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Photo Credit: Anthony Crider/Flickr

White Nationalists Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Riot in Charlottesville

A pair of “very fine people” plead guilty to a federal charge to conspiracy to riot at the violent and deadly “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. The event saw clashes between participants of the gathering — tiki torch-wielding white nationalists — and protesters. One such protester, Heather Heyer, was fatally run hit by a vehicle driven by one demonstrator.

Benjamin Daley and Michael Miselis, both of California, allegedly traveled across the country to attend the Charlottesville rally and engage in violence with protesters, federal prosecutors say. They are the second pair of men arrested and charged with conspiracy to riot at the “Unite the Right” event. All four are affiliated with the white nationalist group known as Rise Above Movement, with Daley being one of the principle founders of the radical right-wing group.

Rise Above Movement, primarily centered on the west coast, has caught the attention of both local and federal law enforcement agencies, having cultivated a reputation for organizing and participating in violence at white nationalist rallies in California, Oregon and Washington, among other places over the past few years.

Last fall, three members of the white nationalist group were arrested by the FBI for their roles in inciting violence at “Make America Great Again” rallies in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, Calif., as well as an anti-Muslim rally in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2017.

Rise Above Movement is but one radical right-wing group that has been routinely organizing violence at political rallies since 2016. Earlier this year it was revealed that members of the Portland Police Department were actively colluding with members of the radical right-wing group, Patriot Prayer. In one instance, a member of the department’s anti-riot team gave advance warning to the leader of Patriot Prayer about one of their members being sought for arrest after attempting to drive a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters.

President Donald Trump, when asked to comment on the events in Charlottesville in 2017, infamously remarked that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the rally, including those affiliated with the Rise Above Movement and other white nationalists in attendance. For a brief moment, Trump walked this back but has more recently doubled down on this claim after former Vice President Joe Biden criticized those remarks publicly.

In a late April interview, Trump tried to disingenuously characterize the “Unite the Right” rally as consisting of people simply protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, saying that Lee was “a great general, whether you like it or not.”

President Trump knows exactly what message he’s sending when he tries to revise history and support white nationalists. He knows that in doing so, he’s further cementing his support base located among the most virulent, radical right-wing extremists in the United States. One need look not only at his public statements embracing nationalism and his repeated refusal to condemn white supremacists.

This article was originally published on Care2.com on May 13, 2019.

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