Christy McLaughlin, SWFL conservative activist, candidate, arrested for DUI, property damage – Updated

Nov. 28, 2022 by David Silverberg

Correction: This story corrects an earlier version based on an erroneous source. Updated Dec. 1 with precise location and new detail.

Christina “Christy” McLaughlin, 27, a two-time Republican congressional candidate and conservative activist, was arrested Friday, Nov. 25, and charged with driving under the inluence of alcohol (DUI) and damage to property, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

Christy McLaughlin (Photo: CCSO)

After refusing an alcohol test, McLaughlin bonded out of custody, according to CCSO.

The crash occurred at Immokalee Rd., and Lakeland Ave.

On Sunday, Nov. 27, at 2:51 pm, Mclaughlin posted on Facebook: “To my friends, I am fine.”

Political profile

In 2020, McLaughlin ran for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island. She was defeated in the primary election.

In 2022 she sought the Republican nomination for Congress in the 23rd Congressional District in the Miami area, which includes the towns of Weston, Davie, Pembroke Pines, and Aventura. She was defeated by Joe Budd on Aug. 23 in a nine person race. (Budd was defeated in the general election by Democrat Jared Moskowitz.)

McLaughlin has been an advocate for extreme conservative causes. She hosted an event in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020 at which Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys group, was an unannounced speaker.

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio and Republican congressional candidate Christy McLaughlin (center) pose at The Mercato in Naples, Fla., on Dec. 3, 2020. (Photo: Facebook)

She also organized a Naples welcome party for conservative activist and operative Roger Stone on Jan. 3, 2021 that featured a heavy Proud Boys presence.

Christy McLaughlin welcomes Roger Stone to Naples on Jan. 3, 2021. (Photo: Facebook.)

She was present at the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and riot at the US Capitol Building. In an op-ed she wrote for the Washington Times, she blamed the riot on leaders of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

 Christy McLaughlin addresses a crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2021. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

The Paradise Progressive reached out to McLaughlin by e-mail for this report but had not received a reply as of this writing.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

The Proud Boys, the insurrection and Southwest Florida — Updated

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio and current Republican congressional candidate Christy McLaughlin (center) pose at The Mercato in Naples, Fla., on Dec. 3, 2020. Surrounding them are other Proud Boys including Christopher Worrell (back row, to the right of McLaughlin). (Photo: Facebook)

June 15, 2022 by David Silverberg

—Updated June 17 with Tarrio’s Seed to Table speech and photo and newly revealed congressional occupation plans. Also explanation of t-shirt in photo caption.

The Proud Boys have gotten a lot of publicity and are getting more right now as the January 6th insurrection conspiracy comes to light. They’ve been active in Southwest Florida for some time. But how much political influence do they currently have and what is their potential future impact on the region?

Events like the hearings of the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, an indictment of the organization’s leader for seditious conspiracy and the prosecution of East Naples resident, Christopher Worrell, are putting the organization in the spotlight.

The Proud Boys were literally at the forefront of the Jan. 6 insurrection and attack on the US Capitol, according to the Committee. The Committee’s first hearing on Thursday, June 9, revealed that it was members of the Proud Boys who deliberately and according to a pre-set plan, first breached Capitol Police barriers, leading to the general assault on the Capitol Building.

The hearing also revealed that the Proud Boys and the similarly extreme Oath Keepers organization coordinated their efforts on Jan. 6 to deliberately stop the peaceful transfer of power. The leaders of both organizations, Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, and Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, met in a parking garage to discuss their plans.

Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes meet in a Washington, DC parking garage to coordinate plans prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection. (Image: January 6th Committee (J6C))

Rhodes was arrested on Jan. 13, 2021 and charged with seditious conspiracy. His trial is scheduled for this September, tentatively the 19th or 26th. On June 6, Tarrio was also charged with seditious conspiracy.

Court filings have also revealed the existence of a detailed plan given to Tarrio, called “1776 Returns,” for Proud Boys to occupy congressional office buildings and the Supreme Court to stop the election certification.

In the past Proud Boys recruitment and activity found some favorable response in Southwest Florida. Even at recent events like a pro-choice march in Fort Myers on May 14, Proud Boys were present.

A Proud Boys primer

The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, one of the founders of VICE News. McInnes decided on the name based on the song, “Proud of Your Boy” from the 2011 Disney musical Aladdin. He despised the song and its sentiment as Aladdin tries to win his mother’s approval but couldn’t stop playing or thinking about it.

McInnes did not stay at the helm of the organization for long, leaving in 2017 in large part because he was advised by his lawyers that his quitting might help Proud Boys indicted in a street brawl. By that time the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had characterized the organization as “an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.”

Enrique Tarrio, a Miami native, was made leader in 2018. Although another Proud Boy, Kyle Chapman, claimed to be president in 2020, his presidency never seems to have been recognized by the organization.

The Proud Boys gained media attention for their extremism, racism and propensity for violence and apparent endorsement of President Donald Trump’s policies and positions. By the time of the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, 2020, they had achieved national prominence.

Debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would urge white supremacist groups that inflamed violence at nationwide protests to “stand down.”

“Give me a name,” said Trump and the first name supplied by candidate Joe Biden was Proud Boys.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem,” Trump said.

The mention on national television catapulted the Proud Boys to the forefront of media attention and Tarrio said it prompted a tripling of memberships.

Enter Naples and Southwest Florida

After the election, Tarrio was in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020 to address a fundraising dinner for the Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. The dinner was at The Counter in the Mercato in Naples and was organized by Christine “Christy” McLaughlin, a Republican candidate for Congress who was defeated in the party primary that August (and is now running for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District).

Although John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal, was the featured speaker, Tarrio was the unannounced speaker. Pre-event publicity for the gathering never mentioned that Tarrio or the Proud Boys would be present.

Wearing a t-shirt that stated: “Kyle Rittenhouse did nothing wrong,” Tarrio spoke to the gathering for about five minutes.

Enrique Tarrio addresses an audience in Naples on Dec. 3, 2020. (Photo: Facebook)

Tarrio’s speech did not call for violence and simply explained the public aspect of the Proud Boys philosophy and went some way toward explaining their appeal, which makes it worth reprinting in its entirety:

“There is something good that has come out of the contested—in air quotes, contested—election.

“There was obvious voter fraud. They’ve practically stolen this election. But we’re not going to let them. We’re not going to go quietly.

“But there is something good that has come out of this contested—to use air quotes, contested—election and it’s shown us what’s important.

“Something beautiful that has happened…But before that, it’s so frustrating when we’re putting together events for the past four years. It takes me months of planning, months of marketing to get 500 conservatives out on the street when they could put together four to five thousand people at a moment’s notice. But the beauty of this contested election is that we’ve been able to put thousands of angry Americans on the streets. (Applause) And why are they angry?

“Because how far the Left has gone. Put together in DC with over 750,000 people on the street, we made some noise. And we’re going to do it again on December 12th. And where they mess up, where the Democrats mess up, is not that they’re attacking the President, they’re attacking the people. They’re attacking our constitutional values and that is something that we are passionate about.

“Proud Boys is just a regular group of guys. There’s nothing special about regular men. But there is something when those men have, this passion and this love for this country. Because we don’t get in the front lines because …it really pains me that it takes something like this to unite us. But they’re probably the bravest men that I’ve ever met in my life.

“One thing that we can’t forget is that we can never let evil take root. We can never give up and we can never give up on the president.

“We’re together here, today and we should continue to do this and we should continue to take the inspiration that we’ve been given to continue going out on the streets, not maintain this from the couch. We cannot maintain this from our phones. It’s unrealistic. We need to make noise, we need to be …If you can make it, if you can get to DC on Dec. 12th I ask you guys, I beg you to please come out. Because there’s so much to fight for. There’s so much work to do.

“I’ve been an activist for about 18 years and I never, I never thought that I would ever see an election as electric as 2016, or as important as 2016. But here we are in 2020 and boy, was I wrong.

“1776 will commence again. We need, we need as many people as active as possible and it’s beautiful that we’re here today at a bar because this country was started—a lot of people forget—this country was started at a tavern called the Green Dragon Tavern by a regular group of people who drew a blueprint of what our country is today.

“Our forefathers didn’t envision all this view, this is not what they wanted, this is all just a plus. All they wanted was to create a country where they could practice their religion freely, be free from tyranny and a place to raise their kids with their own values and not be bothered. And I’m thankful for that, thankful for that every day. Those ideas are under attack right now.

“So one thing that people tell me is what does it take to be a Proud Boy? So in the past I would give them the West Side, I’d tell them where to go but I think this has become more than an organization, this has become a movement.

“When does standing up for your country become something wrong? So we, right now, regardless of anything, I want you guys to repeat after me. I’m going to induct you guys right now.

“I’m a western chauvinist. And I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world. We’re all Proud Boys. Thank you so much.”

(At the time The Paradise Progressive reached out to the management of The Counter, Kahala Management in Scottsdale, Ariz., to determine whether it was aware of Tarrio’s attendance and had any involvement in it. No answer has ever been received.)

Following the speech and the campaign event, Tarrio and McLaughlin posed for a group photograph (seen above). There are six Proud Boys in the photo, with Tarrio and McLaughlin in the center. Three of the Proud Boys are making a “white power” gesture with their hands. (The pinky, ring finger and middle finger up to signify a “w” and the thumb and forefinger meeting to signify a “p” in what used to be the “OK” gesture.)

In the back row on the right was Proud Boy Christopher “Chris” Worrell (more about him later).

An unidentified man, Tarrio and Worrell converse at the Dec. 3, 2020 event in Naples. (Photo: FBI)

The following night, Dec. 4, Tarrio addressed a crowd at Seed to Table, the market owned by outspoken conservative Alfie Oakes, and a frequent venue for far-right personalities.

Enrique Tarrio at Seed to Table. (Image: Anonymous)

Tarrio was introduced by McLaughlin, who said she had met him and the Proud Boys during the Million MAGA March on Nov. 15, 2020 when, she said, the Proud Boys had protected marchers from Antifa, the anti-fascist movement.

In this speech Tarrio revealed some personal history when he said that relatives of his in Cuba had been killed during the Cuban revolution by Communist guerrillas on the orders of Che Guevara when they refused to allow their farm to be used as forward position. Tarrio accused Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY) and President Joe Biden of concealing their socialist and Marxist intentions as Guevara did in Cuba.

“In order to save the West we must replicate the minds of those who have its best interests at heart,” he said. “We must inspire more. We must inspire more people to follow us, inspire more people to lead us, inspire more people to do the things that are necessary to save this country. To make America great again.”

This speech was also more explicitly pro-Trump than in his Mercato appearance. In a foreshadowing of what would come, he said the Proud Boys were not going to allow the theft of the election.

“The most important thing we can do is stand by him,” Tarrio said of Trump. “So when he said ‘stand back and stand by,’ we didn’t take it as ‘stand by at the ready,’ we took it as ‘stand by me’ and we have. We’ve stood by the president since day one.”

Welcoming Roger Stone

Proud Boys were next in evidence locally on Jan. 3, 2021 when Roger Stone was welcomed to Naples in an event organized by McLaughlin.

Roger Stone is a far right activist and political operative whose political involvement goes back to the 1970s. He was an ardent supporter of Trump’s candidacy.

In 2018 Stone approached the Proud Boys for personal security and announced in a Facebook video: “Hi, I’m Roger Stone. I’m a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” making him a “first-degree” member, according to some Proud Boys, although he subsequently announced he was not a member.

Stone was arrested by the FBI in January 2019 on seven counts connected with the investigation of Russian election interference by Robert Mueller. He was convicted in November. His 40-month sentence was commuted by Trump in July 2020 and he was fully pardoned on Dec. 23, 2020  

Stone had lived in Florida since 2014, first in Miami, then in Fort Lauderdale but he traveled across the state, first in August 2020 after his commutation and then on Jan. 3, 2021 when, post-pardon, he was welcomed with a street corner rally organized by McLaughlin that took place at the corner of Rt. 41 and Pine Ridge Rd.

Roger Stone and the Proud Boys in Naples on Jan. 3, 2021. Worrell is to Stone’s right, making the “white power” sign. (Photo: Twitter)

One of the purposes of Stone’s visit was to encourage a demonstration at the Naples home of Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to demand he oppose the certification of “fraudulent electors” who would certify Joe Biden’s election as president on Jan. 6.

Christy McLaughlin on a ladder welcomes Roger Stone to Naples on Jan. 3, 2021. Note the Proud Boys flag to her left. (Photo: Facebook)

Another purpose of the Stone event was to exhort people to attend the big “Stop the Steal” rally scheduled for Jan. 6 in Washington, DC. As Trump so notoriously told his followers: “Be there. Will be wild!”

Chris Worrell

Proud Boy Chris Worrell, 53, a resident of East Naples, may have been in the back row when he attended the Tarrio speech in Naples but he was very much on the front line of the rioters when they attacked the Capitol.

As revealed by the Jan. 6 Committee, about 200 to 300 Proud Boys left the rally on the Ellipse before Trump spoke to march to the Capitol, where, as they had planned, they breached the first police barriers at the Peace Circle, opening the way for the general assault.

In the newly released video from the Committee, Worrell plays a prominent role at the Capitol grounds. As police equip themselves in a staging area, Worrell, in a heavily equipped combat vest, screams at them: “Don’t make us go against you!” and “These are our streets!”

On Jan. 6 in Washington, DC, Christopher Worrell tells police “These are our streets!” (Image: J6C)
On Jan. 6 in Washington, DC, Christopher Worrell tells police : “Don’t make us go against you!” (Image: J6C)

Worrell’s alleged involvement in the riot was extensively documented in a 2021 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warrant for his arrest on charges of illegally entering a government building, impeding and interfering with government business, carrying “a deadly or dangerous weapon” (chemical spray) while committing acts of violence, for “willfully and knowingly utter loud, threatening, or abusive language” in the Capitol building to disrupt or impede congressional business and using or carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon in the Capitol.

Chris Worrell allegedly uses a chemical spray against police during the Capitol riot. (Photo: FBI)

On June 1, a new, superseding indictment was filed against Worrell by a grand jury in Washington, DC. It added charges of obstructing, impeding and interfering with a law enforcement officer in the conduct of his duties, using the spray against government officials, and added charges against another rioter, Daniel Scott.

Worrell’s lawyer, Alex Stavrou, the third to handle the case, told the Naples Daily News that “The video showing Mr. Worrell is an untruth and incomplete edit purposely done for the purposes of spreading misstatements and falsehoods and trying to control public opinion about Mr. Worrell and others who were at January 6 so as to portray them in a false light.” He added: “He has not been charged with sedition, nor is there any expectation he will.”

Worrell was arrested by the FBI on March 12, 2021 and was initially jailed in Washington, DC, in part due to threats he issued on Facebook against potential witnesses against him. However, he pleaded that his medical conditions, including an alleged case of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, major dental problems and a broken hand he said was improperly treated while in federal custody, merited his release. After some dispute he was placed under house arrest in Naples under a variety of restrictions.

On April 26, he appeared before the Collier County Commission at one of its regular meetings to ask commissioners’ assistance.

“Good morning, Commissioners,” he began. “I am Christopher Worrell, Political Prisoner 377183.”

Christopher Worrell addresses the Collier County Board of Commissioners. (Image: CCBC)

Worrell emotionally recounted the arrest: “They deployed flash-bang grenades, parked a SWAT tank at the front of my entrance to my door, and held my wife at gunpoint for hours and I wasn’t even home,” he said.

Several times he choked up and wept.

“Due to my blatant civil rights violations I am now not just fighting for my rights and the rights of others, I am fighting for my life,” he said.

When he finished, Commissioner Rick LoCastro, District 1, applauded and said he would meet with Worrell and direct him to the proper officials, since his was a federal indictment beyond the scope of the county commission’s authority.

Worrell is scheduled to be arraigned on the superseding indictment charges on Friday, June 17.

Analysis: Past their peak?

In Southwest Florida, the most recent public appearance of Proud Boys as a group came on May 14 when several Proud Boys came to counter a pro-choice Bans Off Our Bodies demonstration in Fort Myers.

Proud Boys counter-protest at a pro-choice demonstration in Fort Myers, Fla., on May 14, 2022. The acronym FAFO on the t-shirt stands for “fuck around and find out.” (Photo: Alathea Shapiro)

That spasm of protest notwithstanding, overall, it appears that the Proud Boys movement and organization may have peaked and be in decline—for the moment.

A Proud Boy at Patriot Fest in Naples, Fla., on March 19, 2022. (Photo: Author)

It appeared most formidable after its founding in 2016 when it was a shock troop on the leading edge of President Donald Trump’s cult of personality. The fact that it was mentioned by name during a presidential debate and essentially endorsed by Trump himself established its place in the media firmament. There seemed no limit or restraint on its activities—or the threat it presented.

But the group no longer has the sanction and support of a president of the United States. Its top five members have been indicted for seditious conspiracy. The Jan. 6 Committee is exposing its leading—literally—role in the Capitol attack and other activities, violence and even sedition. In Canada it has been designated a terrorist group.

Despite its claims of racial inclusion its members keep putting up those “white power” hand signs, revealing their racism.

A Proud Boy gives the “white power” sign at a counter-demonstration in Fort Myers, Fla., May 14, 2022. (Photo: Alathea Shapiro)

In general, the Proud Boys now appear to be outside the cultural zeitgeist and their positions and attitudes seem outmoded and obsolete.

They’re even being mocked on late-night comedy shows. (Stephen Colbert: “I gotta tell you: seeing those guys arrested makes this boy proud,” he said in a monologue on June 8. As for a Proud Boys rule limiting masturbation to once a month, “that’s going to make those 20 years in prison seem pretty long. But I do understand why they’re so angry.”)

To be an overt Proud Boy now is to invite public mockery, law enforcement monitoring and potential arrest rather than inspiring the fear and respect they crave—both nationally and locally.

In a local context, the weeping, self-pitying performance of Christopher Worrell before the Collier County Commission hardly exemplified the masculinity and strength the Proud Boys attempt to project. (And it is worth noting that Worrell’s desire for clemency based on his health concerns hardly extended to his concern for the health or well-being of the police he allegedly attacked on Jan. 6.)

Nor were the current Proud Boys who appeared in Fort Myers on May 14 exactly the most impressive specimens of the species.

What usually happens to extreme ideological movements during periods of decline or eclipse is that they fracture and factionalize. In its short history, the Proud Boys went through multiple chairmen and even its founder has disavowed it. Now this very small group will likely engage in blame and recrimination and fragment around competing extremist would-be leaders as it faces new challenges.

Could it revive? Certainly. But that revival appears far off. If Trump runs for president in 2024 Proud Boys could mobilize again. They may even revivify if there’s a conservative wave at the polls this year. Even then, though, establishment politicians are unlikely to identify with them the way Trump did in 2020. The media will be merciless in exposing and condemning them. They’ve become an electoral liability rather than an asset.

If anything, the Proud Boys resemble the Nazis who were disgraced and demoralized after their failed 1923 putsch. Though the subsequent Nazi movement built the undisciplined, street-brawling Brown Shirts organization in the years afterwards, they became inconvenient and even threatening to Adolf Hitler’s leadership. As a result, they were eliminated in the purge that became known as the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.

Such is often the fate of violent, extremist, fringe organizations. Once they’re no longer useful they’re discarded by the people who use them for their own ends. Further, if past is any prologue, no one discards those who proved loyal in the past but are inconvenient in the present more than Donald Trump.

Perhaps the truest verdict on the Proud Boys is best contained in the biblical proverb: “Pride goeth before a fall.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Fight on the right: McLaughlin vs. Oakes on overturning the 2020 election in Florida

Farmer and grocer Alfie Oakes. (Photo: WINK News)

Oct. 1, 2021 by David Silverberg

The effort by farmer and grocer Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III to press Gov. Ron DeSantis to audit and overturn the results of the 2020 election in Florida is drawing fire from another extreme conservative activist, Christy McLaughlin.

In a Sept. 16 letter to DeSantis Oakes requested two hours in person with the governor to present his evidence of 2020 election fraud in Florida. He believes the election was invalid even though the governor held it up as a model election and Republicans swept the full slate of candidates. In an appearance on the Alex Jones online “InfoWars” show, Oakes offered the governor a $100,000 campaign contribution if he would hold the meeting.

That specific a quid pro quo in return for that specific a sum as an individual contribution has raised questions about its legality and whether it could constitute a bribe.

That was the argument made by Christy McLaughlin, a former Republican congressional primary candidate and far right political activist based in Ave Maria.

In a 2-minute, 46-second TikTok video posted on Sept. 22, McLaughlin denounced the Oakes offer.

Christy McLaughlin on her video. (Photo: Facebook)

“Florida had the best run election in the country in 2020, and the best run election our state as ever had in history all thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis,” said McLaughlin.

“Anyone that tries to undermine our Governor is against the Republican Party, against our state, and against people’s freedom. Offering a $100,000 donation to DeSantis so long as he ‘entertains’ the idea of auditing Florida’s 2020 election undermines Governor DeSantis and puts his reelection at risk. Alfie Oakes has created a distraction that only promotes his interests and hurts Governor DeSantis,” she said.

McLaughlin argued that if DeSantis doesn’t audit the election then Oakes is rallying his supporters against the governor; if he does audit the election he can be accused of accepting a bribe and damaging his re-election chances.

“Republicans in Collier County have become numb to Oakes’ hyperboles such as saying he would rather inject his children with heroine than give them the vaccine, obviously he would never do that to his children, however, when he is essentially attacking the Governor by putting him in this impossible decision, he is hurting the Republican Party and the State of Florida. Though this may be political theater for Oakes, his actions have some serious consequences.”

The only reasons to audit an election are to initiate reforms for the future or overturn an election, argued McLaughlin.

“Florida delivered a win for President Trump, and we had a majority of conservatives win local, state and Federal elections in our state. Why would anyone be seeking to overturn that?” she asked. Given the job DeSantis has done, “we need to support him, not challenge him and question his leadership. Most importantly people shouldn’t try to buy a Governor’s compliance with a $100,000 donation. I have Florida’s interests in mind, and I back true patriots like Governor Ron DeSantis.”

Oakes responded with a 1,272-word reply to the post delivered by lawyer Jim Boatman.

“I am very saddened by the juvenile and extremely uneducated remarks made by Christy McLaughlin,” stated the reply.

Oakes immediately questioned McLaughlin’s motivations and launched personal attacks against her.

“1. Could Christy have been paid by establishment Republicans or Democrats in an effort to conceal the massive voter fraud effort in our State and Country?” he asked.

“2. Could she be planning on running for some political office just trying to draw attention to herself? I did hear through the grapevine that she just failed the Florida bar for the second time, if this is so, is it possible she’s just in a really bad mood and is lashing out in frustration of the fact that she can’t get a job as an attorney and is now focusing on a political career? 

“3. Or is it just an immature attempt for attention with little or NO thought at all?”

Oakes related that he’d been sitting through Republican executive committee meetings “where she acted in a very emotional immature and combative manner toward her fellow executive board members.” Oakes said he had never encountered such “irrational non-productive behavior” in an employee and would never hire her.

Regarding her allegation that the donation might constitute a bribe, he stated: “Yes Christy you caught me ….with your stellar instincts that every 25 year old possesses…I’m going to offer a bribe on public radio and TV to the governor to thereby get him and myself thrown in jail ..no words to describe this level of ignorance….The reality is I offered to donate $100,000 to any PAC gov. Ron DeSantis chooses as a token of my appreciation for attending a meeting with me to explain my election fraud findings and thank him for everything he has done for our state.” 

He took umbrage at her statement that he would never inject his children with heroin. On the contrary, “I swear with my life, my fortune and my sacred honor that I would [emphasis ours] shoot heroin into my children’s arms without hesitation if given a choice between heroin and this experimental RNA altering vaccine (at least I know what heroin is).”

He also argued that DeSantis must audit the 2020 election in Florida: “in fact if he does NOT dig into this election fraud he will most certainly lose to Charlie Christ or even worse Nikki Fried.” Oakes stated that he had spent “hundreds of hours” on Florida election fraud and found possibly 900,000 stolen votes, penetration of all 67 Florida counties and Chinese hacking of Florida computer systems.

“Christy alleges with certainty that she is aware that Gov. Ron DeSantis is aware of the voter fraud in Florida” he wrote. “Well I guess Christie you must be much closer to gov. Ron DeSantis than his own chief of staff. In speaking with Adrian Lucas (chief of staff to the governor) yesterday he thanked me for the admirable work that I have been doing to prove election fraud in Florida and could not wait for the governor to see the findings we have uncovered,” [sic, as posted].

He denied being motivated by any financial gain and disputed that Collier County Republicans had become numb to his hyperboles “when in fact I have hundreds of people every day thanking me for articulating exactly what they are thinking and taking the bold position to stand strong for them.”

Oakes concluded: “I am praying for your wisdom Christy…”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

The angst of August: Anti-vaxxers versus the ‘sensible center’ in Southwest Florida

Demonstrators protest a vaccine mandate for employees by the Naples Community Hospital on Aug. 1. (Image: WINK News)

August 12, 2021 by David Silverberg

August is the cruelest month in Southwest Florida. Every year there’s heat, humidity and hurricanes. For school-age children there’s the prospect of returning to drudgery in hot classrooms.

This year, though, there’s also the COVID Delta variant stalking the region, attacking the unvaccinated and driving a spike in severe hospitalizations.

For students, while entering a classroom might be a welcome relief from remote learning, there’s the added danger of COVID infection, heightened by resistance to masking by COVID-denying parents and an anti-mask governor. In one instance, one local parent of an 11-year-old left a school orientation that took place in a crowded cafeteria full of coughing, unmasked parents.

There’s no doubt that current stresses will change the politics of Southwest Florida. But what is the likely final result?

Deadly denial

Delta, Delta, Delta—it’s the one dominant story. But then, it’s literally a matter of life and death.

With the Florida Department of Health only issuing statistics weekly and those being highly suspect, local media and concerned citizens have to hunt for something resembling reliable numbers to see the extent of the contagion in their communities. (Two reliable sources are The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker).

It’s fair to say, though, that the state of Florida is experiencing a roaring contagion that, as of this writing, has led to it being widely characterized as the epicenter of the current outbreak.

Though the available vaccines have been shown to be effective, Southwest Florida remains a stubborn stronghold of anti-vaccine (anti-vaxx) sentiment.

That sentiment was in evidence at the beginning of July, when the Naples Community Hospital (NCH) sent a letter to employees encouraging them to vaccinate. That brought a strident anti-vaxx reaction.

“Look at this disgraceful letter that is being sent out by communist NCH to all of the employees that did not take Fauci’s experimental cocktail…” Alfie Oakes, the extremist conservative farmer and grocer stated in a July 9 Facebook post.

At the end of July NCH changed its encouragement to a requirement for employees.

On Aug. 1 anti-vaxx demonstrators gathered outside NCH in North Naples to protest the hospital’s mandatory vaccine policy.

Rather than cowering before the protests, NCH hit back in a defiant riposte:

“The NCH Medical Executive Committee unanimously endorsed NCH Healthcare System’s new vaccination policy on Friday. NCH leads the region in implementing this policy in order to take steps to further safeguard the health and wellbeing of our staff and patients. The new COVID variants are much more transmittable and at least 5x more contagious than previous COVID variants. Over 90 percent of COVID inpatients are unvaccinated and 100 percent of ICU patients are unvaccinated. We are seeing younger people sicker and this has become an unvaccinated pandemic.

“NCH is a leader in SWFL with this decision. However, we are seeing the vaccination support among large employers outside of healthcare like Google, Publix and Disney. NCH joins more than 75 health systems nationally who now require employees to be vaccinated. The Mayo Clinic is requiring all employees to be vaccinated by September 17.”

NCH’s dismissal of the anti-vaxxers and the rising defiance of the Lee and Collier County school districts to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) prohibition of mask mandates indicate a quiet determination by Southwest Floridian officials to respect science and follow health protocols. They are taking stands regardless of opposition, no matter how emotional the protests or how highly-placed the political dictates from Tallahassee.

For a politically conservative region it’s a rare instance of dissent that may have a lasting impact.

Desperation and fragmentation

Alfie Oakes takes aim: “I pray we have election integrity in 2022…. if we don’t we must prepare for the worst!
Our second amendment right is specifically to revolt against a a tyrannical government!
Prepare for the worst and pray for the best.” (Photo: Facebook)

As the Delta variant proves its reality and the country forges ahead under President Joe Biden, the pronouncements and protests of local Trumpers and anti-vaxxers are sounding more strident and desperate.

The next local Trumpist event takes place on August 20 and 21 in Naples—the days before what has been a rumored reinstatement of the former president on Aug. 22.

The event is the “We the People Fight Back Event” scheduled to be held at the Naples Hilton Hotel. Twenty-five far-right conservative speakers are on the program, although unannounced speakers have been known to show up for such occasions.

“America is in a state of emergency with a radical Democrat leading us further into the dark abyss as he rips out every thread of Conservative values that is woven into the fabric of our nation,” proclaims the event’s website. “Cowering to the liberal left isn’t an option and hiding in fear of cancel culture will not save the future of our country.”

The event is organized by former Republican congressional candidate Christy McLaughlin of Ave Maria, along with John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal. It promises 25 speakers including McLaughlin and Oakes. It also has 10 business sponsors.

But despite being listed as a speaker at the Hilton, Oakes also felt the need to organize his own one-day “Patriot Fest” to do essentially the same thing—or perhaps the Hilton event wasn’t extreme enough. His Fest is scheduled for Sept. 18 at his farm in Naples and has four business supporters and 10 speakers including Shemane Nugent, wife of extreme conservative musician Ted Nugent. In April Nugent announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 a week after playing before an unmasked crowd at Seed to Table.

The Hilton event charges $247 to attend and $124 per night to stay at the hotel. Oakes is charging $200 for VIP tickets and $25 general admission for his one-day event.

Oakes, however, faced a unique problem: “the liberals at eventbrite [sic] just unpublished our Patriot Fest and refunded everyone’s tickets because apparently a bunch of patriots getting together doesn’t follow their ‘community standards,’” he complained on Aug. 6 —leaving him to scramble to find a new way to collect admission fees.

Oakes has called vaccines “Fauci’s poisonous cocktail” and guests at such gatherings are unlikely to have been vaccinated.

While not explicitly stated, neither the Hilton conference nor the Patriot Fest is likely to require masks, distancing or take any other COVID precautions.

They should be the superspreader events of the season.

Analysis: The rising sensible center

In the short term, given the transmissibility of the Delta variant and its lethality, much of the hard-core anti-vaxx population is likely to self-select itself out of existence in the coming days.

From a strictly political calculation, this will mean fewer conservative voters and a diminution of extreme anti-vaxx agitation as these voices are permanently silenced.

But the really interesting phenomenon in Southwest Florida is seeing relatively apolitical people and officials who might have previously acceded to the passion and insistence of extremist activists begin to resist, however quietly and subtly.

This was also in evidence in July when the Collier County Commission voted down a “Bill of Rights sanctuary” ordinance that sought to nullify federal authority in the county, despite vocal support by a small core of residents.

All these are indications that the old Trumpist trinity of denial, dismissal and delusion is being demolished.

The stakes are so high and the consequences are so dire that thinking people simply can’t go along to get along any more. After all, going along with a far-right, extremist anti-vaxx agenda is a death sentence.

Bit by bit, mask by mask, shot by shot, vote by vote, decision by decision, what former general Colin Powell once called “the sensible center” is reasserting itself.

All this will find political expression at the voting booth in 2022. Will this sensible center have enough heft, enough persistence and enough memory to vote for sane and science-supporting candidates and parties?

DeSantis, his political allies, the Trumpers and the anti-vaxxers are betting that in the year, two months and 27 days before the 2022 election the pandemic will be over and the vast mass of voters will forget the death and disease currently ravaging Florida. Instead, like amnesiacs, voters will celebrate anti-science, anti-health policies as great economic successes.

It is as though Florida is a casino and DeSantis and the COVID-deniers are playing a poker game with Death as the dealer, using Floridian lives as chips.

They may think the odds are in their favor. But more likely, as in any casino, the house always wins.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Michael Flynn tries to rally dispirited conservatives during Southwest Florida visit

Michael Flynn attends a Trump rally in Phoenix, Arizona in 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

March 18, 2021 by David Silverberg

Michael Flynn, former national security advisor and lieutenant general, tried to rally dispirited Trumpers with a message of continued effort and community engagement during a series of appearances in Southwest Florida last week.

Flynn also said he was looking for “America first” candidates for future races at the local and state levels to promote elements of Donald Trump’s previous agenda.

“This is a very interesting time for our country, to say the least,” he said in a brief address at a private home on Tuesday, March 9. “…Engage people. Get in people’s faces. Engage people. And I’m going to tell folks tomorrow, get out and engage their communities wherever they’re from. And maybe they’re from around here but as we carry our message, there are people from Michigan, people from Oregon. But we have to engage and I’m telling you, much, much more than we ever have in our lifetimes.”

In an online interview with Brendon Leslie, a local independent conservative blogger and netcaster, Flynn said, “We’re seeking candidates, people, who want to step up to the plate and run at the local level, at the state level,” who share his beliefs.

Flynn completed his tour of Southwest Florida last Thursday, March 11, just as he was facing a new investigation from the US Army Inspector General, according to The Washington Post.

Despite his affiliation with the discredited QAnon conspiracy theory, Flynn’s message was largely one of encouragement for demoralized followers of former President Donald Trump and recommitment to traditional conservative values.

Flynn addressed groups in Naples and Fort Myers in addition to a gathering at a private home. All gatherings were unmasked and ignored social distancing guidelines.

In Naples, Flynn spoke on the evening of Wednesday, March 10, at a gathering at the Naples Beach Hotel. Originally scheduled for Shula’s Steakhouse, the venue was changed when Shula’s management declined to host it. The event was made “secret” except to ticketholders.

That event was organized by Christy McLaughlin, a former Republican congressional primary candidate and conservative activist, who also organized an unannounced appearance by Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio in Naples on Dec. 3. Initially intended to benefit McLaughlin’s Constitutional Warriors Political Action Committee (PAC), the March 10 beneficiary was changed to something called SAVA-PAC, which is not registered with the Federal Election Commission.

In Fort Myers, Flynn spoke on Thursday, March 11 at the Ter-Tini’s event venue after the Roots Restaurant and Treehouse Rooftop Lounge in the Bell Tower Shops declined to host that gathering. As originally planned the Fort Myers event was organized by Red Pill Roadshow, a QAnon-promoting traveling show. This event venue was also concealed following the Treehouse cancellation and a report on it by NBC-2 News.

Flynn’s Fort Myers appearances were organized by The Florida Conservative blog, written by Michael Thompson, a Republican Party activist based in eastern Lee County. Initially intended to benefit a Florida Conservative PAC, a luncheon and benefit for veterans was added, with proceeds going to the Southwest Florida Heroes Foundation, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit corporation founded by Thompson to benefit first responders and veterans.

A consistent theme of all of Flynn’s remarks was the need for Trump believers to stay involved in their communities to spread their message and not surrender to demoralization.

Flynn’s fullest and most articulated explanation of the beliefs he brought to Southwest Florida preceded his visit. He expressed them in a March 8 essay posted to the conservative website The Western Journal, titled “5 Lessons I Learned When the Deep State Came After Me and My Family.”

In the essay, Flynn decried the “downward slide” of America based on “the shifting definitions of right and wrong blindly accepted by many Americans today.

“Our leaders would have us believe that these changing values are inevitable and that they are good. That is why they are called ‘progressive.’

“Yet to those of us who still believe in the immortal truths upon which America was founded, their so-called ‘progress’ is alarming, to say the least.”

Flynn argued that there is no alternative to the United States in terms of opportunity and freedom and that those who believe in it cannot retreat or disengage from continued effort.

“God enabled me to endure a years-long campaign by the left to destroy me and my family. They wanted me to serve as an example to anyone who would defy the entrenched bureaucrats of the swamp.” However, he wrote that he had emerged victorious.

Flynn attributed what he considered his victory to his religious faith and urged readers to “make faith an essential part of your battle strategy today.”

He also stressed the importance of family, friendship and fighting for conservative ideas.

“We need those who will stand against failed Marxist ideologies that have invaded the mainstream of our consciousness like a network of choking vines seeking to strangle the mighty American oak tree,” he wrote. He warned of the dangers of technological censorship, “cancel culture” and charged that opponents of conservatism want to force Americans into servitude, taxation, and “want to take our children from us, forcing them to look to Big Brother government.”

In that essay and in his Southwest Florida appearances, Flynn urged his audiences to stay engaged.

In a message to his followers on the Telegram messaging application that he sent out on March 10, Flynn was more blunt: “As I recently said, we need to get involved in our communities & ensure our system functions the way it is suppose to BECAUSE it broke down. Let’s stop kidding ourselves with shoulda-woulda-coulda-and instead get involved in our communities.”

Analysis: Martyr or menace?

Flynn’s Southwest Florida trip was not the QAnon extravaganza it initially was intended to be, given his past fealty to the bizarre conspiracy theory and the presence of Red Pill Roadshow (and the reluctance of local venues to host that sort of thing).

It was not a Proud Boys celebration despite Christy McLaughlin’s past history of having Proud Boys show up invited but unannounced at an event she organized. (One alleged Proud Boy, Christopher Worrell, who was present at her Dec. 3 event in Naples, was arrested in East Naples on Friday, March 12, by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents for allegedly participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection.)

Proud Boy Christopher Worrell, who was arrested in East Naples for his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, at a Dec. 3 event in Naples. Worrell is in the back row, to the right of Christy McLaughlin, making the “white power” sign. (Photo: Facebook)

It was not a mindless repeat of the Big Lie that Trump won the election and had it stolen from him. In fact, it was not much about Trump at all, at least not by name.

Nor was it about the Jan. 6 insurrection, riot or attempted lynching of Vice President Mike Pence. Nor did it touch on the infamous White House meeting on Dec. 18 when Flynn was widely reported to have advocated that lawyer Sidney Powell be appointed a special counsel, that the US Army take over vote counting in five key swing counties and rerun the election and that martial law be imposed to invalidate the initial results. (Flynn maintains that is not what happened in an extensive interview with Western Journal.)

In fact, what is striking about his Southwest Florida trip is the degree of Trumpist demoralization that Flynn felt he needed to counter. In his Telegram message, Flynn told his followers: “I sense your frustrations. We are not giving up our pursuit for the truth.” In his March 9 remarks he told his audience: “I will tell you that you have to be positive. You have to fight tooth and nail. And I always tell people like, Abraham Lincoln, he just—I said this to Kim [a member of the audience]—that guy lost like seven races and he’s the greatest, you know, top three, maybe [presidents].” In his Western Journal article, which was addressed to a broader audience beyond Southwest Florida, he wrote, “Sadly, some will allow this alarm [over changes in America] to grow into defeatism. They will turn their faces away from the battle before us in hopes of finding a position to retreat to.”

Flynn’s Southwest Florida tour was part of the post-insurrection, post-presidency Trumpist rebuilding process that is strongly akin to Adolf Hitler’s post-putsch rebuilding of the Nazi Party. However, there was no advocacy of violence, no incitement to continued insurrection, no calls for any illegality that can be ascertained by this author. Ostensibly, Flynn was calling for a renewal of bedrock American values.

However, it needs to be remembered that Flynn, his professed allegiance to truth, justice and the American way notwithstanding, has quite a checkered record that belies his current conservative portrayal as a Trumpist martyr. After a military career in which he rose to the rank of lieutenant general, he was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency after two years. (Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell stated: “I asked why Flynn got fired. Abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc. He has been and was right-wing nutty every [sic] since.”). According to a Defense Department Inspector General report, before his 24-day stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor, Flynn allegedly received $530,000 in payments to serve as a foreign agent for Turkey without receiving Defense Department permission to do so, which may have violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause. He received $45,000 from RT, the official Russian television channel, to legitimize the channel by attending a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia and conversations with Russian officials, in particular Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, although he subsequently withdrew that plea. In the final days of the Trump administration, when Trump was trying to cancel the election results, he allegedly advocated overturning the election. The only reason he was free to speak in Southwest Florida was because he was pardoned by a president who was twice impeached.

For all that, Flynn, perhaps more than Donald Trump himself, realizes that meeting his ideological goals is a long game that will be built on grassroots organizing and local electoral engagement. He is taking the first steps in that direction.

In his interview with Brendon Leslie, Flynn made the observation that “There’s two sides to the truth. No, there’s actually three sides to the truth. There’s your truth. There’s my truth. And then there’s the truth itself.”

True enough. And in another insight, Flynn has written: “I was once told if we’re not careful, 2 percent of the passionate will control 98 percent of the indifferent 100 percent of the time.”

In Southwest Florida as much as anywhere else, that is absolutely true.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

QAnon show, Michael Flynn, coming to Fort Myers

Michael Flynn, center, pledges “Where we go one, we go all,” a QAnon slogan, in a July 2020 video he posted that was reported by CNN. (Image: CNN)

Feb. 23, 2021 by David Silverberg

Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security adviser, and a QAnon-promoting traveling roadshow are coming to Fort Myers.

Two fundraising events with Flynn are scheduled for Thursday, March 11. One will be a dinner at the Roots Restaurant and Treehouse Rooftop Lounge on Bell Tower Drive in Fort Myers, according to the organizers.

The event marks the emergence of Flynn from a previously announced “secret location.” He was to have been the main speaker at a fundraising dinner in Naples on March 10.

However, when the original venue, Shula’s Steakhouse, canceled the booking, the dinner was moved to the “secret location,” according to its organizer, Christy McLaughlin, a former Republican congressional candidate and conservative activist. That dinner was intended to benefit her Constitutional Warriors Political Action Committee.

In the past, McLaughlin had organized a Naples fundraiser that featured Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, who appeared unannounced at the event. McLaughlin also promised unnamed and unannounced guests at the Flynn dinner.

The new dinner is being presented by The Florida Conservative, a conservative blog, and Red Pill Roadshow. No names for specific individuals are provided by either organization’s website.

Red Pill Roadshow is a traveling production that promotes the QAnon conspiracy theory in a tent-revival atmosphere. It was born out of a 2019 Washington, DC rally called “The Great Awakening,” which in QAnon mythology is an apocalyptic battle between Donald Trump supporters and their enemies. (In American history “the Great Awakening” was a religious revival that swept the American colonies in the 1730s and 40s.)

QAnon is a widely-repudiated online conspiracy theory holding that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles are running a global child sex-trafficking ring and controlling the country and its culture. The cabal was said to be plotting against Donald Trump who was secretly fighting them while in office. This battle was to culminate in “The Storm” or “The Great Awakening,” when Trump was going to round up members of the cabal in mass arrests. Q is supposedly a high-level intelligence officer who chronicled the battle.

Red Pill Roadshow was founded in 2019, according to its website, and is dedicated to “Bringing The Great Awakening to your town.” The “red pill” is a reference to the 1999 movie The Matrix, in which a red pill reveals the truth about a falsely constructed world.

The video on the Red Pill Roadshow website features a “Great Awakening” event in Washington, DC event held on Sept. 11, 2019.

“While putting the show together, we experienced how the fake media and big tech worked hand-in-hand in attempting to silence our opposing political views,” states the text on the website. “However, their efforts to censor us and to deny us our right to peacefully assemble and to free speech didn’t have the desired outcome the opposition had hoped for.

“So, now enter the Red Pill Roadshow, created specifically to bring The Great Awakening free-speech events to your town!” 

According to the website, Red Pill Roadshow has been banned from Twitter and Instagram.

In Florida, Red Pill Roadshow has held events in Jacksonville and Tampa. An extensive account of the August 2020 Jacksonville event appeared on the website DailyDot.com, an online news outlet, in an article, “On the floor for the Red Pill Roadshow, a QAnon tent revival.”

According to that article, McLaughlin addressed the Jacksonville crowd, saying that “If Donald Trump isn’t re-elected in November, America will cease to exist.” The article quotes her saying  she was “thrown out of law school for being a conservative. ‘Now I’m Florida International University’s worst nightmare,’ she snarled, then suggested defunding colleges.”

The article also stated that: “A stack of fliers on a trashcan encouraged joining right-wing militias, including Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters.”

QAnon was specifically condemned by a resolution passed in the US House of Representatives in October 2020, which found that “the conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon undermine trust in America’s democratic institutions, encourage rejection of objective reality, and deepen our Nation’s political polarization.” The resolution passed by a vote of 371 to 18, with two of Southwest Florida’s representatives voting for it. (Then-Rep. Francis Rooney was absent.)

According to the announcement on the Florida Conservative blog, the Fort Myers event consists of two fundraisers, one for SW Florida Heroes Foundation, Inc., which benefits first responders.

The beneficiary of the second fundraiser is not revealed in the announcement.

In the past, McLaughlin has been an adamant opponent of  COVID-related masking. While the event announcement does not say if masks and social distancing will be required, the likelihood is that it will be unmasked.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Michael Flynn dinner moving to ‘secret location’ after being booted from Shula’s Steakhouse

Feb. 6, 2021 by David Silverberg

A conservative fundraising dinner in Naples, Florida featuring Michael Flynn, the disgraced former national security advisor pardoned by former president Donald Trump, is moving to a “secret location” after being booted from Shula’s Steakhouse in the Naples Hilton, according to its organizer.

Christy McLaughlin announces a ‘secret location’ for her PAC’s dinner event. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

The dinner, scheduled for March 10, was organized by Christy McLaughlin, a former Republican congressional candidate, Proud Boys supporter and conservative activist.

The dinner, promoted as a “constitutional gala,” was intended to raise money for McLaughlin’s Constitutional warriors Political Action Committee. McLaughlin announced creation of a group with that name at the time of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. The Flynn dinner marks its public debut as a political action committee.

McLaughlin insisted that despite the cancelation of its original venue, the event would go forward.

“The radical left—Antifa, BLM [Black Lives Matter], who knows? —has come after us in the form of cancel culture yet again,” McLaughlin said in a 90-second Facebook video posted on Thursday, Feb. 4. “They’ve even gone so far as to attack the venue of our event, the location of our event, personally going after the manager of Shula’s, the restaurant that we were going to hold the event at. The radical left can try to prevent this event from happening all they want but I want to tell you one thing and I want to be very, very clear: cancel culture will not cancel this event.”

Because Shula’s had declined to provide the venue, McLaughlin said “we are now going to reassess the location and keep it a total secret.” Existing ticketholders could discover the location by getting in touch with her, she said, but “we are going to have it at a secret location where the radical left will not be able to protest or interfere with our meeting event with Gen. Michael Flynn.”

Also scheduled to speak was Kimberly Klacik, Republican candidate for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, who was defeated in the 2020 general election.

The Jan. 25 announcement of the dinner mobilized progressive activists in Naples to protest Flynn’s presence and contact Shula’s management, which responded.

Enrique Tarrio, Proud Boys chairman and FBI informant, addresses a gathering at the Naples Mercato on Dec. 3, 2020. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

On Dec. 3, 2020 McLaughlin organized a similar fundraising dinner for the Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate runoff elections at The Counter in the Mercato in Naples. Although John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal, was the featured speaker, the group was addressed by Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, a Trumpist, conservative group advocating violence and white supremacy that played a prominent role in the Capitol insurrection. Pre-event publicity for the gathering never mentioned that Tarrio or the Proud Boys would be present.

The original announcement of the Dec. 3, 2020 event in Naples, which did not mention the presence or attendance of the Proud Boys and its chairman.

Although Flynn and Kacik were the featured speakers at the Shula’s event, McLaughlin stated that there would be “a few more special guests who might be attending as well. Any body want to guess who it is?”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

‘Revolution’ or ‘setup’? The Capitol riot according to Oakes and McLaughlin

Alfie Oakes exhorts Trump demonstrators before they board buses to Washington, DC on Jan. 5. (Image: Fox4 News)

Jan. 17, 2021 by David Silverberg

Was the assault and riot at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 an elaborate plot by nefarious globalists using a tiny cadre of paid actors to create a scenario to cast President Donald Trump in a bad light? Or were the real inciters the legislators inside the building who were working to certify the presidential election?

Those are the views of two Southwest Floridians who were present at the Jan. 6 insurrection and have very vocally and publicly given their accounts of what occurred.

One is Francis Alfred Oakes III, better known locally as Alfie, a fervent Trumper and anti-mask activist, the owner of Seed to Table market, who transported demonstrators to Washington, DC.

The other is Christy McLaughlin, a 25-year-old conservative from Ave Maria who ran for Congress as a Republican candidate in the 19th Congressional District last year.

The riot at the Capitol was a defining and very public moment in American history. It was broadcast in real time. Millions of Americans either watched the attack as it happened or have seen some elements of it in some form of media.

So, do you think you know what happened? Compare and contrast your knowledge with what these two local activists say occurred. But first, let’s introduce our protagonists.

Alfie Oakes

Pro-Trump demonstrators outside Seed to Table protest Joe Biden’s election victory on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo: Author)

Alfie Oakes is well known in Southwest Florida as a farmer and grocer emphasizing organic produce—and lately as an outspoken political activist.

According to the Oakes Farms official history, it was Alfie’s father, Francis “Frankie” Alfred Oakes Jr., who opened a family produce stand and moved farming operations to Naples after 10 years of operating in east Fort Myers. His son Alfie opened a wholesale produce business in Immokalee until a frost killed his crops in 1989.

That disaster led Alfie to travel around the country and to Honduras to import tomatoes to Florida. Over the next eight years he brokered farm deals, expanded his wholesale business and began farming again.

Meanwhile, his father began experimenting with organic growing as a hobby. It went from a hobby to a business to an expanding enterprise to the point where in 2005 he opened Food & Thought as a “militantly” organic grocery in Naples that became a cultural center for shoppers seeking healthful products.

Frankie died in 2013. Alfie kept successfully expanding the business and branched out into other endeavors. He won contracts to supply the Lee and Collier County school districts and in October 2017 a $40 million federal contract to supply the southern district of Florida. In August 2018, Oakes announced that he had won a $46.8 million contract from the US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to supply food to the US military.

Within days of the announcement of the DLA win, on Aug. 19 Oakes posted the first political manifesto to gain widespread attention on the Oakes Farms Market Facebook page.

In a lengthy screed, Oakes attacked the Democratic Party, the public education system, the mainstream media and the administration of President Barack Obama. [Editor’s note: spelling, capitalization, grammar and usage, his.]

“I along with many of my fellow Americans are shocked by the current actions of many of our younger generation along with the Democratic party recently morphing into all out socialism,” he wrote. “Unfortunately most of our younger generation have purposely never been exposed to the truth about history and the greatness of our founding fathers wisdom, even current events are censored from the MSM [mainstream media] to support their one world order narrative.”

He continued: “The puppeteers that orchestrate the MSM, most of our universities, the DNC [Democratic National Committee] along with the Obama administration have been pushing for a one world order that would ultimately destroy the opportunity for the individual.”

He concluded: “We must with all our might reject socialism and adhere to the genius of the christian principles that our founding father so masterfully created (through the hand of GOD in my opinion) so that we may continue to be the beacon of the world for individual prosperity and freedom.”

Coming as it did in the midst of Trump’s controversial and disruptive administration, the post created a furor, both driving supportive customers to his stores and at the same time driving away offended potential customers.

There was more controversy to come. Oakes had been renovating a 75,000-square foot facility in North Naples. After five years of work and a $30 million investment, he opened Seed to Table, a mega-grocery and deluxe supermarket in December 2019.

Seed to Table might have been a non-controversial business welcoming to all, except that Alfie continued his outspoken political pronouncements.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25, 2020, sparking demonstrations across the country and giving new impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement.

On June 6, 2020 Oakes posted on Facebook: “The COVID19 hoax did not work to bring down our great President and now this…the black lives matter race hoax…REALLY …how about  ALL lives matter!!” He called George Floyd “a disgraceful career criminal , thief , drug addict , drug dealer and ex-con” and stated that people had “allowed themselves to be controlled by deceit and fear” by “the corrupt world powers and their brainwashing arms of the media.”

The post outraged people across Southwest Florida and led to a demonstration in front of Seed to Table. It prompted the Lee and Collier school districts to cancel their contracts, which in turn prompted Oakes to sue them for breach of contract.

Nor did Oakes confine himself to Facebook posts; he vehemently and actively fought anti-COVID mask mandates in Collier County and Naples and when the county did impose a mask mandate, he refused to honor it and sued the county in opposition. (A judge dismissed 11 of his 14 counts in November.) He called county commissioners who voted for the mandates “socialists” and “tyrants” and refused to comply with the mandates.

Seed to Table was a stronghold of pro-Trump/Pence sentiment and activity during the 2020 election. When Biden was initially named the winner, Trumpers demonstrated against the outcome on the corner outside the store. As Trump fought the results and baselessly declared them fraudulent, Oakes supported his claims of a rigged election.

So when Trump called on his supporters to contest the election results when they were scheduled to be certified on Jan. 6, Oakes rented two buses to transport about 100 demonstrators to what was expected to be a peaceful demonstration in Washington.

Oakes was there when, incited by Trump, the rally turned into a riot and an attack on the Capitol building. It is not certain from available accounts whether he was in the crowd that breached the Capitol and trashed the interior, although a video appears to show him exhorting the crowd that “It’s time to fight! They’re taking our freedom! Come on! Come on!”

This, full and unedited, is the account he gave on Facebook:

“Unfortunately anyone that was not at the Trump rally on Jan 6th has to navigate through the lies and blatant and obvious deception perpetrated by the media, I was there …it was the most peaceful beautiful demonstration from well over one million people that I’ve ever witnessed.

“To be tarnished by .001% is really sad!

“As hard as it is for good and honest people to believe this was a total set up to make President Trump and his supporters look bad,I am assuring you it was just that! I have to hand it to them it was an incredibly clever tactic orchestrated by those that will stop at nothing to ensure the Globalist take over of our United States. I watched with my own eyes as Capitol police invited happy and enthusiastic Trump supporters into the Capitol. They were totally unsuspecting they would be part of the ruse.

“Leading the group was the obvious six or eight paid actors(used in other events such as BLM riots, hard to believe they would be that blatant and sloppy) … followed by a small group of aggressive Trump supporters caught up in the moment, these paid actors lead the charge. Out of nearly 1 1/2 million great loving peaceful Americans supporting Liberty, Freedom and our great President this small handful incited by the paid actors unfortunately chose to cross the line. Let’s not forget that one of these unfortunate souls a 15 yr military veteran and mother caught up in the moment, completely unarmed lost her life at point-blank range ALL for the sole purpose of legitimizing this planned event!

“I have now found ONE thing that I completely agree on with the ever corrupt main stream media on…..This is truly one of the lowest days in our country’s history!”

Christy McLaughlin

Christy McLaughlin (center) with Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio to her left during their meeting at the Naples Mercato on Dec. 3. The other Proud Boys are making the “white power” hand sign with their thumbs and forefingers. (Photo: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

Christy McLaughlin is a Naples, Fla., native and a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and Ave Maria School of Law. According to her official biography, she interned at the Florida state attorney’s office in the 20th District for two summers and for a judge of the 20th Circuit Court. In the summer of 2019 she interned in the office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.). On her campaign website she stated that she sat for the Florida Bar but did not state if she passed the examination.

In March 2020 she announced her candidacy for Congress in the 19th Congressional District to replace the retiring Francis Rooney. At the time she was 24 years old—ineligible to serve in Congress—but she turned 25 during the summer, meeting the constitutional qualification.

McLaughlin ran on a vehemently pro-Trump platform, stating that she supported “all of President Trump’s agenda. I have supported President Trump since he descended the escalator.” She called him “the greatest president ever” and took positions against abortion and gun regulation.

A Christy McLaughlin campaign photo. (Photo: Christy McLaughlin for Congress)

In the Republican primary McLaughlin received only 4.1 percent of the vote, or 4,245 votes.

Despite her overwhelming defeat in the primary, McLaughlin continued her conservative activism, particularly when it came to COVID mask mandates, opposing them in person and online.

McLaughlin kicked into high gear in November 2020 after former Vice President Joe Biden was called the winner based on preliminary results, pointing out that “the media cannot call an election.  Only states can certify elections.”

She was active in denouncing efforts to conclude the election. “Cowardly Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell are going to push Trump to concede. These RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] are Deep State agents who only want to line their pockets and acquire more clout,” she complained—and she alleged that some of her Facebook posts were censored.

In the days after the election was called for Biden, she labeled herself a “constitutional warrior” and created a website around the term, hoping to attract adherents.

On Dec. 3, McLaughlin organized a fundraiser to support Republican Senate candidates in Georgia. The advertised speaker was John DiLemme, founder of the Conservative Business Journal. But the real star of the show was Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, which The Washington Post has described as “a far-right group with a history of violence and a reputation for instigating roving street fights with counterdemonstrators.”

The event was held at The Counter restaurant in the Naples Mercato, where Tarrio spoke.


On Dec. 5, The Paradise Progressive submitted the following questions to The Counter’s management chain, Kahala Management, in Scottsdale, Ariz., since there was no e-mail address available for the local branch.

  1. Did the Naples Counter serve as official host of the meeting or was it just the meeting location?
  2. Was the Naples Counter aware of the meeting beforehand?
  3. Does The Counter as a chain/company endorse the Proud Boys and their philosophy?

To date no response has been received.


“There is something good that has come out of the ‘contested’—in air quotes, contested—election,” he said. “There was obvious voter fraud. They’ve practically stolen this election. But we’re not going to let them. We’re not going to go quietly.”

He continued: “Proud Boys is just a regular group of guys. There’s nothing special about regular men. But there is something when those men have this passion and this love for this country” and “1776 will commence again.” He inducted the 20 or so people present into the Proud Boys by having them repeat: “I’m a western chauvinist. And I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world. We’re all Proud Boys.” (Tarrio was arrested in Washington, DC prior to Jan. 6 for burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a previous protest. He was not present during the Capitol riot or preceding rally.)

McLaughlin agreed with Trump and those echoing his claims of a fraudulent election—and the need to contest the results. “It is time we prepare for battle,” she stated on Dec. 14. “Only the true Patriots will be standing on the Frontlines metaphorically or not to protect this Country! SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States] will not protect us, RINOs will not protect us. Only We The People can protect us.”

As is well known, Trump lost every legal challenge to the results of the election. The states certified their results and the Electoral College confirmed Joe Biden’s victory. The only act remaining was scheduled for Jan. 6, when Congress would certify the Electoral College results to finalize the election. Trump called for a rally in Washington to oppose the certification.  “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.

“Trump is not going anywhere!!” stated McLaughlin. “If they steal the election (which we are fighting and marching against) he will lead us in a Revolution of a fair and free nation.”

McLaughlin headed up to Washington, DC, where on Jan. 5 she addressed a small crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Christy McLaughlin addresses a crowd on the steps of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5. (Image: Christy McLaughlin/Facebook)

“We are all warriors here,” she said. “Some say that we’re at the beginning of Communism. I disagree. We are living it right now. And unless we take a stand tomorrow, one final stand, we will forever lose this country.”

She cited her family’s escape from Cuba in 1961 and charged that the US Department of Education “has worked with the mainstream media to indoctrinate our students so they bow to tyranny.” She said she was suing the department for what she alleged was discrimination against conservatives.

“Now, we have a revolution tomorrow,” she told the crowd. “Our representatives have exactly one job: and that means to be the voice of the people. I’m from Florida. We delivered a landslide victory for President Trump. I want my representatives and all representatives to object.”

After leading the crowd in chants, she said: “we are the chosen ones to deliver a free and fair election to the United States.”

The next day the mob assaulted the Capitol. It is not clear at this time from available sources whether McLaughlin was among the assailants who breached the building.

However, she was moved to write an op-ed in The Washington Times, Washington’s conservative daily newspaper that appeared on Jan. 11.

In the op-ed McLaughlin said that while she didn’t diminish the loss of life in the Capitol riot, she preferred to remember the demonstration’s more peaceful aspects.

“…The actions of the very few have sullied the narrative from a beautiful sight of patriotism and unity to mindless chaos and purposeless violence,” she complained. “But, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.”

In McLaughlin’s view, members of Congress “had a duty to transparently debate the substantive allegations of wide-spread voter fraud on the merits in a public forum. Congress failed the American people by cloaking the proceedings in secrecy.” The counting of the Electoral College ballots was a “charade” without debate or investigation. “A government that acts in the middle of the night under cover of darkness and curfews, cloaked in secrecy, with no transparency is no monument to democracy.”

Unlike the Trumpers, she charged, “The Democratic Party was united and held the line. Their coalition of Marxist, mainstream media, Big Tech, deep state operatives, anarchists, globalists, industrial war machine corporations and hostile foreign entities worked together like a symphony to wrest the will of the people from the people.”

Analysis: Facts and fiction

So, was the assault on the Capitol the work of a very few people, possibly paid actors, who led otherwise peaceful, patriotic Americans astray, as Oakes and McLaughlin allege?

On Jan. 14, Grace Segers, a political reporter with CBS who was in the Capitol during the attack, addressed a roundtable held by the Press Club of Southwest Florida and was asked that question.

The allegations of paid actors or a tiny minority leading the charge, she said, “are absolutely ridiculous. There’s absolutely no evidence of that.”

She continued: “A lot of these people were not militia members. They were normal people who came to the Capitol because they thought violence was a corrective. They were Trump supporters. Some said they were doing this at the president’s urging. They were wearing MAGA hats.”

The idea that the riot was the result of a conspiracy or outside forces “is really insidious. It allows people to cast off responsibility,” she said.

Oakes’ account of the Capitol siege is largely absurd on the face of it: it is clear both from the televised images and subsequent investigations that the assault on the Capitol was conducted not by a tiny minority or “six or eight” agitators but by thousands of agitated people attacking the building from all sides, smashing in doors and windows and breaching police lines. Further, if it was led by “paid actors” how would he even know they were paid actors? Did he ask them?

Oakes’ accounting of the crowd’s size is equally absurd: his varying estimates put the crowd at anywhere from a million to 2 million. The National Park Service, which has the responsibility for estimating crowds, expected the crowd at the Ellipse rally to be 30,000. While a definitive estimate of the numbers swarming the Capitol is not yet available, it was clearly in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.

(Author’s note: This author was in Washington during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration when the crowd size was officially estimated at 1.2 million, the largest inaugural crowd to ever gather. It is clear from the photos and television coverage that the Jan. 6 crowd was nowhere near that number.)

Did blame for the attack rest with the lawmakers inside the building, as McLaughlin maintains?

This too is absurd. The representatives of the House and the senators were following a legally prescribed procedure for certifying the Electoral College votes. They fully debated the objections to the count raised by members. Their count found Joe Biden the legal winner of the 2020 presidential election. The purpose of the attack was to stop that count and in a larger sense destroy the legislative branch of the American government.

Were the legislators acting “in the middle of the night under cover of darkness and curfews, cloaked in secrecy, with no transparency,” as she claims?

In fact the complete opposite was true. The counting procedure—and that’s what it was, a counting and certification procedure—was being done in the full light of day, in the full sight of the public, without any cover or secrecy at all. The only reason that the final certification occurred in the early hours of the next morning was because the insurrection interrupted the count, as it was intended to do.

These myths of the attack on American government being the work of a tiny, violent minority, paid actors, the victims, a vast conspiracy, a lying media, and an intricate setup are all lesser myths deriving from the one big lie perpetrated by Donald Trump: that the election was fraudulent and was stolen from him. These myths are not unique to Oakes and McLaughlin, they’re a collective justification and rationalization by the perpetrators for an unjustified, irrational and ultimately criminal act incited by a criminal president.

Like a hangover the day after a binge, the rioters now have a headache, some are shameful, they’re being condemned and they all have to wonder if they’ll be prosecuted. In the sober light of day they have to explain their behavior to themselves, their families and possibly the police. These myths are the way they do it while avoiding blame or responsibility.

In his book Disloyal, Trump’s fixer and attorney Michael Cohen described Trump’s dynamics, first in business and then as president.

Cohen writes: “I was sharing the Trump delusion. But that was the alchemy, and I see it traveling throughout the White House and beyond all the time. In defending the indefensible, you can’t resort to reason or facts or good business practices; you can’t appeal to conscience or justice or fairness. All that is left is what I resorted to, and what Trump displays so often: rage.”

On Jan. 6 Trump transmitted his rage to his followers, who then carried it to the Capitol of the United States where they vented it on a branch of government that checked Trump’s delusions and drive for total, unrestricted domination. The government of the United States was working as intended according to its Constitution. It was this that enraged Trump and that his followers channeled into a day of broken glass and violence and death.

Despite his and their efforts, the attack failed. The election was certified. Trump has been impeached. On Wednesday, Jan. 20 at noon, Joe Biden is scheduled to take the oath of office as president.

One can only hope that, like repairs to the Capitol building itself, conscience, justice and fairness will be restored to the nation.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Yet ANOTHER Republican candidate enters 19th Congressional District race-UPDATED

March 11, 2020 by David Silverberg

Updated April 13, with correction and additional policy position.

Another Republican candidate has filed for Congress in the 19th Congressional District of Florida, bringing the total number of candidates to an even dozen.

03-11-20 Christy McLaughlin
Christy McLaughlin

Christina “Christy” McLaughlin filed her candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, March 9. This brings the number of Republicans running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Francis Rooney to nine. Also running are two Democrats and an Independent.

According to her campaign website, ChristyforCongress.com, McLaughlin is a Naples, Fla., native, and a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and Ave Maria School of Law. She states that she sat for the Florida Bar but does not state if she passed the examination. She interned at the Florida state attorney’s office in the 20th District for two summers and for a judge of the 20th Circuit Court. In the summer of 2019 she interned in the office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.).

On her website McLaughlin declares that she “supports all of President Trump’s agenda. I have supported President Trump since he descended the escalator” and calls him “the greatest president ever.”

She is anti-abortion, pro-border wall, opposes birthright citizenship, opposes gun regulation, denounces socialism, applauds the Space Force and supports Israel’s right to exist.

There is no initial mention on her website of any local or environmental issues. She subsequently stated that “In Congress, I will fight to receive the necessary funding we need for the restoration and proactive measures we must take to keep our waters clean.”

McLaughlin states that she is the daughter of Cuban immigrants who came to the United States in 1961.

In addition to her professional activities she states that she established the Republican National Lawyer’s Association Chapter at Ave Maria School of Law and served as its president in 2018 and 2019. She also expanded the Young Republicans Party of Florida into Collier County and serves as the Collier County Chair. In 2014 she was crowned Miss Naples and Miss South Florida Latina.

Her father, Hugh McLaughlin, a software consultant, serves as treasurer of her campaign committee.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg