Cole Evan White and Thomas Walter Gillen were two of four people arrested in connection with the violent Charlottesville rallies in 2017. Their arrests were not directly connected with Heather Heyer’s death. Read on to learn more about Cole White and Thomas Gillen, the charges, and what happened at the Charlottesville rallies. This is a developing story.
1. Cole White & Thomas Gillen Were Arrested on Federal Rioting Charges Connected to the Rallies & the Rise Above Movement
Cole White and Thomas Gillen were two of four people arrested on riot and conspiracy to riot charges connected with both the August 11 torch-lit march and the August 12 Unite the Right rally, where Heather Heyer was killed. Their arrests were not connected with Heyer’s death, however. You can read the full complaint below.
The four men — Cole White, 24, Benjamin Daley, 25, Michael Miselis, 29, and Thomas Gillen, 34 — were identified as marchers either on August 11, during the torch rally, or during the rally the next day where Heyer was killed. On August 11, a group of people marched through the University of Virginia carrying Tiki torches and shouting phrases like “Blood and Soil!” (a Nazi slogan) and “Jews will not replace us!” A group of student activists was attacked by some of the people from that group, Huffington Post reported.
The complaint states that the four arrested were among the most violent at the rallies:
Among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017 were at least four members and associates of the Rise Above Movement, a militant white-supremacist organization based in Southern California, who had traveled to Charlottesville with the intent to encourage, promote, incite, participate in, and commit violent acts in furtherance of a riot…”
All four men were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal riots statute and one count of violating the federal riots statute.
2. Cole White Was Photographed at the Tiki March, & He Said Publicly Later That He Was Not a White Supremacist
Cole White of Clayton, California, was originally identified in photos of tiki march participants, The Washington Post reported. When his identity was released, he lost his job a Berkeley hot dog restaurant called Top Dog. The restaurant posted: “Effective Saturday 12th August, Cole White no longer works at Top Dog. The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog. We believe in individual freedom and voluntary association for everyone.” The restaurant is known for its libertarian leanings.
In a statement to the Post, Top Dog noted: “Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with Top Dog and we accepted his resignation. There have been reports that he was terminated. Those reports are false. There have been reports that top dog knowingly employs racists and promotes racist theology. That too is false. Individual freedom and voluntary exchange are core to the philosophy of Top Dog. We look forward to cooking the same great food for at least another 50 years… e do respect our employees’ right to their opinions. They are free to make their own choices but must accept the responsibilities of those choices.”
In an online statement, White insisted that he was not racist or a white supremacist, SF Eater reported. His full statement reads:
I attended the Unite the Right rally because it was being reported as the biggest right-leaning event of the year with a large number of people expected to be present. After having witnessed first hand the violent attempts made by far left groups to disrupt what would otherwise be peaceful conservative gatherings in recent months, I knew Charlottesville would be a notable event. It was the infamous salutes, chants and actions that have widely represented this event to the public as a white nationalist rally, despite the comparatively small number of individuals behind them, and for this reason, I believe many participants and attendees are being unjustly targeted and demonized. I want to make it clear that I am not a white supremacist, nor was I ever. Those people with such beliefs were obviously present, assuming that those were the beliefs of the entire crowd is uninformed and irresponsible due to the fact that many people attended for the same reason as I did, which was to meet other conservative leaning individuals and to stand for freedom of speech. My portrayal over social and the mainstream media has been inaccurate, biased and completely unjustified.”
In the federal complaint, White is described as being at the UTR rally and can be seen in screenshots of the riots wearing a purple sweater with “flowing platinum blonde hair… later attacking a counter protestor.” You can see the screenshot from the complaint below:
The complaint goes on to state that White can be seen using a tiki torch as a weapon on at least two occasions. It says that in another incident, White can be seen grabbing a non-violent counter protestor who was just holding a street sign and “jerking him away… Afterwards, White head-butted a clergyman…”
3. Thomas Gillen Is a 23-Year-Old Surfer from Torrance Who Was Once Jailed for Having an Illegal Handgun
According to ProPublica, Thomas Gillen, 24, is a surfer from Torrance. (A press release from the Justice Department identifies Gillen as being from Rondo Beach, California.) He was jailed in 2014 for having an illegal handgun with a serial number ground off. He was barred from owning any more guns. He’s a member of the Rise Above Movement. He was accused of being one of a group of people who had a violent clash with counterprotesters in front of a Jefferson statue, ProPublica reported.
The photo above shows Ben Daley, one of other Rise Above Movement members who was arrested.
The federal complaint noted that Gillen can be seen in one video “assisting his fellow RAM members Daley and Miselis, as they assault multiple counter protestors on August 12, 2017.”
The complaint also shares photos of Gillen “repeatedly punching a counter protestor who has fallen to the ground.”
The four arrests are not directly connected with Heyer’s death, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Thomas Chadwick, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.
In 2017, James Alex Fields, Jr. was arrested on suspicion of driving his car into a crowd of protesters at the Charlottesville rally on August 12. Heather Heyer was killed, and 19 people were injured.
One protester, DeAndre Harris, was beaten in a parking garage by Unite the Right rally members so badly that he had a spinal injury, a broken arm, and head lacerations requiring 10 stitches. He was originally arrested and charged with assaulting a person at the rally, but he was later acquitted, The Washington Post reported. He was arrested two months after the beating, when Harold Crews — a North Carolina lawyer and chair of a self-described white nationalist group — filed a police report and persuaded a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for a felony charge of unlawful wounding. When District Court Judge Robert Downer Jr. acquitted Harris, he condemned everyone involved in the rallies, both protesters and counterprotesters. He said that he didn’t see that Crews did anything wrong, but Harris was also not guilty because he only hit Crews with a flashlight while defending a friend who was struggling with Crews. Crews testified that when he was hit with the flashlight, he suffered a large welt and deep cuts.
4. A Different Group of People Were Accused of Using the Discord App To Plan Violence at the Rally, But Those Names Have Not Been Released
You can see a video of today’s press conference above.
In August, a federal judge in California ruled that the Discord app must release the identity of a woman who was accused of helping plan violence at the Charlottesville rallies, NPR reported. She and dozens of other people were accused of using the chat app to organize violence. She posted under the name kristall.night on the app. However, the judge also ruled that the person’s real name should only be revealed to a small group of people involved in the case.
Marc Randazza, the woman’s lawyer, told NPR at the time: “I don’t like what my client had to say. I don’t like my client’s views. All you’ve gotta do is look at the username. … But I have a more strong opinion that you have the right to do that. You have the right to be extremely right-wing. That’s what America is. You have the right to be a raging full-throated Nazi if you want to be.”
The name “kristall.night” was a play on Kristallnacht, a night that Nazis attacked Jews in 1938, NPR reported.
This subpoena was part of a Virginia lawsuit against organizers of the rally. Leaked chats showed that kristall.night suggested people bring shields and helmets, and that flagpoles could be used as spears and clubs. She also made a number of racists statements in her chat.
5. James Alex Fields, Jr. Has Been in Custody Since 2017 & His State Trial Begins in November
Fields, who is accused of driving into the crowd, has a state trial scheduled to begin on November 26. He’s been in custody since the tragic rally. In his state trial, he faces 10 charges in Virginia. On December 18, a Charlottesville grand jury indicted him on 10 charges: first-degree murder, five counts of malicious wounding, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and failing to stop at the scene of a crash, Richmond.com reported.
In June, federal prosecutors filed 30 hate crime charges against Fields, saying that he “rapidly accelerated through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd … [and] stopped only when it struck another vehicle near the intersection.” The charges include one hate crime count for Heyer’s death and 28 hate crime charges for attempts to kill others, Fox News reported. An additional count accuses fields of racially motivated violent interference in a federally protected activity. The outcome of his state trial might help the U.S. Attorney General decide if he will seek the death penalty in Fields’ federal trial. The federal trial has not yet been scheduled. In late September, the U.S. filed a motion to remove Stephen Curran as the attorney of record from the federal case because he had left the Department of Justice.
A lot of Internet rumors were circulating about Heather Heyer’s cause of death. The Central District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond found that Heyer died of blunt force injury to her chest. The manner of death was still pending at the time the cause of death was released. (Manner of death refers to the classification of what led to the cause of death, such as whether it was an accident, a homicide, a suicide, natural causes, etc.) In an interview shortly after her death, her mother said that she died of a heart attack, which prompted some ugly Internet rumors. Although the medical examiner did not clarify, it is possible for blunt force trauma to lead to a heart attack. Blunt trauma to the chest can at times cause cardiac contusion, rupture a heart chamber, or even cause cardiac arrest, Merck Manual reported.
This is a developing story.