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Five Times the Alt-Right Has Shown Its Face in South Florida

Five Times the Alt-Right Has Shown Its Face in South FloridaEXPAND
Mario Diaz-Balart / Twitter
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Today marks the Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C., an extremely sad, Pepe the Frog-filled, neo-Nazi march to commemorate the time last year when a white supremacist killed a civil rights protester in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But Pepe, his chubby racist-frog-meme buddy Groyper, and the rest of the bizarre, Extremely Online right-wing don't just live in the basements of America's Deep South. The alt-right exists in Miami too and has been poking its ugly, deeply insecure face out in public more and more often since Donald Trump began campaigning for president. Because the Miami chapter of the Proud Boys made it into national magazine profiles last week at  violent demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, here's a primer on the places Miami's alt-right has shown its face in the past year or so:

1. At a "Free Nicaragua" rally with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Miami Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart is not exactly known in local political circles for being particularly bright. But in what might be the single most-boneheaded thing he's done ever, the congressman on Tuesday tweeted out a photograph of himself at an anti-Nicaraguan-President Ortega rally — posing with a man in a Trump hat and "Proud Boys" T-shirt.

The "Proud Boys," of course, are a group of alt-right, quasi-fascist street thugs who mere days ago showed up to a "Patriot Prayer" rally in Portland that devolved into a violent brawl with Antifa counterprotesters. (Police wound up turning on Leftists and nearly killed one counterprotester.) The Proud Boys were also present at the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally last August, where a white supremacist killed a civil-rights counterprotester, Heather Heyer, with a car. The Proud Boys were founded by Gavin McInnes, who also started Vice News but was fired from the publication for being too racist and anti-Semitic. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Proud Boys as a "hate group" and as "extremists."

"Proud to support the Nicaraguan community in #SoFla denouncing the crimes of the #Ortega regime and demanding the end of the violence, as well as the convening of free elections under international supervision," the congressman tweeted Tuesday in Spanish.

His spokesperson, Katrina V. Brown, declined to comment on the fact that the congressman was posing with an open alt-right member and instead lobbed an insult at New Times.

"If the Miami New Times ever ceases to be a propaganda instrument for the radical left, we will respond to its inquiries," she said via email. 

2. At Milo Yiannopoulos' "Cinco de Milo" party in 2017.

As Milo Yiannopoulos descended from the second floor of a place he advertised as an "abandoned cocaine mansion" in Miami last Friday night with a python named "Jared" draped around his arms, two models hid in a bathroom to avoid being photographed with the infamous anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant troll, one of those women tells New Times.

In fact, she says, some of the models — who had been hired for the event — hadn't been warned they'd be working as eye candy and cocktail waitresses at an alt-right event complete with signs that read "Feminism Is Cancer" and "Deport Your Local Illegal." The model says she didn't know what she was in for until she arrived at the party and saw scores of "Make America Great Again" hats.

"None of us knew what we were walking into," says the model, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation or harassment from Yiannopoulos' fans. "Some of the girls walking behind him in those shots were like, 'My mother is an immigrant. If she ever saw me next to this man, it would kill her.' But if you're working in those situations, you don't feel like you can say anything because you need your money and need to pay your bills."

3. At an anti-Confederate-street-name protest in Hollywood.

Hollywood commissioners will vote today on whether to rename three streets that honor Confederate generals — John Hood, Robert E. Lee, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. In the leadup to today's vote, local civil rights activists said they feared that in a post-Charlottesville world, white supremacists might harass or try to hurt the people protesting for equality.

Well, it appears the activists might have been right: Today a local white supremacist, Christopher Rey Monzon (who is 22 and goes by the online handle "Chris Cedeno"), was arrested after witnesses say he charged into the crowd of civil rights protesters. A New Times reporter watched the event unfold: Monzon was standing near the entrance to Hollywood City Hall, in front of a police line that separated him from 150 to 200 protesters. Cedeno was filmed jawing back and forth with a protester from roughly ten feet away.

"You are a cancer on the face of the earth!" Monzon shouted. "All Jews are!"

He then ran directly at the crowd with a flagpole pointed toward the protesters. Cops were filmed tackling Monzon and taking him away Monzon in handcuffs.

A spokesperson for Hollywood Police said Monzon has been charged with aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, and inciting a riot.

Monzon was photographed at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, where a white supremacist drove a Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Protesters with the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward County, the South Florida chapter of the Women's March, and a group called Take Them Down Hollywood attended today's city commission meeting.

Monzon showed up at the protest in a shirt emblazoned with the logo for the Florida League of the South, a white nationalist group that wants the Confederate states to secede from the Union again and create a society led by white, Christian people of European descent.

Today Monzon waved a flag that combined the classic Confederate "stars and bars" with the black-and-white League of the South logo.

Monzon is a known commodity in South Florida: He has regularly shown up at progressive protests and waved the Confederate flag or League of the South regalia. After former state Sen. Frank Artiles was caught dropping the N-word in front of a black lawmaker, Monzon showed up at a protest in order to defend Artiles. Monzon wore a neo-Nazi pin on his shirt collar.

Monzon also showed up at the last protest against the Confederate street names in Hollywood in June. At that event, Monzon, other white supremacists, and members of the armed militia Three Percenters counterprotested against civil rights organizers. 

4. At a 2017 South Florida racial-justice seminar.

Lutze Segu, a black civil rights advocate, thought she had chosen a safe location Saturday for her seminar on ending white supremacy. Segu, who holds similar meetings around South Florida, gathered a group of activists at the Stonewall National Museum in Wilton Manors, one of the nation's premier LGBTQ museums, in a city that's at least friendly to white cisgender gay men.

But this is still Florida, which means a group of avowed white supremacists showed up to disrupt Segu's talk on basic equality and civil rights. According to multiple activists who attended the meeting (and the white supremacists themselves), a few young members of a group called Identity Evropa showed up at the seminar, confusingly held a sign claiming they "apologize for nothing," and then left when the organizers asked them to exit the building.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks the spread of hate groups nationally, Identity Evropa was founded recently, in March 2016, by a 30-year-old Cal State student named Nathan Damigo. He is an ex-Marine who formed the group after getting into the writings of David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Damigo had time to sort through Duke's entire canon thanks to the five-year prison sentence he was serving for drunkenly putting a gun to the head of a cab driver and stealing $43 from him. Damigo apparently thought the driver was an Iraqi immigrant.

According to the SPLC, Identity Evropa was formed to promote "European identity and solidarity,” and only white, non-Jewish people are allowed to join the group.

On its Facebook page (which New Times has chosen not to link to), the group brags that it showed up at the event because the seminar was sharing "anti-white" views, which is a concept as laughable as it is false. According to its event page, the session was designed to "create a society where justice, equity, and liberation are possible" and to teach how "white supremacy harms all people, including white people," and that "white supremacy robs us all of genuine human connections." The basic concept of racial equality apparently freaked some people out so badly that they had to drive all the way to Wilton Manors to bother some people who had nothing to do with them. 

5. In the hot-sauce industry.

Jeremy Bernstein, a 42-year-old who spends half the year in Miami Beach, says he has lost about $4,000 trying to sell Pepe the Frog-themed hot sauce to the racists and neo-Nazis on 4chan, Twitter, and the rest of the dark, sweaty armpits of the internet who worship the alt-right meme. The biggest reaction he's gotten, he says, has not come from alt-righters but instead from Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie, who sent Bernstein a cease-and-desist letter two months ago to demand he stop his venture.

But Bernstein is adamant that Furie can't stop him from selling his St. Augustine, Florida-made hot sauce, which he writes online is "approved by nationalists everywhere" and "guaranteed to produce Regressive Liberal and SJW tears."

"I got cease-and-desisted by WilmerHale," the law firm representing Furie pro bono, Bernstein tells New Times. "But Furie doesn't have a trademark on it. They can't cease-and-desist me. They tried. But he never trademarked it." Bernstein claims Pepe the Frog is therefore "public domain." But, he adds, "I have a buddy who gave me some legal advice and told me I can't trademark it."

Neither Furie nor WilmerHale immediately responded to messages from New Times. But Furie has already scored some legal victories, including getting a virulently anti-Muslim Pepe-themed children's book removed from circulation.

Furie, who hates the alt-right and never intended his cartoon frog to become a national symbol of racism and intolerance, used a legal settlement to force the children's book creator, Eric Hauser, to give any money he made from the book to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group.

A single bottle of Hot Pepe's "Over the Wall" Hot Sauce retails for $9.95 online. The eponymous frog on the label is wearing fairly offensive, stereotypically Mexican accessories — a sombrero and thick black mustache — and holding a taco.

But Bernstein insists he began making the hot sauce to prove that Pepe isn't a symbol of intolerance.

"Calling a frog a racist symbol is the most ridiculous thing on the planet," he says. "Fortunately, we have the First Amendment." Mostly, though, he claims he created the sauce "for fun" and chose the name "Hot Pepe's" simply because "the domain name was available."

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