A 25-year-old California man who is a leader of a violent white supremacist group has been arrested on federal rioting and conspiracy charges in connection to the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ben Daley and three other members of the Rise Above Movement were taken into custody on October 2 on charges accusing them of traveling to Virginia to engage in violent behavior.
Daley and the other Rise Above Movement members are accused of committing multiple acts of violence against counterprotesters at the Charlottesville rally leaving some of the victims with serious injuries, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia announced. Those acts of violence were captured on photos and videos taken by the media and bystanders, prosecutors said.
Daley and the other Rise Above Movement members were identified as taking part in the violence earlier this year in media reports, including by ProPublica. They were also identified by the anti-fascist group NoCARA. According to ProPublica, the Rise Above Movement surfaced publicly in the spring of 2017 and established itself quickly as one of the most violent groups in the white supremacist scene. Its members train in mixed martial arts and have competed in events in Ukraine and elsewhere, according to its social media posts, which include videos of the group’s members training and fighting. According to ProPublica, RAM has been involved in several melees with counter-protesters.
Daley, of Redondo Beach, was arrested along with three other Rise Above Movement members: Michael Miselis, 29, of Lawndale, California; Tom Gillen, 34, of Rondo Beach, California; and Cole White, 24, of Clayton California, prosecutors said. Miselis is a former employee of the defense contractor Northrop Grumann and was pursuing his Ph.D at UCLA.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Daley & the Other Rise Above Movement Members Face Up to 4 Years in Prison if Convicted
Benjamin Daley and the three other men face up to 5 years in federal prison on the rioting charge and up to 5 years in prison on the conspiracy charge if convicted, according to federal law. The criminal complaint charging Daley and the other Rise Above Movement members was filed under seal in August 2018 and unsealed on October 2 when the four men were arrested in California.
According to the criminal complaint, Daley was documented to be at a tiki-torch rally on the University of Virginia campus on August 11, 2017, and at the “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. Daley is accused of committing acts of violence against counterprotesters on both days. According to ProPublica, Daley and Tom Gillen, who has also been arrested, were seen yelling, “You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!” at the base of a Thomas Jefferson statue on the UVa campus. He was also seen in a photo carrying a white banner with a swastika on it, according to The Beach Reporter.
Video of Daley at the Charlottesville rally was uncovered by ProPublica earlier this year:
According to prosecutors, had his fists taped “in the manner of boxers and MMA fighters,” and could be seen on video punching and kicking a counter-protester at the August 12 event in Charlottesville. Prosecutors also said video footage showed Daley helping White assault a female counterprotester as White headbutted her, leaving her with a bloody cut to the head.
Another video showed Daley attacking a man without provocation, prosecutors said. Yet another video showed Daley slamming a female counterprotester to the ground after grabbing her. The four men were later photographed together in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville holding a sign with the RAM logo on it.
Prosecutors said in the criminal complaint that credit card receipts showed Daley bought white athletic tape, black spray paint and a folding tactical knife at a Charlottesville Walmart on August 11.
You can watch the law enforcement press conference announcing charges against Daley and the other three men below:
“This case should serve as another example of the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting the life, liberty, and civil rights of all our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to oversee Virginia’s Western District. “Any individual who has or plans to travel to this District with the intent to engage in acts of violence will be prosecuted and held accountable for those actions.”
“The events of August 2017 do not reflect the character and values of Virginia’s communities. The impact is still felt by many. Law enforcement’s job is to protect people from harm and to ensure violence like we saw during that time never happens again,” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division Adam S. Lee said in a statement. “It is important for communities like Charlottesville to remember who the good guys are – who is sworn to protect them – and support them in their mission. The FBI has worked extensively with Virginia State Police and our local partners to achieve justice for those injured during the rally. Their partnership is how we have arrived at this point in our investigations. I want to thank them and U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen and his team in the Western District for their expertise and professionalism.”
You can read the criminal complaint below:
2. He Served 7 Days in Jail for Illegally Carrying a Snub Nose Revolver & Has Been Featured Prominently in Rise Above Movement Recruiting Videos
Ben Daley was arrested in 2014 and charged with illegal possession of a gun, according to ProPublica. He was found carrying a concealed snub-nosed revolver, the news organization reports. Daley was later sentenced in Los Angeles County court to serve seven days in jail. According to ProPublica, “police also discovered an array of bullets in his pickup truck, including .38-caliber ammunition and .223 rifle rounds, the latter used in bolt-action hunting rifles and military-style assault weapons.”
Daley has been featured prominently in social media posts and recruiting videos posted by the Rise Above Movement. The group’s YouTube page has been limited so that videos cannot be embedded on outside sites and viewers must agree to continue to watch the video after seeing a warning about the content in them. According to the Anti-Defamation League:
R.A.M.’s violent ideology is glorified in the group’s recruitment videos and other online propaganda. The videos cut back and forth from footage of members brawling at demonstrations to scenes of members participating in workout sessions. Their digital propaganda also highlights violence against the left, and features images of members wearing t-shirts emblazoned with phrases like ‘Kill a Commie for Mommy,’ or posing in front of graffiti of the letters GNLS, an acronym for ‘Good Night Left Side,’ a common anti-antifa slogan.
The group’s Twitter and Instagram pages have been suspended, but they continue to post frequently on Gab.ai. The group also sells merchandise and had done so to raise money for Mike Miselis after his identity was exposed by ProPublica.
The Rise Above Movement originally formed in Southern California as the DIY Division, before evolving into its current form. Along with Daley, several of its members have criminal records, including its founder, Robert Rundo, a Queens, New York, native who was sentenced to prison in 2009 for stabbing a rival gang member during a street fight. Other members joined RAM from Hammerskin Nation, a Nazi skinhead group, ProPublica reports.
“They very much operate like a street-fighting club,” Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told The Associated Press.
The group posted on Instagram in 2017, “We want to rise above all of today’s destructive culture and see the rebirth of our people, strong in mental and physical capacities as our forefathers were. In a time when you can be harmed for your political beliefs or shamed for your heritage, we are here to defend our identity and shared goals.”
According to the ADL, “‘The premier MMA club of the alt right,’ espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance at events and online. Members have been spotted carrying ‘Da Goyim Know’ signs, a reference to an anti-Semitic trope about Jews trying to keep non-Jews ‘in the dark’ about their plans for world domination. During an anti-Muslim rally in San Bernardino, one member held a sign declaring, ‘Rapefugees Not Welcome.’ Several others held a banner that read, ‘Defend America. Islamists Out,’ and depicted lance-wielding crusaders on horseback chasing after fleeing Muslims.”
3. Daley Owns His Own Southern California Tree-Trimming Service & Told ProPublica He Was Planning to Join the Military
Ben Daley owns a tree-trimming service in Southern California called Ben’s Palm & Tree Service. He has
According to ProPublica, Daley told reporters in October 2017 that he had recently joined the military and would be headed to basic training soon. It is not clear if he ever actually enlisted in the military.
4. He Has Also Traveled to Rallies Around California, Including Taking Part in Violent Brawls in Berkeley
Along with being caught on video and in photos at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Daley has also traveled to several other rallies and protests around California, and took part in violent clashes with antifa members and other counterprotesters at a pro-Trump rally in Berkeley in April 2017.
The April 15 rally occurred at Berkeley’s Civic Center Park, according to ProPublica. The news organization wrote, “When leftist counter-protesters showed up to express their contempt for the president and his supporters, RAM, fighting as a pack, chased them down and attacked them — stomping, punching, kicking. Video shows Ben Daley pounding on a man who is trapped on the ground and kicking other opponents. In one incident, Daley and RAM member Robert Rundo manhandled a journalist, Shane Bauer of Mother Jones, shoving him and yelling at him ‘Get the fuck out of here! … Fake news!'”
Prosecutors in the Charlottesville case said Daley, who was wearing a half-skull face mask, was seen on video attempting to kick and punch a counterprotester during the Berkeley incident. White, Miselis and Gillen were also seen at the rally, according to prosecutors.
5. Daley Has Made Anti-Muslim, Anti-Jewish & Other Racist Posts on His Facebook Page & Elsewhere on Social Media
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Benjamin Daley “has a history of using social media to promote anti-Semitic cartoons and conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the banking, media and legal system.”
ProPublica wrote that Daley has used his, “Facebook page to bash ‘Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook Jew police’ for taking down his ‘anti Muslim posts’; to suggest that African Americans are ‘shit’ and that former President Obama is a leech; and to cheer the fatal shooting of a black man. ‘Good riddance,’ he wrote.”
Prosecutors in the Charlottesville case used Daley’s own Facebook posts to show he had been at the “Unite the Right” rally. According to the FBI, Daley wrote about being at the tiki torch march at the University of Virginia on August 11. He was critical of another prominent white supremacist who used a chemical spray at the march. Daley wrote that the spray was unnecessary, according to the FBI, because “we had them completely surrounded.” He added, “I hit like 5 people.”