Three members of Rise Above Movement arrested in California, fourth sought as fugitive turns himself in
The founder of the violent white supremacist gang known as the Rise Above Movement and two others traveled to Europe to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and later met with a paramilitary chief there, federal prosecutors say.
Robert Rundo, a 28-year-old Huntington Beach, California, resident, 29-year-old Michael Paul Miselis, of Lawndale, California, and 25-year-old Benjamin Drake Daley of Redondo Beach went to Germany, Italy and Ukraine in spring 2018 not only to celebrate, but also to meet with European white supremacist groups, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint against Rundo unsealed this week.
FBI agents arrested Rundo on Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport, said Katherine Gulotta, a spokesman for the agency in Los Angeles. He had been arrested in Central America before being returned to the U.S.
Two others, 25-year-old Robert Boman of Torrance, California, and 22-year-old Tyler Laube of Redondo Beach, California, were arrested Wednesday.
A fourth RAM member, 38-year-old Aaron Eason of Anza, California, surrendered to the FBI over the weekend.
The four are charged with a series of violent attacks during events in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and San Bernardino, California, in 2017.
Prosecutors said the four men used the internet to coordinate “combat training,” recruit members and organize riots.
“Every American has the right to peacefully organize, march and protest in support of their beliefs — but no one has the right to violently assault their political opponents,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in a statement.
The arrests and charges are the second batch filed this month against members of RAM, a violent white supremacist group that practices mixed martial arts and has been accused of showing up for rallies prepared to attack people.
Prosecutors in Charlottesville, Virginia, charged four other California men with traveling to that city on Aug. 11-12, 2017, to take part in and attack people at the “Unite the Right” rally.
Michael Paul Miselis, a 29-year-old Lawndale, California, resident, 34-year-old Thomas Walter Gillen of Redondo Beach, California, 24-year-old Cole Evan White of Clayton, California, and Daley are awaiting a court hearing in Virginia. They are also charged with rioting and conspiracy to riot.
Rundo is the owner of Right Brand Clothing, which promotes white supremacist themes and logos. The FBI believes he ran RAM’s now-suspended Twitter account.
RAM has been making entreaties overseas, including in Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe. The FBI said Rundo, Miselis and Daley met with European white supremacy extremist groups, “including a group known as White Rex.”
FBI Special Agent Scott Bierwirth, in the criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, noted that Right Brand Clothing’s Instagram page contained a photo of RAM members meeting with Olena Semenyaka, a leading figure within the fascist, neo-Nazi scene in Eastern Europe. In Ukraine, Semenyaka is an important voice within the Militant Zone and National Corps organizations and the Pan-European Reconquista movement, all of which have ties to the notorious Azov Battalion.
Bierwirth said Azov Battalion, now a piece of the Ukrainian National Guard, is known for neo-Nazi symbolism and ideology and has participated in training and radicalizing U.S.-based white supremacist organizations.
Rundo was filmed reciting the “14 Words” pledge popular in white supremacist circles.
“I’m a big supporter of the fourteen, I’ll say that,” Rundo told fellow RAM members on the video.
The rioting and conspiracy charges stem from a “Make America Great Again” rally on March 25, 2017, in Huntington Beach. The FBI said RAM members split from the main rally and attacked counter-protesters, and Rundo, Boman and Laube hit a number of people, including two journalists.
Daley, who is not charged in California, was also at the Huntington Beach rally, Bierwirth noted.
The violence was later celebrated by RAM members online, noted on neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, and used in solicitation for others to attend the Berkeley rally and combat training to be held in a park in San Clemente.
“Front page of the stormer we did it fam,” Daley texted another RAM member on March 25, 2017.
At the Berkeley rally, on April 17, 2017, Rundo, Boman and Eason attacked multiple people, Bierwirth wrote. Rundo was later arrested after punching a “defenseless person” and a Berkeley police officer.
Again, Bierwirth noted, the attacks were celebrated online, with Boman posting photos of himself attacking people and RAM members taking part in combat training.
Bierwirth also wrote that Rundo and other RAM members participated in an “Anti-Islamic Law” rally in San Bernardino on June 10, 2017. The rally was part of a nationwide demonstration put on by anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America. According to Bierwirth, RAM members took part in violent attacks at the ACT event.
A judge in the case denied bail for Rundo on Wednesday, calling him a flight risk.
Boman and Laube were also denied bail.
Photo credit Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register via AP Images