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

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Oakes, Donalds, Rooney and Gingrich: Four Floridians and the attack on America’s Capitol–Updated

On Jan. 6 a mob attacks the US Capitol.

Jan. 6, 2022 by David Silverberg

–Updated Feb. 9, 2022 with with input from Alfie Oakes and corrections

If Dec. 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy, Jan. 6, 2021 is a day that will live in disgrace.

It was the day that democracy almost died.

It was a day when Americans, incited by a delusional and dictatorial president, went on a rampage that came close to destroying the Constitution, Congress and government by, for, and of the people.

On this, the first anniversary of the insurrection and attack on the United States Capitol and Congress, the words and actions of four Floridians—all residents of Naples—bears remembrance, as well as their words and actions in the days afterward. They illustrate a range of characters and reactions to what was one of the most horrific events of the early 21st century.

Outside the Capitol

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) and Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III both protested the election, one from inside the Capitol, the other from outside.

Oakes, a Naples farmer, grocer and deep and fervent supporter of President Donald Trump, had chartered two buses to carry about a hundred Trumpers to the “Stop the Steal” rally. He traveled to Washington to participate in the rally.

According to Oakes, he participated in the rally and then flew home directly that night. He never breached police barriers, the Capitol grounds or entered the building itself.

With My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell and former national security director Michael Flynn in the foreground, Rep. Byron Donalds looks out on the “Stop the Steal” rally before going to the Capitol. (Photo: Twitter)

On the morning of Jan. 6, Byron Donalds, who had sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution three days before, attended the rally on the Ellipse outside the White House.

He left the rally before it ended and went to the Capitol to register his objection to certifying the vote of the Electoral College.

“I’m walking into the Capitol to sign the objection to the Electoral College certification. It’s important we always uphold our laws and our Constitution, no matter what,” he tweeted at 11:17 am that morning.

Rep. Byron Donalds signs a paper registering his objection to certifying the election. (Photo: Office of Rep. Byron Donalds)

Donalds was inside the Capitol attending the certification when rioters breached police barriers and began attacking the building. He and the other members were evacuated from the House chamber.

“On my fourth day as a United States Congressman, I followed Capitol staff into a safe room with a gas mask in hand rather than representing my constituents,” Donalds recounted in a statement on the events.

At 2:49 pm, the height of the attack, Donalds tweeted: “Americans have the right to peacefully protest & demand their government works for them—that doesn’t mean we resort to violence. Rule of law must stand during our nation’s brightest & darkest hours & that includes right now. We are better than this. There is no place for anarchy.”

At 10:09 pm, after the riot was over and the rioters had been evicted from the building, Donalds issued a lengthy statement, calling the rioters “lawless vigilantes” and condemning their actions as “thuggery.”  Despite this, he voted against certification.

The defenders

Then-Rep. Francis Rooney (center) discusses Lake Okeechobee with President Donald Trump during the latter’s visit in March, 2019. (Image: C-Span)

For two former Republican members of Congress the attack on the Capitol was unacceptable, outrageous and enraging.

Francis Rooney of Naples had just retired from two terms representing the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island.

As the violence peaked at 3:49 pm that day he stated on Facebook: “All of America should be saddened and sickened by today’s events at the US Capitol. President Trump is complicit in inciting violence to contest an election that is over and adjudicated. This must stop now.”

Newt Gingrich appears on Fox News the day after the attack. To the right is the scene inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. (Image: Fox News)

Newton “Newt” Gingrich served as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. He and his wife Callista quietly moved to Naples in September 2021.

When rioters invaded the Office of the Speaker on Jan. 6th, they weren’t vandalizing one individual’s office; they were attacking the chamber of the highest ranking official in the House of Representatives. That room wasn’t just the personal office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), it was the sanctum that Gingrich had also inhabited for four years. Every Speaker had occupied it, regardless of party, since the current House wing of the Capitol was completed in 1857.

For Gingrich the riot hit close to home and he responded with fury.

“I was furious. I am furious. Every person who broke into the Capitol has to be arrested and has to be prosecuted,” he said in a Fox News interview the day after the riot. “This is the center of freedom on the whole planet. It’s a symbol for everybody. And what happened yesterday was utterly, totally inexcusable. People should be locked up and punished. And I’m delighted that they’re increasing the preparations for the inaugural because we have to make absolutely certain nothing like this happens again. But as a former House member as well, as you point out, former Speaker, I found it enraging that people who clearly are not patriots — these are people are destructive barbarians and they are frankly criminals, and they should be treated that way and locked up. And I’m very proud of the Capitol Police, that they clearly needed a lot more reinforcements yesterday.”

In the year since

Gingrich may have been angry over the insurrection but it wasn’t sufficient to permanently turn him from Donald Trump. A mere five months after the insurrection he made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to craft a new, Trumpist “Contract with America,” the political device that brought a Republican Congress to power and him to the Speakership in 1995.

Details are sparse but the new contract may be unveiled this year in time for the midterms.

“It should be positive,” Gingrich was quoted as saying about it in the publication Politico in May. “School choice, teaching American history for real, abolishing the ‘1619 Project,’ eliminating critical race theory and what the Texas legislature is doing. We should say, ‘Bring it on.’”

He made no mention of preserving democracy or punishing insurrection.

Over the past year Francis Rooney continued to post on Facebook and do the occasional op-ed, concentrating on his real passions of foreign affairs and environmental stewardship.

Four days after Alfie Oakes returned from Washington he gave a lengthy account of the riot on Facebook on Jan. 10. In it he argued that the assault on the Capitol was “an incredibly clever tactic orchestrated by those that will stop at nothing to ensure the Globalist take over of our United States.”

According to Oakes, “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.”

Nonetheless, he did acknowledge in his Jan. 10 post that “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!”

When it came to Byron Donalds, after denouncing the riot, he watered down his tweet condemning the rioters to say that they “do not embody my constituents’ values and heart.” Their actions, he tweeted at the time, “will not alter my decision to object to the Electoral College certification” and he indeed voted against certifying the election when the roll call was taken.

Nonetheless, at 3:26 am on the morning of Jan. 7, Vice President Mike Pence, who had been threatened with lynching by the mob, certified the vote of the Electoral College that confirmed Joseph Robinette Biden as president of the United States.

During the rest of 2021 Donalds proved a reliable right wing megaphone, following Republican talking points in denouncing Biden and Democrats, promoting a MAGA agenda and never condemning or acknowledging Donald Trump’s role in the “anarchy” of Jan. 6.

On Dec. 13 Donald Trump endorsed Donalds for re-election.

Rep. Byron Donalds, Donald Trump, Melania Trump and Erika Donalds in Naples, Dec. 13. (Photo: Office of Rep. Byron Donalds)

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 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