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Pro-Trump activists plotted violence ahead of Portland rallies

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Jason Williams and Robert Evans report in the Guardian:

Leaked chat logs show Portland-area pro-Trump activists planning and training for violence, sourcing arms and ammunition and even suggesting political assassinations ahead of a series of contentious rallies in the Oregon city, including one scheduled for this weekend.

The chats on the GroupMe app, shared with the Guardian by the antifascist group Eugene Antifa, show conversations between Oregon members of the Patriots Coalition growing more extreme as they discuss armed confrontations with leftwing Portland activists, and consume a steady diet of online disinformation about protests and wildfires.

At times, rightwing activists discuss acts of violence at recent, contentious protests, which in some cases they were recorded carrying out. At one point, David Willis, a felon currently being sued for his alleged role in an earlier episode of political violence, joins a discussion about the use of paintballs.

Where other members had previously suggested freezing the paintballs for maximum damage, Willis wrote: “They make glass breaker balls that are rubber coated metal. They also have pepper balls but they are about 3 dollars a ball. Don’t freeze paintballs it makes them wildly inaccurate” [sic.]

Willis did not immediately respond to voice and text messages sent to his listed cellphone number.

Another prolific poster is Mark Melchi, a 41-year-old Dallas, Oregon-based car restorer who claims to have served as a captain in the US army.

Melchi has been recorded leading an armed pro-Trump militia, “1776 2.0” into downtown confrontations in Portland, including on 22 August. At several points in the chat he proposes violence in advance of those confrontations, and appears to confess to prior acts committed in the company of his paramilitary group.

In advance of the 22 August protest, Melchi wrote: “It’s going to be bloody and most likely shooting, they’re definitely armed… so let’s make sure we have an organized direction of movement and direction of clearing or other Patriots will be caught in the possible cross fire. When shit hits the fan.”

He advised other members to ignore weapons statutes, writing, “I saw someone say bats, mace, and stun guns are illegal downtown. If you’re going to play by the books tomorrow night, we already lost. We are here to make a change, laws will be broken, people will get hurt… It’s lawlessness downtown, and people need to be prepared for bad things.”

Following these comments, several rightwing demonstrators were recorded using gas and bats on 22 August, where Melchi and his militia were also present.

In other remarks ahead of the day, Melchi draws on what he claims is his group’s history of traveling to multiple states to engage in violence at protests.

“My Group 1776 2.0. Has been fighting Antifa in Seattle, Portland, for months”, Melchi writes, adding “this won’t be a simple fist fight. People will get shot, stabbed and beat.”

He also claims police cooperation in interstate violence, writing “Yes, going after them at night is the solution… Like we do in other states, tactical ambushes at night while backing up the police are key. You get the leaders and the violent ones and the police are happy to shut their mouths and cameras.”

Melchi nevertheless recommends that members disguise themselves to avoid the consequences of homicide.

“We must be ready to defend with lethal response… Suggest wearing mask and nothing to identify you on Camera…to prevent any future prosecution.”

In response to detailed questions about these contributions, Melchi responded with an email that falsely suggested his comments might have been photoshopped, and concluded with direct threats.

Melchi wrote: “I suggest you don’t threaten combat veterans sweetheart, might get a little uncomfortable for ya big guy!”

Melchi’s sentiments in the chat logs were in keeping with fantasies of, and plans for, violence, which are constantly discussed by group members.

Although some members are connected with extremist groups or militias, on the whole they describe themselves as “patriots”, and they express no clear ideology beyond a hatred of the left, and a preparedness to use violence. The shared allegiances expressed in the group are mostly to the police, the United States and Donald Trump, a person whom some say they are prepared to kill for.

Ahead of 22 August, a user “Paige” says “I’m waiting for the presidential go to start open firing”.

Melchi, the militia leader, responds, “Well Saturday may be that go lol”. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 9:14 am

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