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Meet Harim Uziel, 'The Hardcore American Patriot' who just got banned from two American Airlines flights

A fringe political activist from California took his obsession with Donald Trump a bit too far over the weekend and wound up getting the boot from not one but two American Airlines flights in Texas.

A fringe political activist from California took his obsession with Donald Trump a bit too far over the weekend and wound up getting the boot from not one but two American Airlines flights in Texas.

The man, who goes by the pseudonym Harim Uziel and calls himself “The Hardcore American Patriot,” was in Austin on Saturday, March 3, for a pro-Trump rally at the state capitol. But his love for the president, coupled with a short fuse, turned into a full-on shouting match with a stranger that evening inside the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The incident was severe enough that it caused airline employees to call the police, bar him from boarding his flight out of Austin and deny him a seat on a later flight. He was eventually escorted out of the airport’s secure area by police and given a refund for his ticket.

All of which took place while the activist, whose real name appears to be Harim Vargas (more on that later), had a blue Trump flag tied around his shoulders.

American Airlines spokeswoman Michelle Mohr confirmed with the Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday that the airline barred a “very disruptive” passenger from boarding a flight at the Austin airport that evening.

Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook told the SPLC that employees at three different gates called police that evening to report “a disturbance” that involved shouting between passengers. Officers from the Austin Police Department later escorted a man out of the airport’s secure area, he said.

Neither Mohr nor Halbrook provided the man’s name, but Halbrook said officers approached the man after receiving a description of someone who had “a Trump flag wrapped around him.”

The SPLC was able to confirm details of the incident described by the two spokespeople with videos that Vargas posted on one of his Facebook pages. The videos showed him shouting at multiple people in the airport, arguing with both airline employees and the police and eventually being escorted away from his gate.

Vargas is fairly minor figure, even among the far-right. But the incident on Saturday showed his willingness to provoke confrontations, even in high-security areas like an airport terminal. Vargas did it with an almost stunt-like flare, too, streaming videos of his confrontations live on Facebook for his friends and followers to watch, and often speaking directly to the camera, claiming he was being targeted for his political beliefs. He described himself as a “martyr” and told viewers that if he died that night, it would not be due to suicide.

Much of Vargas’ personal biography is unclear. Online, he often points out that he is Latino. He says on one of his Facebook pages that he is a Sephardi Jew, and in videos he can be seen wearing a Star of David around his neck. His profile photo on one page shows him standing in front of three flags: an American flag, an Israeli flag, and a flag with the logo of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. On the same page, he lists his hometown as Lennox, California and says he currently lives in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times mentioned Vargas under his pseudonym, Harim Uziel, in a June 2017 article about the arrest of another man who allegedly brandished a gun during an argument in Cudahy, California. The man, Thomas Green, had been part of a group of Trump supporters who had just attended a local meeting to protest sanctuary city policies, according to the Times.

The article said Vargas was in the car with Green and posted video live to Facebook showing law enforcement surrounding them with guns drawn. Vargas reportedly said during the livestream that Green had a “concealed carry weapon.”

"We did show a gun. Oh, may the Lord protect us and keep us safe," Vargas said in the video, according to the Times. "I got my hands up. Don't shoot."

The Times described Vargas as “a vocal pro-Trump activist who has become a regular, disruptive presence at public meetings” throughout the area.

A GoFundMe page, set up in February 2017 using a slightly different spelling of the pseudonym, “Harim Uzziel,” shows a photo of Vargas and a fundraising goal of $30,000. The description says only: “Harim Uzziel, I am the hardcore American patriot, hardcore President Trump.”

An older version of the GoFundMe page, viewable on the Internet Archive, displays a little more information about his life and goals. It said he was raising the money to commit himself to “rallys (sic), protests, counter-protests, city council meetings, doing public speakings, interviews” and more, all in the name of supporting Trump.

“Unfortunately I was laid off at the end of last year not able to find work,” the GoFundMe description said. “Your contributions and sponsorship allow me to dedicate all of my time to put all my focus on this mission, to purchase video, audio equipment, software and more important to be able to support myself while I dedicate my time by paying rent, bills, food, and transportation, in order to focus and commit all my time to our cause, our goal, our message, and the good fight.”

As of Tuesday, the page had raised $13,620 from 255 donors. Vargas may have also raised money other ways. One of his Facebook pages includes a link to a PayPal account with the username “harimuzziel1776.”

During the rally Saturday at the Texas capitol, Vargas peppered his praise of Trump with dark conspiracy theories and warnings about immigrants and Muslims.

“If Hillary would have been president, we would have had all these illegal aliens here, killing us Americans,” Vargas told the cheering crowd. “We would have had the Muslim refugees that she’s been wanting to bring in. We would have had the globalists push their agenda, the elite, the illuminati, the One World Order that we’re up against.”

He also talked about the potential for armed conflict in America’s future.

“The time to bear arms is not there yet,” he said. “Maybe we’ll come to that. But when the time comes, we’ll be ready.”

That evening at the Austin airport, Vargas livestreamed his encounters with airline employees and police on a Facebook page titled “The Hardcore American Patriot,” a nickname he often uses for himself. He has since either deleted the videos or removed them from public view, but the SPLC saw the videos before they disappeared. The videos showed his volatility and willingness to cross boundaries for his cause. One video also clearly showed the name on his airline ticket: Harim Vargas.

The first video Vargas posted from the airport began mildly, but it quickly escalated into the incident that led to him to be barred from his flights.

"What's up, my patriots?” he said to his audience on Facebook as he lined up at the gate. “I think we're about to board, so this is gonna be a little bit short lived."

Before he could say anything else, a man walked by him and muttered the word “vendido,” Spanish slang for “sellout.”

The comment set Vargas off. He left the line and started following the man through the terminal.

"I ain't no vendido, homie,” Vargas said amid his pursuit, video still rolling. “Hey, come and talk to me, homie. Come and talk to me, b----. Come and talk to me, motherf-----! Come and talk to me! That's what I thought, b----. That's what I thought. I'm an American, homie."

Vargas and the man exchanged words, but the man continued to walk away. Much of what the man said to Vargas was inaudible in the video.

“I ain't no n----! I ain't no n----!” Vargas said at one point.

The man turned and shouted back: "I ain't either, b----!"

“Then why you call me a n----?” Vargas said. “You don't even know how to talk like a Latino, ese. I'm from L.A., homie, and I love Trump!"

The man said something inaudible.

“So what? So why you call me a n----? Why you call me a — right now! Why you call me a n----? You racist! I love Trump.”

“I’m racist?” the man shouted back.

“Why you call me a n----?” Vargas said. “Do I look like a n----? Do I look like a n----? F-----’ talk right! F-----’ Latinos for Trump, homie!"

Vargas eventually stopped pursuing the man and returned to his gate.

“That fool tried to call me a sellout,” Vargas said as the other passengers gave him silent, uncomfortable looks. “I ain’t no sellout. I’m American, 100 percent. I’m a Latino for Trump. My momma came here legally, unlike his momma.”

At that point, another man passing by asked Vargas: “How’s that working for ya?”

“Very well, because Trump is our president, homie!” Vargas shouted.

“Good luck with that,” the man shouted as he walked away.

“Are you racist?” Vargas shouted at him. “Are you racist against me? Latinos for Trump! I’m a Latino. Look at me! Trump ain’t racist. Trump is a good man.”

Before Vargas ended the video, it sounded as if he’d just realized he might have gotten himself in trouble. 

“Oh, I hope that lady didn’t try to call security on me,” he said.

Indeed, security had been called. A subsequent video by Vargas showed four police officers standing around him as the final passengers boarded the plane and the doors to the walkway closed.

“What’s up, my patriots? So apparently I’m being detained because apparently I was causing a disturbance,” Vargas told his audience.

“All of a sudden, all these airline people, they don’t want to let me in because apparently I’m a threat — ‘cause they’re snowflakes,” he said, pointing his camera at a group of airline employees.

One of the officers standing near Vargas finally told him that his plane had already left without him. The officer said Vargas could try to get booked on a later flight or else get a refund from American Airlines. Vargas told the officers he was boycotting some of the other airlines, namely Delta, because of its recent policy changes involving members of the National Rifle Association.

“Do me this favor, man,” the officer told him. “Do your Trump thing. Don’t mind it at all, man. But just keep in mind that people call us when they feel a little scared. Are you threatening? I think you’re just doing your thing. It’s just the way it is, OK? But do me a favor, stay calm, chill out a little bit so I don’t get called back out here.”

Vargas told the officer he would remain calm. But that, too, was short lived.

In two more videos posted to Facebook, Vargas showed himself arguing with and heckling airline employees after he was denied a seat on a later flight.

Police officers were called again, and this time they told Vargas they would be escorting him away from the gate and that he would be getting a refund for his ticket.

Throughout the videos, Vargas said repeatedly that he thought he was being kept off the airline because of his support for Trump and for wearing a Trump flag. He said he felt he needed to defend himself when someone called him a sellout, and portrayed himself as a victim of the entire situation.

“Guess what? Brace yourselves, America. Brace yourselves,” Vargas said as he was being led away from the gate. “Communism, socialism is coming. And nobody will be able to get away from that.”

“Fascism at its finest,” he said as he walked through the terminal with the officers. “But you know what, I’ll be a martyr, ‘cause I love America and I love Trump.”

A few minutes later, Vargas was standing at the ticket counter, continuing to record video. He waited for his refund while three police officers stood nearby. His rhetoric then went to an even darker place.

“They’re not going to shut me down. But I do not commit suicide either,” Vargas said with a laugh. “My patriots, I will not commit suicide. So if I’m found dead, it’s not me. But I’m willing to die, right here and now — for America. I love America.”

A police officer leaning on the counter could be seen on the video simply shaking her head as they continued to wait for Vargas to get his refund.

Several minutes later, Vargas told his Facebook audience he was going to end the video. He said he needed to arrange for someone to pick him up from the airport. The next day, he posted a photo appearing to show him still in Austin.

A spokesperson with the Austin Police Department told the SPLC on Monday that reports of the incident were not yet available, and the department was unable to immediately answer questions about what had happened.

Michelle Mohr, the airline spokeswoman, told the SPLC that the decision to bar Vargas from the plane was based on his disruptions, not his politics.

“It is largely a safety concern,” Mohr said. “You do need to ensure that your passengers will listen to crew member instructions in case of an emergency, and also just to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for everybody on board.”

Asked specifically about the Trump flag Vargas was wearing and his accusations that he was targeted because of it, Mohr said that wasn’t the case.

“We transport people of all nationalities, beliefs, creeds,” Mohr said. “But this solely had to do with his behavior.”

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