Four Southern California men face federal conspiracy and rioting charges for allegedly attacking counterprotesters, journalists and a police officer at rallies across the state and using the Internet to coordinate “combat training” for white nationalists.
The four members of “Rise Above Movement” (RAM), a white supremacist group based in Southern California, were named in a federal criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday. The complaint alleges that they used the Web “with the intent to organize, promote, encourage, participate in or carry on riots,” the Department of Justice said in a press release.
Three of the four defendants are in custody. The group’s alleged founder, Robert Rundo, 28, of Huntington Beach was arrested Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport after fleeing to Central America earlier this month, The New York Times reported.
Robert Boman, 25, of Torrance, and Tyler Laube, 22, of Redondo Beach, were arrested Wednesday, while authorities continue to search for a fourth person, Aaron Eason, 38, who lives in Riverside County.
RAM is an organization that "represents itself publicly as a combat-ready, militant group of a new nationalist white supremacy/identity movement," the complaint said.
Between April and June 2017, the four men allegedly violated federal conspiracy and riot statutes when they traveled to political rallies, including events in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and San Bernardino, to commit violent attacks against journalists, counterprotesters and a police officer.
“Every American has a right to peacefully organize, march and protest in support of their beliefs – but no one has the right to violently assault their political opponents,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in the Justice Department press release.
“The allegations describe an orchestrated effort to squelch free speech as members of the conspiracy traveled to multiple locations to attack those who hold different views. This case demonstrates our commitment to preserve and protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution,” Hanna added.
The complaint alleges Rundo, Boman, Laube, Eason and other RAM members congratulated each other for carrying out assaults and publicly documented acts of violence in order to recruit other members to do the same.
The four RAM members allegedly attacked several counterprotesters and two journalists at a “Make America Great” rally in Huntington Beach on March 25, 2017. In a video of the incident, Laube is seen punching one reporter three times in the face, National Public Radio r(NPR) eported.
The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer applauded the attacks. "Front page of the stormer we did it fam," one RAM member texted another, according to NPR.
The defendants allegedly used this recognition to encourage recruits to attend combat training in San Clemente in preparation for their next attack Berkeley, the Department of Justice said.
At the April 15, 2017, Berkeley rally, Rundo, Boman and Eason attacked attendees, and Rundo was arrested for assaulting a “defenseless person” and a police officer. The final attack mentioned in the report took place on June 10, 2017, at an “Anti-Islamic Law” rally in San Bernardino.
In a federal hearing Wednesday, Judge Maria A. Audero ordered Rundo, Boman and Laube all held without bail, deeming them flight risks after prosecutors said Rundo took several trips abroad to meet with other white supremacy groups in Mexico, Germany, Italy and Ukraine, The Los Angeles Times reported. In 2018, Rundo traveled to Germany with two other RAM members charged in the Charlottesville case in order to honor Hitler's birthday.
In recent months, RAM sought to reinvent what it means to be a white nationalist and made efforts to spread its anti-Semitic, white supremacist ideology through a more under the radar look and social media strategy.
A 25-page affidavit submitted by the FBI includes private Facebook messages and texts between the defendants and other RAM associates that detail a more low-key approach to planning their attacks, according to The Los Angeles Times.
RAM members were told to blend in at political rallies, suggesting men wear polo shirts, khakis and military-style haircuts instead of the group’s signature skull or American flag masks.
If the four defendants are found guilty of the conspiracy and riots charges, each individual could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is conducting an ongoing investigation into RAM activity.