Proud Boy and Patriot Prayer collaborator Reggie Axtell threatened Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, saying that his days are “f------ numbered.” His threats come amidst a mounting campaign by far-right reactionaries in the Pacific Northwest to harass and dox their political rivals.
“I promise you this, Ted Wheeler: I’m coming for you, you little punk. And all your little antifa bastards. I’m coming for you f------, too,” he said in a Facebook video. Members of Patriot Prayer regularly accuse Portland’s mayor of collaborating with antifascists and black bloc protesters.
The Proud Boys are a hate group known for their bigoted rhetoric against, among others, women and Muslims. The group’s involvement in a series of violent incidents in 2018 brought them national notoriety and attention from federal law enforcement.
The threats first came to the attention of Hatewatch after they were flagged by a user on Twitter. Axtell's tirade is one of the most recent attempts by members of the far-right network in the Pacific Northwest, anchored by the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, to initiate violent encounters with leftists and now, it seems, democratically elected officials. Since 2016, the two groups have partnered to hold dozens of rallies and “ flash marches” in West Coast cities in hopes of brawling with counterprotesters. Their rallies have regularly descended into violent riots.
On Jan. 22 – the same day Axtell posted his threats – Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, Proud Boy Tusitala “Tiny” Toese and former Proud Boy Russell Schultz collectively announced a new “demask antifa” movement. All three men encouraged their followers to approach antifascists activists – who sometimes wear bandanas over the lower half of their faces – remove their masks, take a photo and post it to social media. The group plans to use the photos to dox leftists.
“We’ll find out where they live and then you can knock on their house doors,” Schultz said in a video.
Axtell said he will take part in the campaign.
The demasking effort comes as part of a larger move to shift their campaign of intimidation against leftists outside the boundaries of their rallies, raising the threat that political violence could break out unpredictably on the streets of Portland when police are not standing by to keep the rival sides apart.
Some members of the groups have made explicit threats against antifa. “You’re gonna be getting knives put into your throat. You’re going to be getting bullets put into your head if you don’t stop this shit with us,” Skylor Jernigan, who has attended several recent Patriot Prayer events, said on a Facebook video.
These threats and announced demasking campaign followed on the heels of an alleged violent encounter the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer had with antifa.
On the evening of Jan. 17, a large group of far-right activists gathered outside the building where the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a left-wing political organization, was holding a chapter meeting. After being denied entry, several Proud Boys claim they were attacked by antifa. After the incident, Axtell and another Proud Boy, James Yaakov, went to the hospital with minor injuries.
Footage recorded after the alleged incident shows Toese – who has a history of engaging in violence – with bloodied knuckles, bragging that he “knocked the f--- out of” three men. In another video, he suggests that Proud Boy Jason James pulled a gun out during the encounter.
The DSA is a policy- and campaign-oriented organization with more than 50,000 members nationwide. Two are currently serving in the U.S. Congress. Antifa is a much smaller patchwork of autonomous groups that organize locally or regionally and employ militant tactics. The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer typically denounce anyone who opposes them by calling them antifa, with little regard for whether or not a person or group belongs to an antifascist organization or has engaged in violence. Other chapters of the Proud Boys across the country have similarly harassed DSA meetings, justifying their actions by describing their targets, without evidence, as antifa. In the Portland incident, the DSA chapter told Willamette Week that none of their members were involved in any fighting.
The next day, members of the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer protested outside the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) building where DSA hosts their meetings, later wandering the streets of Portland to find leftists to harass.
In one video, the group spots some of their political rivals across the street, but they pause to consider how to approach the apparent antifascists in a way that doesn’t paint them as the antagonists. “We don’t want it to look like we’re fighting them,” Patriot Prayer affiliate Haley Adams says. “Do it all natural,” another in the group suggests. Gibson begins yelling before he reaches the other side of the street, and a confusing tussle breaks out.
“We’re gonna hurt you,” an older man tells a person with their face covered.
Later in the day, Gibson and a large crew of his followers came head-to-head with a smaller group of mostly black-clad activists. They yelled a Proud Boys slogan – “F--- around and find out” – and repeatedly called one member of the group a “f-----.” They demanded that the activists remove their masks, even though some of those on Gibson’s side were covering their faces with the signature yellow-and-black Patriot Prayer bandana. One member of Gibson’s group brandished a bottle of mace.
Gibson announced Thursday that Patriot Prayer plans to attend all upcoming meetings of local socialist organizations. After finding a scheduled meeting of the International Socialist Organization had been cancelled, he and several of his associates went to the IWW building and recorded a video calling for socialists to engage in dialogue with their group. “Death to antifa,” a Facebook user commented.
The far-right activists in the Pacific Northwest hope to take their campaign against leftists nationwide.
Schultz encouraged people attending an upcoming racist rally at the Stone Mountain Confederate monument outside Atlanta, Georgia – one organized by an affiliate of a KKK group – to demask and dox “commie” counterprotesters. Schultz has marked himself as “attending” the rally on Facebook, though a permit for the event was recently denied because officials determined it poses a “clear and present danger” to public safety.
Photo illustration by SPLC