Trump: ‘The Problem in Venezuela Is Not that Socialism Has Been Poorly Implemented’ but ‘Faithfully Implemented’
‘All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests and their well-being, including their prosperity’
Sep 19, 2017
TRUMP: “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. (Applause) From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.
“Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems. America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests and their well-being, including their prosperity.”
Public school teachers are behind a leading far-left militant group that is part of the Antifa network that federal officials say is committing “domestic terrorist violence.”
By Any Means Necessary, which has played a key role in riots in Berkeley, Sacramento and elsewhere, has dozens of public school teachers among its members, including among its most prominent leaders.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security began paying closer attention to Antifa groups in general after BAMN and other extremists started a riot and attacked marchers at a white nationalist rally in Sacramento last July, Politico reported on Friday. The Sacramento violence left at least 10 people hospitalized, several of whom had knife wounds.
One of BAMN’s most prominent organizers is Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley middle school teacher and pro-violence militant. Felarca currently faces charges of inciting a riot for her role in the Sacramento violence.
After BAMN and other antifa groups staged violent protests in Berkeley to keep right-wing author Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking, Felarca defended her group’s acts of violence. BAMN was able to cancel another event, this time an April speech by pro-Trump author Ann Coulter, by promising a repeat performance of the Milo riots. (RELATED: ‘INFERNO’ — Milo Speech Cancelled After Rioters Set Campus Ablaze [VIDEO])
The FBI and DHS say Antifa groups like BAMN are engaging in “domestic terrorist violence,” according to the Politico report.
Just last weekend, Felarca helped organize BAMN’s mass demonstrations that “shut down” an anti-Marxism rally in Berkeley. As with BAMN’s other organized actions, left-wing actors at Saturday’s demonstrations violently attacked peaceful protesters. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned the Antifa violence in Berkeley, while Felarca called BAMN’s actions a “resounding success.”
BAMN’s members appear to be mixing their far-left activism with their roles as teachers. (RELATED: Documents Tie Berkeley Riot Organizers To Pro-Pedophilia Group)
BAMN organizer and high school teacher Nicole Conaway organized a “sickout” at her school in 2015, leading other teachers in calling in sick to protest the policies of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. The sickout forced six Detroit-area schools to cancel classes, affecting nearly 4,000 students.
One month later, Conaway led students in a school walkout protesting poor building conditions. She was one of three BAMN organizers arrested in connection with the protest. Other BAMN members have led similar protests at the schools where they teach.
In Berkeley, Felarca and other BAMN members repeatedly abused their positions of influence over students in service of their own radical goals, Berkeley’s public school district charged in court filings obtained by local news organization Berkeleyside.
Despite repeated warnings, the district said Felarca continued to try to recruit students into her radical organization, including during work hours. The leftist teacher frequently tried to bring students on school-sponsored trips to BAMN-related activities, the district said, describing the trips as attempts to “indoctrinate” the students.
The school district accused Felarca and other BAMN members of weaponizing students to derail disciplinary hearings for Felarca, after student protesters repeatedly swarmed into the disciplinary hearings. The school district claimed that Felarca and other BAMN members “were actively trying to brainwash and manipulate” students to serve her “own selfish interests,” calling her conduct “particularly reprehensible.” Felarca continues teaching today.
Oakland Technical High School teacher and BAMN member Tania Kappner worked with Felarca this past January to organize students and teachers in a walkout in protesting Trump. Kappner was identified in the media as a BAMN member as early as 2011.
BAMN is active within both the National Education Association — the nation’s largest teacher’s union — as well as with local and regional teacher’s unions in Michigan and California.
Last year, 17 different BAMN members ran for elected positions on the Detroit Federation of Teachers, according to a newsletter sent out by the DFT. BAMN also ran five candidates for different national leadership positions with the NEA in 2017.
When the Berkeley school district suspended Felarca for her violent activism in 2016 (for which she was charged with inciting a riot), the local teacher’s union sued the school on Felarca’s behalf.
In January 2015, BAMN organizer Steve Conn was elected president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The DFT’s executive board charged Conn with misconduct later that year and removed him from office.
Conn and his wife, former teacher Heather Miller, were fired back in 2007 after leading a student protest that resulted in students being pepper sprayed. The couple sued and got their jobs back, in addition to a $300,000 settlement. Conn continues teaching today at Western High School.
BAMN was founded by the Revolutionary Workers League, an openly Marxist organization, in 1995.
As TheDC first reported in April, internal documents from the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) tie BAMN to NAMBLA., reveal the RWL — BAMN’s parent organization — worked with NAMBLA in the years just before the communist group founded BAMN.
One of BAMN’s founding members is on record identifying as a NAMBLA member, calling the pro-pedophilia group the victim of a “witch-hunt.” (Read TheDC’s full story on the ties between NAMBLA and BAMN here.)
As white supremacists go, Joey Gibson makes for a lousy one. For starters, he’s half Japanese. “I don’t feel like I’m Caucasian at all,” he says. Not to be a stickler for the rules, but this kind of talk could get you sent to Master Race remedial school.
And it gets worse. The founder of Patriot Prayer—a Vancouver, Wash.-based operation that sponsors rallies and marches promoting freedom and First Amendment rights along with all-purpose unity—also spews hippie-dippie rhetoric like “moderates have to come together” and “love and peace [are] the only way to heal this country.” Joey tends to sound less like an alt-right bully boy than a conflict-resolution facilitator or a Unitarian Sunday school teacher.
For his late August “Liberty Weekend” in the Bay Area, which was to include a free speech rally in San Francisco followed by a “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley (headed by a local “transsexual patriot”), Joey advertised that “no extremists will be allowed in. No Nazis, Communists, KKK, Antifa, white supremacists . . . or white nationalists.” (So much for free speech.) Likewise, the advertised docket of speakers was to include “three blacks, two Hispanics, one Asian, one Samoan, one Muslim, two women, and one white male.” If becoming a liberty movement fixture doesn’t work out for Gibson, he has a promising future as a UC Berkeley admissions officer.
Despite all this, you’d have thought from the avalanche of alarmist walk-up stories that Gibson and friends would be dancing in a “Springtime for Hitler” kick line. Donald Trump, of course, who draws frequent Hitler comparisons in some quarters, has already set nerves on edge with his nativist rhetoric, perpetually divisive style, and what’s widely perceived as his winks ’n’ nods to white nationalists. But in the wake of the recent white supremacist hoedown in Charlottesville—a cesspool of racial hatred that resulted in the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer when a Nazi fanboy drove his Dodge Challenger into her and 19 others—opportunistic leftists/Democrats have been on the prowl to paint everyone to the right of Angela Davis as a dangerous racist lunatic.
They seem to have forgotten that the far right hardly has a monopoly on political violence. Just a couple of months before Charlottesville, a Bernie Sanders supporter opened fire on a baseball-field full of Republican congressmen, almost killing Rep. Steve Scalise. And this, of course, has been the year of antifa, the masked anarchists in black ISIS pajamas, who advocate violence while battling “fascists,” defined loosely as anyone they don’t like (including run-of-the-mill Trump supporters).
Antifa have shown up at one right-leaning gathering after another this year to administer random beat-downs with everything from metal poles to bike locks to bear spray, causing multitudinous injuries and large-scale property damage. Back in February, they literally set fires on the Berkeley campus, smashing windows as they rampaged through the city streets, to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from appearing, even though the professional provocateur frequently speaks about his penchant for sex with black men, which used to count as a social-justice twofer during less polarized times.
But when it came to Joey Gibson’s Liberty Weekend, enter Nancy Pelosi, who seems to be pining for girlhood activism days, as she’s billed this “Resistance Summer.” Gibson secured a permit for his free speech rally to be held at Crissy Field, a former Army airfield next to the Golden Gate Bridge. But Pelosi loudly suggested the permit be pulled, saying the National Park Service should reflect on its “capacity to protect the public during such a toxic” event, which she termed a “white supremacist rally.” The fact that over two-thirds of the event’s scheduled speakers were minorities, that race wasn’t being discussed, and that the event was billed a “day of freedom, spirituality, unity, peace, and patriotism” didn’t seem to cut much ice with her.
No matter, Pelosi had lots of company. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote a letter to the Park Service, expressing her dismay that Crissy Field “will be used as a venue for Patriot Prayer’s incitement, hate and intimidation.” The mayors of San Francisco and Berkeley denounced the group, too. Conservative news outlets subsequently revealed that Berkeley’s mayor, Jesse Arreguin, was a Facebook member of BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), one of the antifa affinity groups that had helped trash his own city during the Milo riots. Yet this didn’t stop him from announcing that the city had printed up 20,000 “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” posters for its citizens, not in anticipation of antifa’s next vandalizing, sucker-punching Viking raid, but to put everyone on notice about the Patriot Prayer rally. Perhaps Arreguin was worried antifa would unfriend him on Facebook.
Properly whipped into an anti-racism frenzy, the Bay Area did what the Bay Area loves doing most. Or second most, after driving low-income minorities out of hopelessly expensive neighborhoods so that tech millionaires can live in them. They planned counterprotests! Lots of them. The events list ran to multiple pages.
There would be “empathy tents” and “mobile dance” counter rallies. They slated candlelight vigils and Michael Franti concerts, “anti-hate” marches and “Flowers Against Fascism.” One event was titled “Calling All Clowns”—a “call for anti-racist, anti-fascist clowns to descend upon Crissy Field to mercilessly ridicule any neo-nazis, white supremacists, or alt-right trolls who dare show their face.” Then there was the invitation for concerned citizens to deposit “your dog poop on Crissy Field” in order to “leave a gift for our alt-right friends.” A Guardian headline-writer billed this the “Turd Reich.”
Joey, for his part, wasn’t worried about menacing clowns or dog droppings. He was worried that his rallies would come to resemble Altamont, a hellscape of dark and eruptive violence. Since rally-goers would likely be outnumbered by hecklers and antifa ninjas by about 10-to-1 in one of the most aggressively liberal enclaves in the world, Joey was growing increasingly uneasy with the security arrangements, or lack thereof, by Park Service and law-enforcement officials.
Convinced the security situation would resemble an antifa turkey shoot for his attendees, Joey canceled Liberty Weekend. I heard the news on TV during my flight. But when I landed, he told me there was no need to board a return flight home. He was still going to pop up around town, and “there will be craziness—they will still come after me.” He wasn’t kidding.
Joey and ‘Tiny’
I meet up with Joey and his ever-present sidekick, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, in front of their budget hotel on San Francisco’s Lombard Street. Joey doesn’t look so much half-Japanese as like a Latino gang-banger, in head-to-toe black (including his Patriot Prayer T-shirt), with generous arm ink. Tiny, you might have guessed, is named ironically. He’s a 6′6″, 345-lb. Samoan. His favorite food, he says, “is food.” Grabbing a bear-paw’s worth of his own flesh, he says, “I ain’t fat, I’m stab-resistant.”
We pack into a compact rental Toyota so small that the steering wheel crushes Tiny’s crotch. Joey always buys the full-insurance package, since antifa has done everything from slash his tires to douse his car in degreaser to strip the paint job. He has been punched, pepper-sprayed, hit in the head with silly-string cans, and choked (“he looked like a dolphin,” Tiny mocks, making limp flipper motions with his hands). Tiny shows me a slash wound on his arm, courtesy of an earlier antifa encounter at one of their rallies, and a gnarled bruise on the bridge of his nose, where he caught an axe-handle from a nominal ally who thought Tiny was antifa and whacked him by mistake.
All of this sounds like the Crips versus the Bloods for white people (or for Japanese and Samoans, as the case may be). Joey is fully aware of the ridiculousness. Never particularly political—he detests labels, but allows that he’s a moderate libertarian with a strong taste for freedom—Joey came to activism through anger, as most people do these days. “I’m surrounded by anger all the time, and I really struggle with that,” he says of the often unsavory people he crosses paths with, both on his side and the other. Joey himself, though, rarely loses his cool, and even in high-pressure situations appears as calm as a Zen monk.
A Washington state house-flipper who has also spent the past decade coaching high school football (he was a starting high school quarterback himself), Joey counted himself a vague Trump supporter. Like many people, he enjoyed watching someone upset the establishment. But he was radicalized after watching online the aftermath of the June 2, 2016, Trump rally in San Jose, where departing rally-goers were hunted down, egged, and beaten like dogs in the street by vicious mobs. For those who thought Trump rallies got violent—and they occasionally did, with hecklers getting decked and candidate Trump sometimes rooting on the deckers—there are hours and hours of online footage of Trump supporters catching sustained abuse from “liberals,” assuming that term any longer applies.
Joey believed that a person should be able to attend the political rally of his choice in America, or to wear a MAGA hat in a place like Portland, Ore., without worrying about getting hit in the face. So he started Patriot Prayer in 2016—it has no employees, and he takes no money from it. He began throwing rallies and marches in liberal cities on the West Coast. In the early days, his rallies had overtly pro-Trump themes. These days, mentions of Trump have mostly been scrubbed from his own rhetoric, as he knows even invoking the name can be alienating. (Plenty of those who show up at his events are ardent Trumpers, with whom he maintains an easy rapport.) Instead, his emphasis is on freedom and unity. When I ask him to distill his message, he says, “Unity, peace, love, truth—these simple things,” sounding not at all like your average Trumpkin. “People get mad when I say that, because they say that’s not good enough. They want more specifics, like ‘What’s your view on abortion?’ They want all these political messages.”
But politics, as the last several years have evidenced, are by definition divisive. They have both amped up and divided us as a people. “We have to focus on the division, first,” Joey says. “The division is allowing extremists to be involved.” He learned that lesson the hard way earlier this year when Jeremy Christian showed up in the crowd at one of his rallies in Portland, spewing hatred and Nazi talk. Joey and his cohorts were wigged out by him and showed him the door. A month later, Christian stabbed three people on a Portland commuter train, killing two of them, after they came to the defense of two girls at whom Christian was barking anti-Muslim slurs. Proving that people are never simple—especially insane ones—Christian was largely portrayed as a Trumpkin/far-right tool, although he’d written on his Facebook page: “Bernie Sanders was the President I wanted.”
Tiny, 21, also came to politics through anger. Convinced all Trumpkins were racists, “I’d drive around and beat them up,” he says nonchalantly. When he couldn’t find any to sass him back in street encounters after he’d provoked them, he’d go home and watch other Trump supporters get pounded online. “It made me happy. F—in’ racists getting beaten up,” he said. While looking for more anti-Trumpkin-violence to enjoy, he clicked one day on video from one of Joey’s rallies. “He gave a speech” about love and unity, says Tiny. “Everything he said made me confused. I thought all these f—ers were violent and racist. So I kind of had a change of heart and reached out to Joey. If I had found out about antifa before finding out about him, I’d have been antifa, too.”
Here, Joey chants a favorite antifa chant: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!”
Together, Joey and Tiny represent a sort of yin and yang of antifa foes. Joey doesn’t begrudge any of his comrades defending themselves if they’re attacked, which plenty, along with Tiny, lustily do. For instance, there’s Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman. Stickman gained Internet folk-hero status, along with his nickname, by breaking a wooden signpost over some antifa ninja’s head after they’d invaded a Trump rally in March in one of this year’s Battles of Berkeley. We head over to Stickman’s house just south of San Francisco for a strategy session and then again later to watch the Mayweather/McGregor fight.
Providing Krispy Kremes and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer as he chain-smokes American Spirits, Stickman, a squared-off salvage diver who looks like the fifth Baldwin brother, tells me that he faces eight years in the pen for some of his Braveheart exploits—all captured on YouTube, of course. Perhaps even worse, the judge said he’s not allowed to go anywhere near sticks, putting a crimp in the trademark. While Stickman admits he’s a “Western chauvinist” (his antifa adversaries love to portray him as a supremacist), he’s called the participants in Charlottesville “racist alt-right f—in’ Nazis.” His Asian wife and child appear while I’m there, once again complicating assumed narratives.
At Crissy Field, the originally scheduled Patriot Prayer rally site, a counterprotester, left, argues with a Patriot Prayer supporter, at right, August 26. (Photo credit: Helena Zemanek)
Tiny, a former youth pastor and now a strip-club bouncer, will proudly show you Internet footage of himself dropping an antifa combatant like a sack of wet cement when he foolishly chopped at the mighty Samoan. But he says Joey never, ever fights back. While Joey’s years on the gridiron suggest he can both take a hit and deliver one, Tiny says his strategy seems to be “making people feel badly about beating him up.” He’s never seen Joey throw a punch, no matter how much he’s assaulted. For the sometimes-violent racket that he’s in, it’s a very Gandhi/Jesus approach. I point out to the 33-year-old that he’s the same age J. C. was when He died. It seems to bother Joey for a second. “Well, my birthday is in November,” the married father of two says.
Joey admits he’s not some perfectly pure-of-heart missionary, that he’s also a bit of a provocateur. Though how provocative should it be, he wonders, to attend your own free-speech rallies in liberal enclaves in a free country without wishing to be physically attacked? Media types frequently charge that violence follows his rallies, and indeed it does. Precisely because antifa brings it. Blaming Patriot Prayer for provoking antifa into attacking them at their own events is a bit like blaming black marchers for provoking racist Alabama policemen into creasing their skulls with billy clubs for traversing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It’s both a denial of basic human freedoms and victim-blaming of the highest order.
When Joey draws antifa out to show themselves, it’s not really conservatives he’s trying to reach. Conservatives already loathe antifa, he says. Rather, Joey’s interested in appealing to good, honest middle-of-the-road liberals. He likes them and believes there are plenty of them still out there. They’re just not terribly vocal at the moment when it comes to suppressing their own extremists, who seem hellbent on suppressing everyone else. As with some of the rancid elements of the right, when the moderates are quiet, extremist voices become amplified. “I’m also trying to help conservatives understand that they have a warped perception of liberals, because the good liberals are keeping quiet.” Joey says. “You go on YouTube and see thousands of videos of social justice warriors acting like crazy Batman because that’s what gets the views. You’re not going to see a video of a normal liberal making sense, you know?”
Joey holds the door open for liberals in his freedom-loving unity movement, and some, including liberals of color, have joined. One African-American liberal I meet, Ryoga Vee, signed on after having an antifa member call him a Nazi and then try to set him on fire with a road flare when Vee attempted to attend Milo’s Berkeley speech out of curiosity. “I don’t care who you vote for,” Joey says, so long as you’re pro-freedom.
When Joey first started protesting, and was still operating with a lot of anger, he headed to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. He saw an “anarchist and his stupid little buddy” holding a “f— the police” sign. Joey snapped, and ripped the sign in half. “His buddy came up to the other guy and said, ‘You need to tell the police!’ ” (Presumably, not the same police referred to in the sign.) “But I felt bad,” he says. “People just need to express what they believe. You think if I tear his sign in half, all of the sudden he’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, you’re right. I shouldn’t say f— the police’? So I gave him 20 bucks for his sign. He was just shocked. He thought I was going to beat them up. He was like, ‘Do you want change?’ I said no. He said, ‘Thanks, man, I appreciate that.’ ”
It’s a lesson he has to learn over and over again: Treat people like they’re human, and they’ll cease merely to be one-dimensional objects of scorn. Joey tells me he used to be a bad person. After high school, he had a wild, self-destructive streak. He dropped out for a time, willingly going homeless, though he came from a decent, stable family. He tramped around for three years, backpacking everywhere from Hawaii to Mexico, camping in the woods and sponging off girlfriends. He used people. He used a lot of drugs, whatever was available. He even did a short stint in jail for breaking into a restaurant and “stealing 1,200 bucks just for the fun of it.”
But Joey came back. People helped him. He remembered who he was and got his heart straight again. Maybe because of his own time in darkness, he thinks everyone’s redeemable and anyone can be helped, including those we think are bad guys who don’t even know they need it. This is a truth that he thinks we’ve all but forgotten.
With Patriot Prayer’s rallies canceled at the last minute, the Patriots who made it to town anyway decide to have a press conference. They slate it for Alamo Square, across from San Francisco’s Painted Ladies. But the cops, still fearing violence, fence it off before they can get there. Unable to find a secure indoor venue, the Patriots notify some reporters, tell them not to announce the particulars so that antifa doesn’t disrupt them, and have a hurried presser in a pasture at a far-flung community center down the peninsula in Pacifica.
An ethnically diverse group of Patriots address the assembled reporters. One of them, Will Johnson, announces that he is a black American and a Christian. “This is not a neo-Nazi, white supremacist rally,” he says. “I don’t know where they got that from. I actually called Nancy Pelosi’s office and asked her to change that. There’s no way I am a white supremacist.” Looking at this black man with dreads, reporters laugh, but press on anyway with skeptical questions about the Patriots being potentially violent, forgetting that the entire reason we’re in this out-of-the-way place is to stay one step ahead of antifa, whose stated goal is shutting down “white supremacists” like an African-American man saying “we’ve got to stop this fighting in America.”
When a cop informs the Patriots that their whereabouts have leaked on social media, the press conference is hastily concluded, and Joey, Tiny, and I beat it back to the Toyota. With many of the counterprotests proceeding despite Liberty Weekend being canceled, Joey wants to pop up all over the city anyway in order to have “dialogues,” reasoning that if people can just talk to him, some of their anger and fear will recede. It does and doesn’t.
We hit Crissy Field, the originally scheduled rally site. There are just a few protesters, scattered antifa, and an overwhelming police presence. Everyone is still nervous violence will go off. Whatever dialogue could occur is mostly drowned out by a screaming woman in a shirt that reads “F— you, f— you, f— you, f— you, have a nice day.” Further dialogue is obscured by an antifa member holding two eardrum-shattering horn sirens. The cops hustle us off, suggesting we have to leave, as though the Patriots are the disturbers of the peace. On the way out of the park, another group of Patriots get their car stoned by antifa.
We stop by a restaurant, where I see a multi-generational family sitting. They are clearly protesters, as one has a “Stop Trump/Pence Fascist Regime” sign sticking out of a stroller. Another wears a Cuban revolutionary hat. Two have “Indivisible” T-shirts on. A gray-haired woman literally has flowers in her hair. I walk over to their table and ask if they’d like to meet the man they are protesting, who is sitting at the bar, nursing a Patrón while Tiny has a Sprite. Their faces grow pinched. They look uneasy. “No, thank you,” one of them says sternly. “Have a nice day.”
Afterwards, we walk down to Civic Center, where an all-day protest wrapped up about 30 minutes earlier. Joey’s presence there causes an immediate stir among the stragglers. A panicked woman in a “Resist” shirt closes a security gate, as though he might crash the stage and boost the sound system. She films him with her iPhone, as though Joey’s a dangerous wild animal she spotted on safari.
Others end up forming a circle around him, with spirited exchanges taking place as bike cops press in on all sides. A demented Indian guy wants Joey to reclaim the symbol of the swastika, which the Nazis appropriated from his people. “That’s your battle,” Joey says. There’s a Black Panther who wants to kick Stickman’s ass for allegedly pepper-spraying him at a rally, and he’s hoping Joey will give him his address. Joey won’t, but the Panther says he respects him anyway for coming down and facing the people. There’s a huffy white beardo in a rainbow “Orlando” shirt who keeps interrupting Joey accusatorily, while trying to give the floor to people of color, who he deems worthy of listening to. A masked-up antifa blasts a horn siren a foot away from Joey’s ear for a good 10 minutes, while a man dressed in a Super Girl costume, complete with red boots and cape, yells at him to stop.
A forceful black surgical nurse who calls herself a liberal ends up fiercely defending Joey and Tiny against all comers, turning the tables on liberal hypocrisy. “They’re so progressive, but they go home in their BMWs back to Glen Park, where they don’t have to walk through Tenderloin shit.” She shames people for slandering these black men as white supremacists when “we’re missing one vital element, which is whiteness.” Joey sheepishly points out that he’s not black, he’s Japanese. “You’re a person of color,” the woman barks. “I’ll take that,” he says.
The exchanges last for an hour. Though Joey stays serene throughout, the conversation rages around him like a whirlwind. It is raucous and rude but occasionally affirming and generous. It’s untidy, but there’s something beautiful about it, as there often is when people just stand in front of each other and interact, instead of regarding each other from a distance with mutual suspicion. Close your eyes and shut off the antifa horn siren, and free speech can sound a lot like music.
Mayhem in the park
The next day in Berkeley, a different tune is played. A small band of Patriots decide to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, where the “No to Marxism” rally was to be held. It has now been appropriated by thousands of impromptu protesters. The Patriots will make a stand for free speech, without actually expecting to be able to talk. I ask Joey what the objective is today. “Not dying,” he says.
From the jump, it’s a goat rodeo. Our four-car caravan gets separated coming out of the hotel parking lot. When the Patriots try to rendezvous, their radios aren’t working. “Why do we need radios?” wonders Joey. “Couldn’t we just use phones like everyone else? The veterans like to have their fun.” When we get to Berkeley, nobody can find parking near each other, while staying 10 or so blocks away from the action in order to protect the cars. As the ex-military types among them seem to take a half an hour to kit up (pads, tear-gas goggles, GoPro cameras, etc.), Joey and I both have to take a leak. We do so stealthily in a nearby park. Joey doesn’t want to get caught on camera literally pissing on Berkeley. Bad optics.
While the preparations continue, I grow impatient. “Let’s go! This is Berkeley, not Somalia,” I say. Joey agrees and isn’t sure it’s wise to come in with a large contingent anyway. It makes it look like you’re spoiling for combat, and fighting is not his intention. So he stalks off towards the demonstration with me, Tiny (now in goggles and football shoulder pads), and a political rapper who plays Patriots events named Pete V, aka Political Muscle. Pete looks like a pirate with a stars’n’stripes do-rag, which in these parts doubles as a bull’s-eye on your head.
On the walk up to the square, Joey’s several paces ahead, seemingly in another zone, not even noticing the protester in the “Nasty Woman” shirt who starts filming him, as though she’s doing surveillance. After all the hype, he is now so infamous in Berkeley his face is instantly recognizable, and people act like it’s Jesse James walking into a bank. They elbow each other, scandalized.
From the moment we hit the square, the “Nazi” catcalls start. Whatever’s happening on the stage seems to cease to exist, and the energy around us turns very dark, very fast. Joey, Tiny, and Pete start walking with greater purpose, on the balls of their feet, almost like fighters entering a ring or Christians entering the Coliseum, except instead of facing one lion, they’re facing thousands. As the chants rain down (“Nazis are here! . . . F— you! . . . F—ing fascists!”), we near the stage thinking we might find some kind of buffer zone, since the police knew that some of Joey’s original rally-goers would show up. But there isn’t one. Our progress is halted when we run up into a small clearing snug up against a barrier. And behind that barrier, near the park’s “Peace Wall,” is a wall of human blackness.
A hundred or so masked-up antifa ninjas and affiliated protesters seem to simultaneously turn. It looks like we’ve interrupted al Qaeda tryouts. Joey, Tiny, and Pete all raise their hands high in the air, and flash peace signs, a conciliatory gesture. But nobody here wants peace. Not with fascists on the scene. As Joey nears the barrier, one of the ninjas swings and misses. Then the barrier topples, and they pour over, chanting, “Fascists go home!”
As I’m reading the action into my recorder, antifa slides around me on all sides, nearly carrying me off like a breaking wave. The boys are about 20 yards off and walk backwards. Pete catches a shot right on his stars’n’stripes dome from a two-by-four and goes down, blacking out for a second. Tiny, trying to protect everybody, pulls him up with his massive Samoan hand and pushes him out of the scrum. The mob ignores Pete, as he’s just an appetizer. Joey is the entree.
First he catches a slap in the head, then someone gashes him with something in his ribs. He keeps his hands up, as though that will save him, while he keeps getting dragged backwards by his shirt, Tiny trying to pull him away from the bloodthirsty ninjas. Someone crashes a flagpole smack on Joey’s head, which will leave a welt so big that Tiny later calls him “the Unicorn.” Not wishing to turn his back on the crowd, a half-speed backwards chase ensues, as Joey and Tiny are blasted with shots of bear spray and pepper spray. They hurdle a jersey barrier, crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way while antifa continue throwing bottles at them. The mob stalks Joey and Tiny all the way to an Alameda County police line, which the two bull their way through, though the cops initially look like they’re going to play Red Rover and keep them out. No arrests are made. Except for Joey and Tiny, who are cuffed.
A crack reporter for the Los Angeles Times will later write that they were arrested for charging the police, which couldn’t be less true. A Berkeley cop tells me they were arrested for their own safety (and weren’t charged). When I catch up and reach the police line, the cops won’t let me past to follow my subjects. My reportorial dispassion has worn thin. I yell at the police for doing nothing, for standing by while two men could’ve been killed. One cop tells me there’s a thin line between solving one problem and being the cause of more, as though they’re afraid to offend antifa. I am sick at what I just witnessed. Angry, even. I wheel around on some protesters, asking them if they think it’s right to beat people down in the street. “Hell yeah,” says one. I ask them to cite anything Joey has said that offends them, as though being offended justifies this. A coward in a black mask says: “They’re f—ing Nazis. There’s nothing they have to say to offend us.”
All around me, good non-antifa liberals go about their business, pretending none of this has happened, carrying “Stand Against Hate” signs. There’s the sound truck with preachers in clerical garb, leading a “Whose streets/our streets” chant. There’s the gray-haired interdenominational “Choral Majority” singing peace songs: “There’s no hatred in my land / Where I’m bound.” I want to vomit on the Berkeley Peace Wall.
I’m made even more sick when I look down the road and see a punching, kicking mob form a circle around a new victim. By the time I roll up on them, an older man in camo-wear spits out from the maelstrom. As he runs to safety, an antifa thug runs up behind him, sucker-punching him as hard as he can in the back. I will go home that night and watch several more cold-blooded beatdowns on YouTube that I didn’t personally witness.
A squad car rolls up on the mob, but the black masks block it. The cop throws his car into slow reverse, inching backwards, as if to say “please don’t hurt me,” while an antifa member yells “F— you, pig!” Finally, I start hearing whistling smoke grenades fired by the otherwise useless police, dispersing the crowd. I watch antifa retreat in every direction, some jumping fences and cutting through residential yards. As I run down the street, getting out of range, I’m joined by a middle-aged man I saw witnessing what I just witnessed, filming it on his phone.
His name is Bobby Hutton, or at least that’s the name he gives me. He’s not antifa. He looks and talks like a surfer dude, with long hair and aviator shades, and identifies himself as a political activist. He’s smiling, seemingly entertained by the spectacle. I ask him how he can smile, as if what we’ve just witnessed is all okay. “It’s politics,” he says, shrugging. “Politics is in the street. Always has been, and always will be.” I tell him I’m profiling Joey. “Oh, that’s fun,” he says. I add that I haven’t heard one disturbing, racist thing come out of Joey’s mouth. “I’m familiar with Joey’s presence,” Hutton says. “And you’re right that he stays on this side of white supremacy. But he’s a shit disturber. And if you wanna disturb shit, Berkeley’s always been a good place for that. There aren’t a lot of places in America where you can get this kind of opposition, and Joey knows that. Which is why Joey’s here.”
Hutton claims antifa has “legitimate political beliefs.” I tell him beating people down in the street to suppress their speech doesn’t sound very legitimate or American to me, and that eventually, if this nonsense continues, somebody’s going to get killed, just as someone was in Charlottesville. Violence, he says, still smiling, is “as American as apple pie. Berkeley pie.”
“You can’t like this,” I tell him.
“If you like the horseshoe theory of American politics,” he rejoins, “the far right and the far left are closer than either believe.”
‘We can’t just shut up’
My phone rings, showing Joey’s number, but it’s Tiny, telling me Joey’s been taken to the hospital. Tiny’s about to be released from police custody. He’ll pick me up on a side street behind the station, so as not to attract more antifa attention. When I get into the Toyota, I suggest that Tiny maybe ought to change out of his American flag shirt if he wants to be stealthy. A red-white-and-blue 6′6″ Samoan doesn’t exactly whisper, “Ignore me.” But Tiny is obstinate: “They wanna rip off this shirt? Kill me. Because it ain’t comin’ off.”
We head to the hospital. Joey is discharged, wearing doctor scrubs and socks, holding his clothes and shoes in a plastic bag, completely saturated with bear and pepper spray. They had to scrub him down in the shower for an hour to get it off, his skin burning all the while. I’ve taken the wheel of the Toyota, with Tiny sleeping in the cramped back seat after injuring his ribs. He insists they’re not broken, but his forehead is clammy, and he’s cold sweating.
Tiny and Joey, post-release. (Photo credit: Helena Zemanek)
I tell my battle-weary subjects I’ll treat them to dinner and drinks after their ordeal, but we’re getting the hell out of Berkeley, as I honestly don’t trust that they won’t be attacked again, here in the cradle of the Free Speech Movement, if somebody spots them. As we drive over the San Mateo Bridge, I ask Joey how he feels about what happened today. “I’m starting to love this town,” he deadpans. “It’s starting to be my playground.”
Then he gets serious. “We can’t just shut up, just be quiet, and let this evil continue. The darkness continues to get bigger and bigger in our country, and it will be gone. The country will burn, I’m telling you, if we don’t do things to stand up against it. We all take it for granted. We take for granted everything that we have. That’s why we have to wake up and understand. Goddamn, we have too much to lose.” His eyes well as he takes a long pause, looking out on the shimmering San Francisco Bay. “We can’t stand by, we’ve gotta stand up. And we’ve got to do it together, or it’s gonna be gone.”
Caught between their own country’s corrupt ineptitude and the innate desire for a peaceful existence to provide for their families.
Thought: Purchase guns and ammo with the US$8,500 otherwise paid to coyote smugglers, the same cartel bastards who make your life miserable. You can buy an AR-15 carbine in the US for less than $500 now, and a .45 pistol for $350. So what’s your excuse? If you organize with other “bullied types” such as yourself, you can wipe out the chingadero chupacabras, enslave their bitches for your own benefit. War is war, be bold. When your country is overrun by a$$holes, you need to become a merciless a$$hole yourself. Kill these bastards at night, in their sleep.
Surround the place
Shoot the sleepy guard
Burn it to the ground
Shoot anyone trying to escape
I’m certain you can buy some acreage in Honduras or Guatemala for a few hundred US dollars. Grow something, make something, sell it. That’s exactly what Americans do! Kill any bastard that dares to steal from you, or harm your family. Stay home where you belong. America is not a destination for cowards.
Eswin Josué Fuentes and his daughter, Andrea Belen, in their one-room house in Choloma, Honduras. He said he had canceled plans to have a smuggler get them into the United States. Credit Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times
CHOLOMA, Honduras — His bags were packed, and the smuggler was ready. If all went well, Eswin Josué Fuentes figured he and his 10-year-old daughter would slip into the United States within days.
Then, the night before he planned to leave, he had a phone conversation with a Honduran friend living illegally in New York. Under President Trump, the friend warned, the United States was no longer a place for undocumented migrants.
Shaken, Mr. Fuentes abruptly ditched his plans in May and decided to stay here in Honduras, despite its unrelenting violence and poverty. He even passed up the $12,000 in smuggler fees that his sister in the United States had lined up for the journey.
“I got scared of what’s happening there,” Mr. Fuentes said.
While some of Mr. Trump’s most ambitious plans to tighten the border are still a long way off, particularly his campaign pledge to build a massive wall, his hard-line approach to immigration already seems to have led to sharp declines in the flow of migrants from Central America bound for the United States.
From February through May, the number of undocumented immigrants stopped or caught along the southwest border of the United States fell 60 percent from the same period last year, according to United States Customs and Border Protection — evidence that far fewer migrants are heading north, officials on both sides of the border say.
Residents in a poor neighborhood of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which has gang activity and is one of the most violent cities in the world.
Inside the United States, the Trump administration has cast a broader enforcement net, including reversing Obama-era rules that put a priority on arresting serious criminals and mostly left other undocumented immigrants alone. Arrests of immigrants living illegally in the United States have soared, with the biggest increase coming among those migrants with no criminal records.
The shift has sown a new sense of fear among undocumented immigrants in the United States. In turn, they have sent a warning back to relatives and friends in their homelands: Don’t come.
The message is loud and clear here in Honduras. Manuel de Jesús Ríos Reyes, 55, stood in the unforgiving sun outside a reception center for deportees from the United States. His wife, who tried to cross the American border illegally in March, was on an incoming flight.
Families waiting for loved ones outside a reception center for deportees flown from the United States to San Pedro Sula.
Mindful of the warnings from the United States, Mr. Ríos had urged her not to go. “She didn’t pay attention,” he recalled. “Now she’s here. Thank God, she’s alive.”
If his wife talks about trying to cross again, he said, he will redouble his pleas. “Ah, my love,” he planned to tell her. “Stay here.”
Many in the Central American countries known as the Northern Triangle — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — appear to be doing just that. Those nations have accounted for many of the undocumented immigrants who have tried to cross the American border in recent years. Now the wariness about Mr. Trump’s immigration policies is palpable, the impact visible.
Migrant smugglers in Honduras say their business has dried up since Mr. Trump took office. Fewer buses have been leaving the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula bound for the border with Guatemala, the usual route for Honduran migrants heading overland to the United States. In hotels and shelters along the migrant trail, once-occupied beds go empty night after night.
Marcos, a migrant smuggler based near San Pedro Sula, said that last year he had taken one or two groups each month from Honduras to the United States border. Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, however, he has had only one client. He blames Mr. Trump.
“People think he’s going to kick everyone out of the country,” Marcos said, asking that his full name not be published because of the illegal nature of his work. “Almost nobody’s going.”
Instead, many potential migrants in the Northern Triangle are choosing to sit tight and endure the poverty and violence that have driven hundreds of thousands to seek work and sanctuary in the United States in recent years.
Juan Ángel Pérez, 31, an unemployed factory worker in the northern Honduran city of Villanueva, had planned to head overland to the United States in June and had lined up a smuggler for $8,500. But after speaking with his sister, an undocumented immigrant in North Carolina, he decided against it.
“She said, ‘Think about it very carefully because the situation is getting more difficult,’” Mr. Perez recalled last week. “I was scared of losing the money.”
“If I stay here, life is complicated,” he said, “and if I go there, it’s complicated. I’m between the sword and the wall.”
Instead of going to the United States, some are migrating within their own countries in search of opportunity and safety, or they are seeking to move elsewhere in Latin America and even to Europe or Asia.
Around midnight, Roberto, 24, sat on the grimy steps outside the main bus station in San Pedro Sula, waiting for a night bus bound for Guatemala City. His intended destination was Mexico — at least for now. In time, he hoped to press on to the United States, but now was not the moment — “because of the current policies” under Mr. Trump, he said.
“Every day, it’s on the news” here in Honduras, Roberto said, asking that his last name not be used because he planned to sneak into Mexico illegally. “People are being deported every day.”
He chuckled uncomfortably at the thought of paying a lot of money to a smuggler to reach the United States, only to be detained and deported once he got there. “Imagine paying and losing everything,” he said.
Experts in the region warn that the decline in migration could put additional pressure on Central American countries, increasing competition for work, which is already in short supply, and potentially driving more people into the criminal gangs that have terrorized the region.
Mr. Trump is also proposing to cut American assistance for the sorts of economic and social development programs that seek to alleviate the poverty and violence that have compelled so many people to flee their homes.
The president’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year would slash economic assistance to Central America by 42 percent from 2016 levels, according to an analysis by the Washington Office on Latin America, a research group.
“The effect on judicial reform, job creation and violence prevention efforts would be severe,” the organization said.
Since abandoning his plan to migrate with his daughter to the United States, Mr. Fuentes, a widower, has not found work here in the violent northern city of Choloma or in nearby San Pedro Sula.
Every morning he awakes with his daughter, Andrea Belen, at dawn in their one-room cinder block house. He walks Andrea to a friend’s house, where she waits until it is time to go to school, then he heads into the city and spends the day knocking on doors and asking for a job. As tough as their life is, though, he does not regret canceling the journey to the United States.
“I have to think about my daughter,” he said. “You don’t want to make a mistake.”
Because much of the migration to the United States from the Northern Triangle is illegal and undocumented, its precise volume is hard to pin down.
But the decline in migrants heading north has been registered at many points along the way. The Mexican authorities recorded a 56 percent drop in the number of undocumented immigrants detained in their country — many of them presumably on their way to the United States — in the first four months of the Trump administration, compared with the same period last year.
The drop was stark among Hondurans. Nearly 9,000 were detained in Mexico from February to May, compared with more than 18,600 during the same period last year.
“Fewer Hondurans are being detained because fewer are leaving,” María Andrea Matamoros, vice minister for foreign relations in Honduras, told reporters last month.
That said, the two general populations of migrants — those principally fleeing poverty and those principally fleeing violence — seem to be responding in different ways.
Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and many people fleeing the violence continue to leave Honduras in significant numbers, experts say.
“There isn’t an institution in the country that can protect them,” said Sister Lidia Mara Silva de Souza, national coordinator of the Human Mobility Pastoral in Honduras and a member of the Scalabrinian missionary order.
According to the United Nations, more people from the Northern Triangle filed for asylum through the Department of Homeland Security in the first three months of this year than during the same period last year.
An increasing number of Northern Triangle residents have also filed for asylum in other countries, particularly Mexico, migration experts said. Some who might have sought sanctuary in the United States have gone elsewhere, citing Mr. Trump’s policies.
The stream of Central American migrants like Mr. Fuentes, who are principally fleeing poverty, has dropped significantly, immigrants’ advocates say.
For generations, the migration of people from Central America seeking work elsewhere has served as a safety valve for the region, relieving pressure on the labor market and public services. Now, community leaders in Honduras fear that with fewer people migrating in search of opportunities in the United States, poverty will worsen and criminal gangs will find new recruits.
“People don’t have an opportunity to work in this country,” said Daniel Pacheco, an evangelical pastor in a gang-controlled sector of San Pedro Sula, one of the most violent cities in the world. “We’re very worried.”
Still, many here do not think the decrease in migration will endure for too long. The hardships of life in Honduras are too many, the government’s solutions are too few — and the allure of the United States is too great.
“The smoke of fear will drop, the migration will return,” said Sister Valdete Wilemann, who runs a center at the San Pedro Sula airport where Honduran migrants are processed after being deported from the United States.
The dream of going to the United States is “the culture,” she said. “You’re not going to rid Hondurans of that.”
Now, isn’t that a pathetic statement? That “the dream of Hondurans is to go to the United States?” GET WEAPONS, KILL BAD PEOPLE AT HOME is the better solution.
This List Of Attacks Against Conservatives Is Mind Blowing
Advice to Conservative Patriots: Carry a tactical pocket knife with you at all times. With some practice, you can fend off and survive an attack by a small mob by inflicting painful injury.
A wave of liberal rage has marked the last 11 months since the rise and subsequent election of President Donald Trump.
Antifa protestors clad in black masks shut down college campuses, destroy property and indiscriminately attack those they disagree with, whether women or the elderly. Meanwhile, CNN fires Kathy Griffin for taking photos with a bloody replica of the president’s decapitated head.
Amid this backdrop, The Huffington Post publishes an article calling for the execution of Trump and “everyone assisting his agenda.”
Then, shots ring out as a man gorged on media hysteria attempts to slaughter Republican congressmen while they practice for a charity baseball game.
The aggression since Trump’s nomination is difficult to enumerate, but nevertheless, The Daily Caller News Foundation poured over media reports to compile a close but non-exhaustive list of violent acts against conservatives in months following the Republican National Convention.
In creating the list, TheDCNF reviewed numerous articles detailing attacks against conservatives and Trump supporters. Only incidences of violence and threats of violence where the perpetrators were clear are included in the report, excluded are events where the instigator was difficult to discern.
Attacks Over Time:
-A Hillary Clinton supporter lights a flag on fire and attacks a Trump supporter in Pittsburgh.
-Trump supporters sue San Jose after protesters jumped on cars, stole hats, fought and threw eggs at them.
-Anti-Trump protesters attacked Trump supporters in Minneapolis, Minn., and beat an elderly man. Protesters also attacked Trump’s motorcade.
–A Tennessee man was assaulted at a garage sale for being a Trump supporter.
-A Trump supporter in New Jersey was attacked with a crowbar on the street.
-Protesters in El Cajon, Calif., chased and beat up a Trump supporter.
-A GOP office in North Carolina was firebombed and spray painted with “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else.”
-A high school student was attacked after she wrote that she supported Trump on social media. The perpetrator ripped her glasses off and punched her in the face.
-The president of Cornell University’s College Republicans was assaulted the night after Trump won the election.
-Students protesting Trump punched and kicked a Maryland high school student wearing a Make America Great Again hat.
-A high school student was arrested in Florida after he punched a classmate for carrying a Trump sign at school.
-A 24-year-old was reportedly attacked on a New York subway for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
-A group of black men in Chicago attacked a white man while raging against Trump.
-High school students in Rockville, Md., physically assailed another student for supporting Trump, kicking him while he was on the ground.
-At a California high school, a student yelled to a Trump-supporting student, “You support Trump. You hate Mexicans” before beating the girl.
-An anti-bullying ambassador who supported Black Lives Matter was arrested after shoving a 65-year-old man to the ground.
-A Texas elementary school student was beaten by his classmates for voting for Trump in a mock election.
-Two men punched and kicked a Connecticut man who was standing with an American flag and a Trump sign.
-A high school student in Florida punched another student who was holding a Trump sign.
-A man was murdered in Georgia after an argument about whether Trump would deport a Hispanic man.
-A Trump supporter was beaten and dragged by a car.
-Trump supporters were attacked at a rally in Richmond, Va.
-A Trump supporter was knocked unconscious after airport protesters repeatedly beat him on the head.
-A Trump supporter was attacked after putting out a fire started by anti-Trump protesters.
-Trump supporters were beaten in Oregon.
-California GOP Rep. Tom McClintock had to be escorted to his car after a town hall. At least four tires were slashed outside the town hall.
-Protestors knocked a 71-year-old female staffer for California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher unconscious during a protest outside the representative’s office.
–Milo Yiannopoulos speech at the University of California-Berkeley was cancelled after rioters set the campus on fire and threw rocks through windows. They also attacked those who came to the event.
-Angry protestor at Middlebury College rushed AEI scholar and political scientist Charles Murray and professor Allison Stranger. Stranger was grabbed by the hair and shoved, sustaining injuries.
-A parade in Portland, Ore.,was canceled after threats of violence were made against a Republican organization.
-Protesters shut down Ann Coulter’s UC Berkeley speech over safety fears.
– Republican Rep. Tom Garrett’s, his family and his dog were targeted by repeated death threats.
-FBI agents arrested a person for threatening to shoot Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally.
-Police in Tennessee charged a woman for allegedly trying to run GOP Congressman David Kustoff off the road.
-Police in North Dakota ejected a man after he became physical with GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer at a town hall.
-James Hodgkinson opened fire on a congressional GOP baseball practice, injuring five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
-New York GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney received an email threat that read, “One down, 216 to go,” shortly after the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball practice.
-A man driving a white Malibu reportedly fired several shots at a man driving a truck displaying a “Make America Great Again” flag in Indiana.
Trump is a president like no other, at least not since Republican President Teddy Roosevelt
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, said to be in a coma, released from North Korea
TOKYO — University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who had been detained in North Korea for 17 months, was to arrive home in Cincinnati on Tuesday night in a coma — his family stricken yet relieved to have him back, but his return a harbinger of more difficulties in the already-tense relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.
After a senior State Department official flew to Pyongyang to demand the 22-year-old’s release on humanitarian grounds, he was flown out in a medical evacuation. His parents and siblings were waiting for him at a municipal airport in Cincinnati.
“We get to see our son Otto tonight,” Fred Warmbier said in an interview Tuesday morning after his son was evacuated. “We’ll be relieved to have him home and are looking forward to surrounding him with people who love him.”
Warmbier’s parents hadn’t heard from or seen him since he was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in March last year for attempting to steal a propaganda poster at the end of a five-day tour of North Korea.
But amid the relief, there were also new questions about what happened to him: How did a healthy young man fall into such a deep coma? The North Korean government told his parents that food poisoning was to blame. And how does the Trump administration respond?
Three other American citizens are being detained in North Korea, at a time when Kim Jong Un has been firing missiles and threatening to strike the United States. President Trump has been vowing to exert “maximum pressure” on North Korea to make it abandon its nuclear weapons program but has also dangled the prospect of talks with Kim, whom he called a “smart cookie.”
Warmbier was flown out of North Korea on the same day that Dennis Rodman, the controversial former basketball star, arrived for his fifth visit to Pyongyang.
Officials involved in securing Warmbier’s release told The Washington Post that it had nothing to do with Rodman’s trip to Pyongyang, calling it a “bizarre coincidence” that might have been a deliberate ploy from North Korea to distract from Warmbier’s condition.
“Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with the release of Mr. Warmbier,” said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, adding that the government was “thankful” that he would soon be home in his parents’ arms.
She also reiterated the State Department’s travel advice against going to North Korea, with which the United States has no diplomatic relations.
“Let me reiterate this: We strongly, strongly suggest that Americans do not go to North Korea,” Nauert said.
At the time of his arrest, Warmbier had been on an organized New Year’s tour in North Korea, a five-day stopover on his way to Hong Kong for a study-abroad trip.
But on his final night in Pyongyang — New Year’s Eve — he apparently went to a staff-only floor of his hotel and attempted to take down a large propaganda sign lauding the regime. He was charged with “hostile acts against the state.”
Surrounded by North Korean guards, Warmbier delivered a highly scripted “confession” that appeared to have been written for him, and after an hour-long sham trial in March 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.
He had not been seen in public since, and Swedish diplomats, representing U.S. interests, had been denied consular access to him. Officials involved in negotiations to free Warmbier and another American citizen being detained were told they were being treated as prisoners of war.
During a secret meeting in Oslo last month with Joseph Yun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea, high-level North Korean officials agreed that Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang would be allowed to visit the four Americans imprisoned by the North.
But in Pyongyang, the Swedes were allowed to see only one detainee, and it wasn’t Warmbier.
As the Americans continued to push for the Swedish diplomats to see all four, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations urgently requested a meeting with Yun in New York, according to Trump administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the still-secret arrangements. There, North Korean officials told Yun about Warmbier’s condition.
He informed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who consulted with the president, the officials said.
Yun was instructed to prepare to travel to Pyongyang with the intention of bringing Warmbier back to the United States. A medical team and aircraft were organized, and North Korea was informed that a delegation would travel there.
“It wasn’t a situation where they asked,” one official said of the U.S. representatives. The North Koreans “were informed that the airplane would land, American and medical officials would get out.”
Yun was under orders, which the official said came directly from Trump, to demand to see Warmbier immediately, and, “if he was in bad shape,” to demand his immediate release and evacuation on the plane’s return flight to the United States.
Yun arrived in Pyongyang early Monday with two American physicians. They were immediately taken to Warmbier. Yun insisted on Warmbier’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds, officials said, and the North Koreans agreed.
Tillerson called Trump at 8:35 a.m. Tuesday to inform him that Warmbier was on an airplane en route to the United States, an official said. The last instruction the president left Tillerson was: “Take care of Otto,” the official said.
The Warmbier family said they were informed that North Korean officials had told American envoys that their son became ill with botulism soon after his show trial.
The North Korean account, the family said, claimed Warmbier then fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill. The Warmbiers said they were told their son has remained in a coma since then.
There was no immediate confirmation from U.S. officials of North Korea’s description of his illness — including whether he was stricken with botulism, a potentially fatal disease that is caused by a toxin but is not usually associated with loss of consciousness. U.S. officials in touch with Yun and medical personnel declined to say whether Warmbier remains in a coma or to make any comment on his current medical condition.
North Korean representatives at the United Nations did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
North Korea has woefully inadequate medical care, and it is not clear how North Korean doctors had been caring for Warmbier for more than a year in an unconscious state.
Warmbier was to have graduated last month had he not been detained.
“While the entire University of Virginia community is relieved to learn of Otto’s release from North Korea, we are deeply concerned and saddened to learn from his family that he is in a coma,” U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said in a statement Tuesday.
Annabella Vagonis, a family friend from Reston, Va., whose daughter was close with Warmbier at U-Va., said, “We were at turns incredulous, shocked, surprised, joyful and sad, all kind of emotions within a nanosecond of each other when we got the news this morning.
“We are so incredibly joyful that he is finally coming home. We are concerned about his overall health and not knowing the details of his being in a coma. We’re hopeful that with the excellent medical care that he’ll receive that we’ll receive some good news once they examine him. “
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called Warmbier’s arrest and trial “unnecessary and appalling,” while lawmakers from Virginia also denounced North Korea’s actions.
The other three Americans detained by North Korea remain there.
A former Virginia resident and naturalized American citizen, Kim Dong-chul, was arrested shortly after Warmbier on accusations of espionage and was sentenced to 10 years with hard labor.
In April and May, North Korea detained two other Korean Americans, both of them affiliated with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a private institution run by Korean American Christians.
Previous detainees have been released after visits from high-profile Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. But efforts to persuade North Korea to release the men now held had not been successful until Warmbier’s release Tuesday.
DeYoung reported from Washington. Susan Svrluga in Cincinnati, and David Nakamura and Jenna Portnoy in Washington contributed to this report.
Christian church DESTROYED as Chinese police drag worshippers into street and beat them
“While no doubt the envy of US Democrats, China will lose, Jesus will prevail.” – M Souza
Violence broke out in Shanggiu in Henan province after 300 police officers and officials demolished the Shuangmiao Christian Church—which was under construction.
Officers dragged out around 40 Christians with one worshipper comparing the brutal scenes to the Japanese invasion of China during the Second World War, according to charity China Aid.
Eight Christians remain in custody following the incident amid a crackdown on churches by the communist regime.
China Aid said: “During the demolition, officials beat dozens of church members, pushing them to the ground and twisting their hands.
“The church was completely razed, and a church member likened the scene to the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.
“Of the 40 Christians seized, eight are still in custody, and the cases of Shuangmiao Christian Church pastor Zhang Di and the church’s vice director, Lü Yuexia, were recently transferred to the Procuratorate, which will decide whether or not to formalise their arrest.”
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate is the highest agency in China responsible for prosecutions.
According to churchgoers Xi Jinping’s Communist Party ordered the church to be destroyed after branding the building an “illegal structure”.
Party officials were sent to the church to search the building and belongings of people on site.
China Aid said the party confiscated phones and other personal property, damaged closets, smashed offering boxes, and stole laptops, money, and jewellery.
The demolition came as row between the church and government escalated over allegations the church refused to pay a £450 arbitrary road usage fee.
Pastor Zhang Di was summoned for questioning last month and accused of assaulting police officers and attacking a village official.
Church leaders are urging the government to release the pastor and churchgoers. They are also calling for police linked to the investigation to be punished.
The Chinese Communist Party has launched a major crackdown on religion in recent months in an attempt to oppress religious freedom and exercise control.
Churches not sanctioned by the government have been put under surveillance with hundreds of Christians arrested for disturbing public order for offences such as holding bible study groups and displaying crucifixes outside their homes.
There have been reports of Christians being banned from praying, singing hymns, crosses removed from buildings and people arrested for attending church services.