly honest when he said he was peaceful, either. He was fired from his job after he marched with LOS at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August. While there, he was charged with a misdemeanor for carrying a firearm without a permit and was also caught on video punching a woman repeatedly in the face.
LOS PR chief Brad Griffin aka “Hunter Wallace” writes prolifically on his website, Occidental Dissent, about the importance of public demonstrations and “street activism,” but he was nowhere to be seen in Tallahassee. Instead, he wrote on Gab that the event, “seems to have gone okay,” and derided counter protesters as “the local communists and t-------.” Griffin has clashed publicly with LOS leader Michael Hill — who did show up last weekend and spent most of his time chatting with local reporters.