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Former Marine Collaborates With Violent White Nationalist

A joint investigation by Hatewatch and Bellingcat has identified a former Marine who has cooperated extensively with Rob Rundo. Rundo, the founder of hate groups Rise Above Movement (RAM), Will2Rise (W2R), Media2Rise (M2R) and so-called active clubs, is a violent white power activist currently facing federal rioting charges.

Evidence suggests that the Marine, Grady Joseph Mayfield, 20, of San Diego, California, was involved in a range of Rundo’s political projects following his brief enlistment in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

Mayfield, who served as a private in the USMC from April to July 2021, even flew to visit Rundo in his current country of residence, Serbia, and the men traveled together elsewhere in Europe along with another Rundo acolyte and collaborator, Allen Goff.

Rundo is the founder of the racist street fighting club the Rise Above Movement (RAM), which traveled from a base in Southern California to stage violent counterprotests around the country between 2016 and 2020. He has since founded Will2Rise (W2R), a clothing and lifestyle brand that SPLC has named a white nationalist hate group, and its affiliate Media2Rise (M2R), a white nationalist propaganda outlet that aims to “serve those throughout European civilization who have been slighted for defending their nation and identity.” He has also organized a network of so-called active clubs, which are effectively successor groups to RAM.

Before and since the meeting in Europe, Mayfield assisted Rundo in promoting W2R with visual propaganda, and in establishing a company associated with the active clubs.

White nationalist propagandist and organizer

Hatewatch and Bellingcat established Mayfield’s affiliation with Rundo and his network of white nationalist organizations using corporate records, social media accounts and material from M2R’s website.

On Aug. 20, 2021, just weeks after he was discharged from USMC following basic training, Mayfield registered the limited liability corporation (LLC) A’s Club with Florida’s Division of Corporations. The records show that Mayfield’s LLC shares a Lakeland, Florida, address with another company, W2R LLC, registered under the name of Andrew Bose on Aug. 17, 2021. The address attached to both LLCs matched that of a mailing address that Rundo used for Will2Rise in late 2021, and matches a property owned by a close relative of the white power activist.

Serbian public records show that Rundo registered his own W2R DOO in 2020. (A DOO, or društvo sa ograničenom odgovornošću, is Serbia’s equivalent of an LLC.)

Mayfield’s Instagram account, which he operates with the username “@grady.mayfield_,” follows and is followed by the accounts of several known members of Rundo’s inner circle. After visually comparing photos, Hatewatch and Bellingcat determined that they appeared to portray the same person. The Bellingcat reporter also used publicly available facial recognition software to compare self-portraits from that account to images from the Media2Rise (M2R) website to further corroborate the identification. That software indicated that the man in the photos on Media2Rise’s site and Mayfield are likely the same person.

The photographs are captioned on the Media2Rise website as depicting the “M2R crew” in Serbia.

Two of those photos offer a visual match with scenes from a Nov. 18, 2021, video trailer of the Media2Rise’s “Europe Tour,” showing the same individuals, clothing, backgrounds and settings.

A photo captioned “M2R at demonstration in Belgrade, Serbia,” shows a man who appears to be Mayfield speaking with a rallygoer, and the same interaction is depicted in the trailer.

The trailer also includes footage of Allen Goff and Mayfield interviewing a man whose face is obscured, but is described in the matching photo on the Media2Rise site as a Serbian nationalist.

Hatewatch and Bellingcat determined that the rally footage from the trailer depicts a Sept. 18, 2021, right-wing, anti-vaccine protest in Belgrade’s Republic Square (Trg Republike). M2R’s footage shows multiple individuals wearing clothing and carrying signs that match verified video of the event from other sources.

On that basis, and by using other public footage and media reports, Hatewatch determined that Mayfield’s solo interview was with high-profile Serbian far-right activist Damnjan Knežević, the founder of the People’s Patrols (Narodni Patrola). 

The third photograph that appears to depict Mayfield on the M2R website shows him standing alongside Goff and a small group of men whose faces have been redacted.

The M2R website caption claims this photograph was taken at Club 451, a Belgrade-based business that came under scrutiny this February after announcing, and subsequently canceling, an event with a self-described “nationalist” singer from Switzerland, Ewiger Sturm. The image does not correspond with any footage that Media2Rise has shared on any of its social media platforms.

Separately, a short video posted by the Will2Rise Telegram account on Dec. 3, 2021, appears to show Mayfield participating in a workout session alongside Rundo.

This video matches an Oct. 1 video that Rundo posted to his personal Telegram account. The videos show the same individuals, wearing the same clothes, surrounded by the same wooden cabins and hills.

Bellingcat previously determined that the October video was shot at lakeside holiday rental accommodation in southwestern Serbia, near the country’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mayfield did not share photos of himself in Serbia on his @grady.mayfield_ Instagram account, but he published several Instagram stories between late July and October 2021 showing him in countries bordering or near Serbia.

Mayfield published two stories to a folder with a Turkish flag emoji on July 28 and 29, 2021. The first showed a dish that appears to be menemen, a Turkish egg dish, alongside a Turkish flag sticker, The second was a short video shot on the ground floor of the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul.

Mayfield published two photos and a short video to the same Instagram folder from a ferry on Aug. 1, 2021, without specifying a location.

He resumed posting to Instagram on Oct. 9, 2021, apparently from Turkey. Two days later on Oct. 11, 2021, Mayfield uploaded a short seaside video geocoded from Budva, Montenegro, about an 8-hour drive, or 50-minute nonstop flight, from Belgrade.

Hatewatch and Bellingcat asked Rob Rundo for comment via an email to Media2Rise's general information address. A response from that address did not directly address the reporting, saying instead, "well i need you to answaer [sic] a question for me first do you support AZOV and stand by Ukraine or do you support Russia and take money as a shill?"

When Hatewatch responded with a request for specific comment on the reporting on Mayfield, the response from the address read, "well we are like AZOV but the US version so grow some balls call out azov and show you are a putin shill or tuck tail and write no comment." Azov Regiment is an ultra-nationalist volunteer unit in the Ukrainian National Guard that formed in 2014 and has since been engaged in fighting with Russian and pro-Russian forces. Azov has won sympathy from some neo-Nazis and other far-right political movements in the West.

‘Luke’ in Serbia

On April 13, the news outlet Balkan Insight (BI) published a story on Rundo’s activities in Serbia. The story quoted a Rundo affiliate whom they were not able to identify, and whom they quoted under the alias Luke. Details of Luke’s story as reported in BI matched Mayfield’s own, including his references to serving briefly in the Marines and his travels around the Balkans. The same BI piece also noted that someone from Media2Rise had uploaded multiple photos of ‘Luke’ to the white nationalist media outlet’s website.

BI reported the photograph of Mayfield and Knežević, and the photograph of Mayfield at Klub 451, as depictions of Luke.

Luke told BI that he had been kicked out of the military, like Mayfield, for “being associated with Rundo,” that he had been approached by the FBI at his home, and that he had been banned from traveling in the EU’s Schengen Area, a grouping of 26 countries allowing visa-free travel across borders within its limits.

Hatewatch and Bellingcat contacted the FBI’s San Diego Field Office, and a spokesman there would neither confirm nor deny any investigation. Hatewatch and Bellingcat also contacted EU immigration authorities about the Schengen ban but received no immediate response.

Luke also told BI that he was an Orthodox religious believer, that he had visited Rundo in Republika Srpska, and that he had traveled to Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania.

BI quoted several of Luke’s tweets, which allowed Hatewatch and Bellingcat to find the account with Twitter searches and review its output.

The account’s recent tweets are focused on pro-Russia messaging on the war in Ukraine, boosting shirtless photos of other far-right Twitter users, and tweeting or retweeting concepts associated with Bronze Age Mindset, a 2018 book from the pseudonymous author “Bronze Aged Pervert,” or “BAP.”

Marine Corps training

Hatewatch and Bellingcat established the details of Mayfield’s brief enlistment in the USMC using social media accounts, materials published online by the USMC, and service records.

On July 23, 2021, on his @grady.mayfield_ Instagram account, Mayfield posted what appeared to be an official USMC class portrait. The photograph depicts 49 soldiers in fatigues and five others in dress uniforms. The photograph bore the captions “MCRD San Diego, CA” and “2141 Golf Co 2nd BN ‘Honor Platoon,’” with the date “16 July 2021.”

In a graduation program published online by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, California, listed “G.J. Mayfield” as a graduate of the same platoon on July 16, 2021.

Hatewatch and Bellingcat obtained Mayfield’s service record, which shows that he enlisted on April 5, 2021, shortly after his 19th birthday, and was discharged on July 14, 2021, two days prior to the graduation date listed on Instagram photo and the recruit depot’s website.

The online graduation program lists Mayfield as on track to graduate as a private first-class. However, the records that the Marine Corps provided to Hatewatch and Bellingcat list Mayfield as a private with a basic military occupational specialty, a status given to those Marines in training for a primary area of specialization. In an email, deputy communications strategy officer Yvonne Carlock explained that Mayfield’s “premature discharge and rank are indicative of the fact that the character of his service was incongruent with Marine Corps’ expectations and standards.”

In a telephone conversation, Capt. Ryan Bruce, a media operations officer at USMC headquarters, attributed Mayfield’s inclusion in the graduation program to an administrative error. Bruce added that though he couldn’t speak to Mayfield’s specific case, it was possible that Mayfield was still going through the formal separation process from USMC when the list of graduating students was made ahead of the ceremony.

Later, in an email, Bruce said that recruits were asked about extremist activities, and were subject to “a multi-layered, policy-based screening process,” which included “criminal, financial, educational and work history inquiries, [often requiring] in-person interviews with neighbors, former classmates and coworkers.”

Neither Carlock nor Bruce would comment on whether Mayfield’s discharge was related to his association with the white power movement, citing military privacy guidelines.

However, a close family posted a photo on Jan. 21, 2021, to their Facebook wall of Grady shows him wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of Rundo’s active club network. The photo was posted some two months before Mayfield’s initial enlistment.

Mayfield’s brief tenure in the Marine Corps aligns with a period in which Department of Defense officials pledged to combat extremism within their ranks. Two months prior to Mayfield’s enlistment, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed a memo on Feb. 5, 2021, commanding military leaders to institute a one-day “stand down” to discuss what the military deems “impermissible behaviors,” the importance of soldiers’ oath of office, and procedures for addressing “suspected, or actual, extremist behaviors.”

Hatewatch and Bellingcat contacted Grady Mayfield in an Instagram direct message for comment on his connection with Rundo, his enlistment and his overseas travel. He responded with a meme depicting Pepe the Frog in an SS uniform, carrying a machine gun, with the caption “we are not frens.” Asked if he wanted to add anything to the meme, Mayfield responded, “Post fizeek and I will do interview.” (The demand that someone “post physique” is a familiar, hypermasculine last resort often exercised in Internet arguments. “Fizeek” is a slangy misspelling of the word.)

Mayfield changed the settings of his Instagram account to private after Hatewatch and Bellingcat requested comment.

Hatewatch has previously reported on the strategic value extremist groups place on obtaining military training for members.

‘Esoteric Hitlorist’

Hatewatch and Bellingcat identified an account that appears to be Mayfield’s on Telegram, a lightly moderated social media and messaging platform.

The account features at least three self-portrait or “selfie” photographs that appear to be of the same person depicted in the @grady.mayfield_ Instagram account; an image of a shirtless man flexing his muscles in a dimly lit bathroom that is identical to a photograph posted on the @grady.mayfield_ Instagram account; and another shirtless photo that shows a silver cross pendant and a tattoo of the word “thumos,” both of which have also been visible in selfies on Mayfield’s Instagram account.

Thumos, though originally a concept in Classical Greek philosophy, was taken up by the far right beginning with the far-right French nouvelle droite, or new right, as a way of valorizing and mystifying the supposedly unique energy of white men.

On Feb. 9, 2022, the Telegram account reposted a video from Rob Rundo’s main Telegram account of a man reading and doing pull-ups, adding the caption “IT ME.” The man in the video is wearing a shirt produced and sold by Will2Rise, Rundo’s clothing brand.

In the video, the man is seen using exercise equipment in a public park. The equipment, a sign near the exercise equipment and buildings in the background allowed Hatewatch and Bellingcat to identify it as Breen Neighborhood Park in San Diego, California.

The park is less than two miles from Mira Mesa High School. On June 12, 2020, a family member posted a picture of Mayfield’s Mira Mesa High School diploma to Facebook. A website associated with Mira Mesa’s sports teams also lists Mayfield, then a sophomore, as a member of the school’s men’s varsity water polo team in its 2017-18 season.

The Telegram account has showcased photographs of white nationalist literature and propaganda, including a Rise Above Movement shirt. These have appeared alongside assorted military paraphernalia and official U.S. government documents.

The account has featured screenshots in which Mayfield referred to himself as an “esoteric hitlorist.” Esoteric Hitlerism is a strain of neo-Nazism holding that Hitler was a divine being or avatar.

On Feb. 18, 2022, the account featured an uncaptioned photo of Bronze Age Mindset alongside a backpack with a U.S. Marines patch.

Two days later, the same account published a photo of BAP’s book with a U.S. Department of Homeland Security patch and a type of passport issued exclusively to U.S. government personnel or their immediate family members, alongside the caption “WE ARE EVERYWHERE.”

On Feb. 22, someone published another photo with BAP’s book, a passport for U.S. government officials, and a T-shirt with the logo of the USMC’s Amphibious Reconnaissance unit.

The Telegram account has shared Russian and Ukrainian ultra-nationalist propaganda following Russia’s total invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

At 11:08 p.m. EST on Feb. 23, shortly after Russia launched its “special military operation” with airstrikes on major municipal areas in central and eastern Ukraine, a channel administrator wrote a short post stating: “I want to take a second to remind everyone there are great men on both sides and this is a very unfortunate situation. At the end of the day any nationalist who dies for their country in this conflict should have all of our respect.”

Then, on Feb. 25 and 26, the channel featured two videos promoting Rusich, a Russian mercenary group with ties to the white power movement that has fought in Syria and on the pro-Russian side in Eastern Ukraine. On Feb. 25 it featured a photo of members of a pro-Ukraine militia with the caption “HAIL VICTORY” – the English translation of the Nazi chant “sieg heil.”

This article was produced in partnership with Bellingcat, an investigative reporting outlet.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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