Rishi Rambaran is a Tucson, Arizona, father who is accused of being with a group of men who confronted an elementary school principal over a dispute about COVID-19 in a heated incident in which his friend allegedly brought along zip ties. Kelly Walker, the owner of Viva Coffee House in Tucson, posted Instagram videos related to the encounter. You can watch the videos later in this article.
The Daily Beast named Rambaran, 40, as the only man arrested in the incident, citing local police.
“I can tell you the end result of that incident was we did make one arrest for trespassing,” Sgt. Richard Gradillas of the Tucson, Arizona, Police Department told The Daily Beast, which added that Rambaran was with two other men, one identified as Walker, and the other whose identity is unknown.
Walker’s coffee shop has posted repeatedly in defense of the men, but the principal has described feeling frightened.
“Tucson’s local MSM is a joke. They put out salacious stories without even talking with the father who stood his ground,” one post on the coffee house’s Facebook page read. “He did what a dad should do when his child is being abused by school administrators.” Referring to Rambaran, who is also known as Reese, another post says, “Reese is a hero and a manly father. We need more dads like him.”
Daily Beast called Walker a “local marketing strategist and copywriter” whose coffee shop has hosted prominent conservatives like Dinesh D’Souza.
Here’s a screenshot of the zip ties from one of Walker’s Instagram videos:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Men Are Accused of Contemplating a Citizen’s Arrest
According to KOVA-TV, Rambaran “threatened to make a citizen’s arrest on a Vail Unified School District elementary principal” because of the school’s quarantine policy.
One video shows Walker as he and the third man walk toward the school. “Here we go in to Mesquite to confront the individual for breaking multiple state laws, causing major disturbance to a family,” he says in the video.
“We are going to confront them, tell them they are breaking the law. If they don’t comply with the law we will call the sheriff and ask them to be arrested. If necessary, we will do a citizens arrest. Because these people who are supposed to be public servants can’t just take the law into their own hands and think they can just step all over parental rights.” His friend didn’t want to show his face on camera, but Walker showed the camera a fistful of what he described as “law enforcement zip ties.”
He added, “We’re just coming up to talk first. Our public officials need to know that we mean business.”
In another video posted on the Viva Coffee House Instagram page, Rambaran said, “My son just informed us that when they pulled him from class and took him into the nurse’s station, they made him wear a mask…” He said a school official made the kids wear masks that were in a dirty trash can. He said he wanted to request “to have them arrested…This has gone too far.”
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In another video, Walker is seen driving. “Enough is enough,” he says on Instagram. In the video, he said a friend told him that his son was told to go to the office to be quarantined. “They shoved a mask on his face; wouldn’t let him call his parents. Now his dad is there with some others. The school is blatantly breaking the law.” He called it bullying and scare tactics.
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A post on the Viva Coffee Shop page says, “When this kind of coercion and bullying is perpetrated by school administrators, breaking the law, a citizens’ arrest is an option worth looking into. If it’s legal, then parents have the right to consider it. No one threatened to arrest these admins, but the father asked the police to. The truth will come out, but don’t expect anything but spin from the ‘media.'”
According to Kold.com, another video, on Facebook Live, showed the men walking into the principal’s office but appears to have been deleted. Daily Beast described it this way: “Once inside Vargo’s office, the principal listened patiently as Rambaran and Walker attempted to browbeat her into reversing the quarantine order…Rambaran can be seen calling the police and asking them to arrest Vargo. If Rambaran’s child wasn’t allowed back into the classroom immediately, the group said they were prepared to execute a citizens’ arrest.”
2. The Principal Said One of the Men Was Carrying ‘Military Black Large Zip Ties,’ Leaving Her ‘Scared’
The unidentified man was the one holding the zip ties when the men got to the principal’s office, according to Vice.
The principal, Diane Vargo, gave a video interview to KOVA. “Yesterday we had a positive case reported to us,” she said. “We reached out to parents who needed to pick up their children who needed to be put in isolation. One of the parents was very upset. We pulled him into my office, and listened to his concerns. But he demanded. And he didn’t want to follow the county health department guidelines. His son was with him.”
She explained that she “tried to explain that this was protocol, that we were just trying to follow the Health Department. He was saying that more people were coming. He had a video in my face, and two other men barged into my office, and one of them was carrying zip ties, military black large zip ties and standing in my doorway. The three were claiming that we were breaking the law placing children in isolation, and so he there were two men who had phones that were recording us and they were threatening to arrest us.”
She said that she “asked them to leave campus and they would not. They demanded that their child stay in school. I left my office but stayed close, because I wanted to make sure they were contained. My number on priority is the safety of my students and staff.”
Vargo then contacted Tucson police.
“I felt violated that they were in my office claiming that I was breaking the law and that they were going to arrest me and these military grade zip ties. Two of the men weren’t parents at our school, and so I felt threatened,” she said in the television interview. “I felt scared. The father was being loud and aggressive. I was trying my best to deescalate the situation.”
3. Walker’s Coffee House Facebook Page Is Filled With Anti-Mask Rhetoric & Calls People ‘Tiny Tyrants’
The Facebook page for Walker’s coffee shop says: “Viva Coffee House was started by a family obsessed with good coffee and loving the connection a local coffee house brings to a community.” It is filled with anti-mask rhetoric.
A post on the page addresses the incident. “These tiny tyrants, who are supposed to be serving us, continue ‘a long train of abuses and usurpations’ under ‘a design to reduce’ citizens ‘under absolute despotism’; ergo, ‘it is their right, it is their DUTY to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security,'” the post says.
“Carrying zip ties and asking the police if we can make a citizens’ arrest is mild compared to our Duty to ‘throw them off.’ (No one was ‘threatened.’) Were the Founders alive today, idiots would have called them ‘τεrrοrιsτs’; we call them true Americans, safeguarding their children, safety, happiness and liberty. We already told these seditious usurpers they have lost our consent to govern. #WeStandWithReese #VivaFreedom.” Reese is a name used by Rambaran, according to Daily Beast. The post contains a screenshot of the Declaration of Independence.
A post on the coffee shop page announced the plan, saying on September 2, 2021, “Apparently, Mesquite Elementary thinks they can break the law and act like the cονιd Gestapo. We will be headed over there shortly to disagree. Come join us because we won’t have this in OUR community!”
The post shared this statement, “So my son is being sent home because he was ‘exposed’ to someone with COVID. Only certain students are being sent home and not the whole class. They refuse to tell who was the person that they were exposed to. Now half of his class is going on a field trip and the other half does not. They have not provided a return date. I’m going there now to raise hell. Be prepared for me to go to jail.”
Rambaran was involved with a company called LKG Entertainment.
4. In April, Walker Was Part of a Group That Stormed a Meeting & Tried to Elect Their Own School Board
Tucson.com described an April 2021 school board meeting that Walker attended.
The crowd “stormed a school board meeting, then pretended to elect a completely new board, convincing many residents on social media that it had actually happened,” the newspaper reported.
The roughly 200 people at the Vail School Board meeting wanted them to rescind a mask mandate, according to Tucson.com, which noted that Walker used his coffee house Facebook page to encourage people to attend that protest. The article notes that his children are home schooled.
The coffee house was temporarily shut down previously because it was accused of not following COVID regulations, such as those involving masks and lack of signs about things like social distancing, according to Tucson Weekly, which says that Walker runs the coffee house with his wife Andrea and her parents. Tucson Weekly also reported that people who expressed concern about the coffee shop’s approach to masks and use of Pepe the Frog, a symbol associated with the alt right, faced online harassment.
5. The Superintendent Says, ‘It Is a Disruption..It’s Not the Way to Solve Problems’
Superintendent of Schools John Carruth told Kold.com, “We work really hard to try to resolve concerns that parents have and this has absolutely been a difficult and challenging 18 months and I understand when people become frustrated and understand when sometimes we can’t come to a solution that’s agreeable with everybody. But there are ways to resolve this that don’t involve this and that just has no place on a school campus at all.”
He added, “It is a disruption. I recognize that, we recognize that and we all wish that it were different but bringing that concern to a heightened level where staff are threatened is just not okay and it’s not the way to solve problems and I certainly hope that we get back to a place where we can solve tough problems together.”