HUNTINGTON BEACH—A march in support of Donald Trump in Huntington Beach turned violent on Saturday, March 25. White supremacist signs and flags can be spotted in several videos and photos of the event. The presence of this reprehensible iconography was coupled by a torrent of hateful language from some of the pro-Trump demonstrators.

Although the vast majority of the roughly 2000 Trump supporters did not seem to be engaging in this behavior, the scope of it, and its occurrence so boldly in public, can be considered nothing less than a disturbing outrage.

Hateful Symbols and Words

One of the hateful symbols spotted at the event was the Imperial German Flag. According to the Anti-Defamation League the flag is used as a symbol by white supremacists. A 1993 Los Angeles Times article confirms its use by neo-Nazi groups.

I note that most of the flags at the march were U.S., blue lives matter, and Trump flags, but the presence of such a large symbol of hate was extremely conspicuous.

A sign reading “Da Goyim Know” was also spotted at the event. This saying finds its origins in an anti-Semitic internet meme.

A screenshot showing the "Da Goyim Know" sign.
A screenshot showing the “Da Goyim Know” sign.

The Orange County Register confirmed the presence of multiple hateful symbols at the march.

An earlier register article reported that banners with swastikas were also spotted.

“At the Bolsa Chica event, some marchers carried a banner displaying swastikas, and another man held a sign containing an anti-Semitic slur,” the Register reported. “Some of the protesters jeered them. Pro-Trump marcher Tim Morris of Northridge said he cringed when he saw the swastikas. ‘These guys don’t represent all of us,” he said.

Whether these displays were vile trolling, genuinely prejudiced, or both is of little consequence. Regardless of intent it was clearly bigoted and disgusting.

Two masked, anti-fascist, anti-Trump protestors, or antifa for short, were corned by a group of pro-Trump demonstrators after a scuffle between the two factions. Dubbed “the twins” by OC Weekly, they were met by a man in camouflage getting right into their face taunting them, “now’s your chance, now’s your chance.” One of the antifa guys flips off the group taunting him. For this he is sucker punched by a heavy white man in a red beanie seen in other pictures of the event wearing brass knuckles.

Frank Tristan, a reporter from OC Weekly who was also assaulted at the event, reported that the two antifa demonstrators were called “nigger,” and “spic.”

I tweeted OC Weekly’s editor Gustavo Arellano a picture I came across of the neo-Nazi flag. As editor of one of the few publications to go into detail about the hateful symbols and groups seen at the event, I thought it right to complement him on his work. He is right to give it the coverage it deserves. I myself wasn’t at this event and gathered my evidence through videos and photographs. The fact that such evidence is so widely available makes it even stranger that there was not wider coverage of this part of the story.

The bigotry at the march didn’t stop with flags and signs. Hate groups were also present.

OC Weekly reported that hammerskin nation skinheads were there. Video backs this up.

A screenshot showing Hammerskin Nation skinheads at the event. Notice the distinctive crossed hammers on the leading man's jacket.
A screenshot showing Hammerskin Nation skinheads at the event. Notice the distinctive crossed hammers on the leading man’s jacket.

The cameraman in the video repeatedly asks the skinheads if they support Trump.

“Why wouldn’t we support him,” one of them replies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that members of the south bay skins and “members of a white supremacist group identifying itself as ‘DIY Division’” were present at the event.

Misogynistic, homophobic, and racist vitriol flowed freely from some of the pro-Trump protestors. Videos of the event, like this one, show Trump supporters screaming “fa****.” Another man in the video can be heard yelling, “death to communists. Death to communists. Death, that’s all you get, death, helicopter rides.”

One of the men who yelled “fa****” also led a bizarre, vile chant of “back to the kitchen.” His association with the hammerskin nation is clear as his forearm bears the group’s distinctive crossed hammers symbol.

Other video of the incident shows Trump supporters yelling things like “You can’t run, you can’t hide, you get a helicopter ride.”

This is a reference to dictators like Augusto Pinochet’s habit of throwing prisoners’ bodies from helicopters. This has become a popular alt-right internet meme. Reporting from OC Weekly confirms the chants meaning and its use at the event. One pro-Trump demonstrator was open about what he desired.

“I need a Pinochet,” he shouted.

Some of the more mainstream Trump supporters didn’t seem to have a problem with the hate displayed at the march. A man covering the event for The Red Elephants, a right-wing blog, can be seen a just a few steps from one of the men yelling “fa****.” Wearing a red shirt and red, white and blue hat, he can clearly hear all this. The video does not show him voicing any objections.

I reached out to The Red Elephants via social media for comment. In a series of Facebook messages with their account they did not apologize or repudiate the hateful slurs.

“We try to cover every rally and event live – as we did with this one. Words and shouting are part of free speech. ‘Sticks and stones.’ Physical attacks were initiated by the Antifa members trying to BLOCK the march, that’s what was important to cover,” they said. “If you watched live, verbal attacks came from all angles, however ‘verbal’ attacks are what they are – negligible.  However, when you start spraying females in the face with pepper spray, like they did in Berkeley, DC, Oregon, Sacramento and now Huntington beach, things change.”

Antifa demonstrators did try to block the pathway the march was on. Some pro-Trump demonstrators walked into them, and it’s hard to tell who exactly started what from the videos. Either way there were scuffles. This could have been easily avoided had the pro-Trump marchers walked onto the sand and around the antifa demonstrators. Video showed they clearly had this option.

There were insults exchanged, and curse words did fly from both sides. That being the case the worst things I could hear from the antifa demonstrators was “bi**h.” Some might also find an antifa demonstrator’s assertion that AIPAC is an agent of Israel offensive. This does not come close to equaling “fa****,” “ni***,” “spic,” and the rhetoric about “helicopter rides.”

Regarding the pepper spray angle of the story, pro-Trump march organizer Jennifer Sterling was indeed hit by an antifa demonstrator’s pepper spray. However, the antifa demonstrator was not aiming at Sterling. Video of the event shows he was instead aiming at a pro-Trump demonstrator who was unprovokedly attacking OC Weekly journalist Frank Tristan. When the man first attacked the journalist, Tristan was holding another attacker at arm’s length. He was initially attacked after he tried to step in when his first attacker pushed a fellow OC Weekly journalist. Commendably, Sterling was trying to stop this violence and keep the peace. She did not deserve to get sprayed.

A screenshot showing an antifa demonstrator pepper spraying one of the men who attacked OC Weekly journalist Frank Tristan.
A screenshot showing an antifa demonstrator pepper spraying one of the men who attacked OC Weekly journalist Frank Tristan.

Another woman was reportedly sprayed by antifa at the event. Pro-Trump demonstrator John Wetzel said it was intentional and unprovoked. I have yet to discover video or photographic evidence to back this up.

Even considering this, I find The Red Elephants’ argument lacking in character. I am anti-Trump myself, and if I saw or heard hateful things at an anti-Trump event I’d be moved to say something.

In the video of the incident The Red Elephants posted there is an interview with a gay Trump supporter. I gather this is their attempt at making the pro-Trump side look inclusive. The hypocrisy is galling.

Strangely, they tried to convince me that the story was no longer worth writing about.

“But regardless, as a journalist, you should know that the HB story is cold. It’s too late to publish anything more on it,” they said.

As I told them, it is in the public interest to have a full and fair account of what transpired that day. It’s never to late to do good reporting and thorough follow through.

This blog’s hypocritical actions and failure to renounce the hate displayed at the march are especially egregious in light of the fact that there were Trump supporters willing to denounce the racist, misogynistic, and homophobic rhetoric spewed that day.

Misogyny and More Assorted Hate

A YouTube video from a far-right channel shows ugly, misogynistic taunts coming from pro-Trump demonstrators. A young woman with no mask can be seen arguing with Trump supporters early in the video. At 12:07 a young Trump supporter mocks her by saying “she doesn’t get let into the frat parties dude, none of them want to f*** her dude” and “those frat parties don’t let you in huh, they charge you 20 at the door.”

This misogyny received even less coverage than the already scarcely covered racism and anti-Semitism found at the march.

A few seconds earlier, at about 11:35, someone can be heard saying “ban all Muslims.”

The conversation had many such vile moments. At 13:34 one Trump supporter says “Ya, Mexicans can build our country but their own country is a piece of s**t.”

The misogyny kept on coming during the exchange.

At 14:45 the Trump supporters make fun of the woman’s male companion for wearing a mask and saying, “Women are strong.” Their replies include “oh a cuck,” and “no balls.”

At 18:44 the man with the camera can be heard saying, “hey, I like your sign” to a man holding the “da goyim know” sign.

No Defense

Some commenters on social media are pointing out the communist imagery seen on the clothes of some of the anti-Trump demonstrators at the Huntington Beach event. Sure enough one had a hammer and sickle tattoo and two could be seen wearing a hammer and sickle shirt. One had a RevCom sign. I know that RevCom expressed in its writings some detestable apologetics for communist dictators that I strongly renounce.

Still, I do not buy into any attempts to use this to equivocate the bad actions of the pro-Trump side. I for one detest totalitarian communist regimes. In my eyes, they share a consequentialism with the worst right-wing regimes that places little value on human life. This is largely the intellectual basis for their enormous and well known crimes and abuse of human rights. Look no further than the work of Hannah Arendt and Arthur Koestler to see this for yourself.

That being the case I see major differences between those who would evoke communist imagery and those who would evoke white supremacist imagery today.

An interview posted on YouTube shows some of the antifa demonstrators explaining the communist iconography on their clothes. They explicitly reject authoritarian communism.

“Many of us are socialists and communists,” one of the men in the video says. “We do not believe that the Soviet Union, that Venezuela, or other totalitarian autocracies that claim to be communist, North Korea as well, we don’t believe those are good regimes. We don’t support anything that they do. We believe in democracy. We believe in workers’ power and workers owning their means of production and controlling their destiny.”

I find much disagreeable with one of the men’s assertions that real communism has never existed. However, at no point does he express anything but anti-capitalist views. He does not express admiration for communist dictators.

It’s quite possible the RevCom sign holder feels this way too. It’s quite possible they don’t, and they admire authoritarian regimes. If that’s the case I denounce them fully, something so many in the pro-Trump camp seemed unwilling to do to the extremists on their own side.

I for one do not feel this communist imagery can or should be reappropriated. Like the Confederate flag, it carries to much historical baggage. It is to tied to atrocity to be reclaimed.

However, we should argue in good faith based upon the evidence we have at our disposal. The Red Elephants posted a picture on Facebook indicating these demonstrators were wearing symbols associated with communist tyrants. The post seems to argue this makes them hypocritical in calling Trump a fascist, and infer that they support those dictators. Their intent doesn’t matter more than what their shirts actually represent, and they do represent something awful. Still, journalistic fairness demands you address the nuance of situations. The fact that The Red Elephants apparently didn’t find these videos, realize these symbols are not worn with the intention of supporting tyrants, and make a good faith, sophisticated argument instead of knocking down an easy strawman seriously calls into question their ability to do basic follow up, journalistic skills, and integrity.

I do not appreciate the communist iconography. Yet, I see it as less of a sin in this situation. Trying to express appreciation for non-totalitarian socialism, poor messaging or not, is not the same as spewing racist, misogynistic, and homophobic invective. The antifa demonstrators in this video reject totalitarianism while a Trump supporter at the same event screams his desire for “a Pinochet.” A stark difference indeed.

I also fail to see how one side’s supposed bad actions would justify the other’s. One side evoking communist imagery is no excuse for the other evoking white supremacist imagery. This type of equivocation has historical precedent. The Third Reich often cast itself as a bulwark against and enemy of bolshevism in order to justify their crimes and aggression (watch the classic film “Judgment at Nuremberg” for an example of this argument). The assertion that there are communists on the other side never justifies allowing Nazis/white supremacists in your midst.

It’s also worth remembering that hard-left communists like RevCom are on the fringes of the anti-Trump movement. You will find very few either online, in the streets, or in positions of power embracing anything even close to their totalitarian apologetics. This isn’t to say there aren’t legitimately objectionable people and groups on the left, of course there are. Again, this shouldn’t lead us to equivocate. With everything we have seen in the pro-Trump movement; the rising influence of the alt-right, racist characters like Johnson’s connections at a high level, people like Heimbach embracing Trump, the hateful violence planned and committed by Trump’s supporters, and the radical statements and policy proposals from Trump himself all show that one side cannot be fairly compared to the other. The right’s problem with radicalism far outstrips the left’s.

Sterling was insistent that I talk about the less controversial parts of the march. True enough they claim they raised some money for wounded veterans, and they did clean up the beach. They wore blue ribbons to support first responders, and the majority were peaceful and not overtly bigoted.

Sterling, along with her fellow march organizers Darlene Savord and Carrie Fleming, strongly denounced the racist, homophobic, and misogynistic remarks heard on the videos. They all said that white supremacists and other such people were not welcome back at any of their events.

Savord gave a combative interview in which she exclaimed that I’m “fake news.” Sterling and Fleming were polite in answering some very tough questions.

Still, I would challenge them to examine their participation in a movement that is so attractive to racists, misogynists, and other such unsavory characters. These types aren’t lurking at the peripheries, but have played a role at almost every level of the Trump movement.

An article in The Los Angeles Times showed how deeply white supremacists have embraced Trump.

“Andrew Anglin, editor of the Daily Stormer website and an emerging leader of a new generation of millennial extremists, said he had ‘zero interest’ in the 2012 general election and viewed presidential politics as ‘pointless.’ That is, until he heard Trump,” the article says. “‘Trump had me at ‘build a wall,’’ Anglin said. ‘Virtually every alt-right Nazi I know is volunteering for the Trump campaign.’”

The article goes on to give some explanations as to why people like Anglin are attracted to Trump.

“But Trump’s positions, which reflect intense nationalism, suspicion of Muslims and a call for sharp reductions of legal immigration and expulsion of illegal immigrants, have provided greater legitimacy to ideas once viewed as too divisive for the mainstream. Many of Trump’s statements have been interpreted as a kind of dog whistle to white nationalist groups.”

Anglin is not alone. The events at Huntington Beach are a local example of a much broader problem, and it cannot be ignored.

(This article is the first in a three part series.)