Proud Boy organizing support for trucker convoy was with high-profile far-right leaders on election night
CNN screenshot

The Maryland Proud Boy member who is organizing a trucker convoy support group “like a military operation” was the victim of an alleged assault while he was with then-national chairman Enrique Tarrio and two other high-profile far-right activists on election night in 2020, Raw Story has learned.

David Michael Nell, a 40-year-old resident of Mount Airy, Md., also known by his Proud Boys nickname “Ghost,” is the “state lead” of the Peoples Maryland/Virginia Convoy group on the social media app Telegram. In a comment on Telegram last week, Nell described the group’s purpose as “collecting supplies, having people ready for the sides of the road when [the convoy comes] through our territory and if they stay in our territory to supply them.” Nell added that the Maryland/Virginia support group will be responsible for supplying the convoy once it reaches of the Beltline around Washington, DC, its final destination, which is currently scheduled for March 5.

“I am treating this, in many ways, like a military operation,” Nell said. “I definitely have to be flexible with a lot of it because many here are not used to how that operates, but it’s efficient and it works. So, I was given a job and I’m going to do it whether or not I agree with my superiors’ methods. If I fail them, they are certain to fail. And that is what I am asking of those in this room. Have faith that I am working for the best and safest outcome, and I will explain what I can, when I can. Yet there may be times when I may ask something of you guys; I just need you to please do it.”

Enrique Tarrio, who has told some journalists that he intends to step down as national chairman of the Proud Boys, confirmed his familiarity with Nell on Telegram last week. After sharing a news story about Nell’s involvement in the convoy support group, Tarrio commented, “Can vouch. Great dude!”

READ: 'Like a military operation': 'Ghost' Maryland Proud Boy leads a trucker convoy support group

Tarrio did not respond to an interview request for this story.

Along with the trucker convoy support group, Nell is also a member of the Maryland DC Proud Boys chapter, which used a photo of him at the Washington Monument during the Jan. 23 Defeat the Mandates rally in DC on its Telegram channel. The Maryland DC chapter occasionally shares content promoting white nationalism and accelerationism — an aesthetic and tendency that embraces proactive violence for the purpose of hastening societal collapse — on its Telegram channel, and mocked Tarrio last month by posting a photo of him walking out of jail with text reading, “Lists of new grifts and ways to f*ck over Proudboys,” next to an arrow pointing towards an accordion folder stuffed with documents.

On election night in 2020, Nell was filmed with Tarrio, other Proud Boys including Jeremy Bertino and anti-choice activist Bevelyn Beatty in what appears to be a melee on an otherwise deserted street one block from the White House. The incident was livestreamed on Facebook by Jennilyn Salinas, a far-right activist better known as Jen Loh, who can be heard in the video saying, “Whoa, whoa, hey… Black Lives Matter over here…. Oh shit, they stabbed Bevelyn Beatty right now.” The incident quickly made international headlines as an emblem of supposed election-related unrest. After Black Lives Matter DC issued an angry tweet accusing the DC Metro Police of “sharing false information,” then-Chief Peter Newsham retracted the claim, telling reporters at a press conference the following day that “after more extensive information with the victims of the crime we don’t know who [the suspects] were affiliated with.”

The DC police told Raw Story that to date no arrests have been made in response to the alleged assault. The incident report describes the investigation into the matter as “inactive,” and a brief public narrative states, “The suspects made good of their escape.”

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The DC police are currently conducting an internal investigation on a lieutenant in the intelligence bureau, Shane Lamond, for alleged improper contacts with the Proud Boys. Tarrio reportedly told the Washington Post that Lamond would tell him the location of counter-protesters. It remains unclear whether Lamond had any involvement in the police response to the election night incident, and the department declined to comment further in response to questions submitted by Raw Story.

In Salinas’ video, Nell can be seen walking away from the melee and saying, “I’m bleeding.” Salinas responds, “I know, but you gotta help ’em.”

The camera then tracks Beatty, who announces that she too has been stabbed. Bertino can be seen running down the street, as if in pursuit of the attackers.

“Okay, we just got jumped by Black Lives Matter, and they just stabbed Bevelyn Beatty,” Salinas says. More than a minute after Nell initially reported to Salinas that he had been stabbed, her video shows him pacing the sidewalk and he says, “I have to stay conscious. I don’t know if I was stabbed or not. With the amount of blood that came out….” The camera then shows a heavy crimson liquid streaming from Nell’s neck down to the hem of his black overcoat. The video later shows two men holding Nell steady as others in the group describe the attack to a uniformed officer.

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Although the incident report does not name the victims, it reveals that “Victim 3” resides in Mount Airy, which is also where Nell and his wife live, according to Maryland property records.

Nell could not be reached for comment for this story, and it remains unclear how he wound up in Tarrio’s entourage on election night. According to an account given by Beatty to Christian radio host Eric Metaxas, the group had left Harry’s, a bar popular with Proud Boys, where they were watching the election returns. Beatty said they stopped in front of a church to listen to Trump’s speech questioning the election results prior to the alleged assault, which was reported as taking place at 2:26 a.m.

While little is known about Nell’s background, his presence during the melee on election night puts him in company with the national leadership of the Proud Boys and two far-right provocateurs closely linked to the group who have been involved in organizing violent events and instigating confrontation across the country. Beatty is known for harassing abortion clinic staff and volunteers, and for vandalizing Black Lives Matter murals in New York City, while Salinas, a pro-Trump influencer from San Antonio, Texas, has described herself as “a national activist making my footprint on many issues facing this nation.” While Nell is prominent enough to have his photo posted on his chapter’s Telegram channel, his association with the Proud Boys chairman and two nationally known provocateurs signals his acceptance within a rarified circle.

Salinas described Tarrio as a “very close friend” in a June 2021 Facebook comment defending him against accusations that he is a federal informant.” In that thread, she mentioned that Tarrio “was actually part of my security detail for a march we had in Austin back in the day.” At the time, Salinas said, Tarrio was a member of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, a group described as the “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys.

Tarrio was present for a “March 4 Trump” organized by Salinas in Austin, Texas in March 2018, before he became the chairman of the Proud Boys.

Joe Biggs, a former InfoWars correspondent who also joined the Proud Boys, served as emcee for the March 2018 rally. Biggs is currently facing federal charges, along with three other Proud Boys leaders, for conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ certification of the electoral vote and to obstruct law enforcement engaged in their official duties at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Similar to Salinas, Beatty engaged the Proud Boys as a security force. Beatty, who made national headlines when she was arrested dumping paint on a Black Lives Matter mural in Midtown Manhattan in July 2020 and then proceeding to vandalize two more BLM murals in New York City hours after her release, told Metaxas that the Proud Boys “were my security detail when I went to CHAZ,” referring to the area temporarily claimed by Seattle protesters as a police-free zone.

“The Proud Boys are the type of men — well, we’re Christians, okay, and we know we’re not going to be violent, and things like that — but the same way the USA has a military for a reason, uh, we don’t want people to just go kill people, but at the same time we need to protect ourselves,” Beatty told Metaxas. “The Bible doesn’t speak against that. So, they are a militia opposed to antifa and BLM, and they have volunteered for me and for multiple Christians for free to be our security.”

In contrast to Beatty’s characterization of herself as someone who is not violent, New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a federal civil complaint in federal court in February 2021 that paints a different picture.

The complaint, which details harassment of abortion clinic staff and volunteers by Beatty and co-defendant Edmee Chavannes, alleges that Beatty’s behavior escalated during a large-scale protest at the Manhattan Health Center in late June 2020.

“That weekend, defendant Beatty slammed a staff member’s hand in the door, causing her to need x-rays; repeatedly shoved a clinic volunteer attempting to enter the clinic; slapped a different volunteer in the face; and threatened to knock an escort unconscious,” James wrote in the complaint. “Both defendants physically blocked the main and side entrances to prevent patients and staff from getting into the center. Throughout the weekend, they purposefully came into close, unmasked contact with staff and patients in the middle of the pandemic and taunted escorts and staff who asked them to cover their faces and keep their distance.”

The case was settled in a consent judgment in which Beatty and Chavannes agreed to stay outside a 30-feet buffer zone outside the clinic, while denying any liability.

In addition to cultivating ties with prominent Proud Boys leaders like Tarrio and Biggs, Jennilyn Salinas’ activism has helped build a network of far-right activists traveling back and forth between Texas and the Pacific Northwest.

In a February 2018 post in advance of the March 4 Trump in Austin, Salinas wrote, “Lol WHO IS READY for the GOD FATHER of rallies we have been working hard and have activists flying in from all over!”

In addition to Biggs, Salinas announced that the rally would feature three individuals who have attained outsized stature in the violent confrontations that have roiled Portland, Ore. since 2017: Patriot Front leader Joey Gibson, notorious right-wing brawler Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, and Haley Adams, another far-right organizer.

Since 2018, Salinas has returned the favor by traveling to Portland.

In a November 2018 Facebook post that preceded a so-called #HimToo rally that would devolve into clashes between far-right activists and far-left counter-protesters, Salinas tagged Gibson, Toese and Adams, writing, “Uh oh I’m almost there! Lol… ya’ll get ready now! Haha.”

Recently leaked private chats show that Salinas helped organize a right-wing rally billed as “Summer of Love” in Portland on Aug. 22, 2021, while it appears Tarrio brokered the participation of members of the Proud Boys for that event.

“Hey everyone! We’ve booked our flights for Aug 22nd!” Salinas wrote in the “August 21st and 22nd Event” Telegram group on Aug. 12. “It’s time to take a stand again.”

Screengrabs from the private Telegram group — with 103 members, including Salinas, Tarrio and Adams — were published by far-right activist Eric Oelkers on Jan. 13 and 15, 2022. Oelkers, who has celebrated Norwegian mass murderer and white supremacist Anders Breivik on Facebook, indicated that he was motivated to leak the chats by his belief that Tarrio is a federal informant.

Two people, Toese and Audra Price, had simultaneously promoted the Aug. 22 date, which was the one-year anniversary of another violent rally.

“This is not an Audra event,” Salinas said. “This is for Tiny’s event for the 22nd…. We are bringing in some badass speakers too.”

Price clarified: “Aug 22nd was never intended to be my event. It was just an anniversary event for all patriots to come together and kick antifa ass. In fact, I encourage no names, no group names, etc. Just for us all to be patriots.”

The chats show both Salinas and Adams encouraging Tarrio to attend the rally, but Tarrio said he wouldn’t be able to make it, citing is then-impending incarceration for burning a Black Lives Matter flag during a Dec. 12, 2020 rally in DC.

One of the participants in the planning chat for the Aug. 22 rally questioned why Tarrio was allowed access to the group considering the suspicion that he was an informant.

“I think it’s pretty obvious why I’m here,” Tarrio said. “I run the biggest organization here.”

Another participant, Reggie Axtell, asked Tarrio if he was “sending foot soldiers.”

“I’m waiting for word,” Tarrio responded. “If we do, it won’t be in colors.”

The conversation suggests that the decision about whether Proud Boys would participate in the rally depended on the input of one unidentified individual in the organization’s national leadership.

“I’m waiting on a single person to give me details,” Tarrio said.

Ultimately, members of the Proud Boys did attend the rally, taking part in a roving brawl in a northeast Portland neighborhood, according to local reports. Later, as the protest moved downtown, gunfire erupted. The city’s mayor and police chief had announced beforehand that the police would not intervene in any violence between the adversarial group.

Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, which tracks right-wing extremism, said in statement to Oregon Public Radio that the violence reflected a national challenge that Portland was ill-equipped to handle on its own.

“This is a national problem that demands national resources,” he said. “Anti-democratic violence is a threat that strikes at the heart of who we are as a country. It’s time to act like it.”

Toese was eventually arrested in January on charges stemming from his actions at the Aug. 22, 2021 rally, which the Portland Mercury described as “shooting a paintball gun at antifascist protesters, attacking an individual in a parked truck, and helping a group of protesters tip over an empty van in the lot.”

During the historically divisive presidential election of 2020, both Beatty and Salinas contributed to confrontational protests that raised tension. Days before the election, Salinas used her Facebook page to encourage Texas Trump supporters to share information about a Biden campaign bus tour that would end up being forced to cancel stops due to harassment by the so-called “Trump Train” convoys.

In one post, on Oct. 29, 2020, Salinas wrote, “We have many people here in Texas waiting to mobilize for the Biden Bus tour. If any of you know of times already announced for the bus tour today and tomorrow, please post them in the comments.”

Responding to two commenters, Salinas appeared to express approval for the vehicular harassment.

“People made a trump train behind the bus and followed it… lol flags and all,” one commenter wrote.

“I saw that on twitter! Lol,” Salinas responded.

“We just ran off [former Housing & Urban Development Secretary] Julian Castro in H-Town!” another commenter wrote.

“Message me this!” Salinas responded.

The Trump supporters’ harassment of Biden campaign staffers and volunteers on Oct. 28 and 29 included displaying weapons and screaming death threats, according to a civil suit alleging violations of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act by organizing a “politically motivated conspiracy to disrupt the campaign and intimidate its supporters.” Salinas is not among the seven defendants in the lawsuit, who allegedly took part in a convoy that followed the Biden campaign bus on a stretch of Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin on Oct. 30.

That day, according to the lawsuit, “for at least 90 minutes, defendants terrorized and menaced the driver and passengers on the Biden-Harris campaign’s bus. The Trump Train surrounded the bus and forced it to slow down to a pace of 15-25 miles per hour on an interstate with a speed limit of around 70 miles per hour. They swerved and drove in front of the bus to block its path and abruptly slowed down to a crawl, forcing the approximately 25-ton bus to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision. They played a madcap game of highway ‘chicken,’ coming within three to four inches of the bus. They tried to run the bus off the road.”

On the same week, Beatty and Tarrio were at Black Lives Matter Plaza in DC. Beatty posted a video of herself and Chavannes ripping down posters commemorating people killed by the police that were attached to the security fence around Lafayette Park. During the incident, Black Lives Matter supporters can be seen attempting to non-violently block Beatty and Chavannes, as police officers stand by without interfering. Tarrio acknowledged participating in the action in a statement provided to the far-right website Gateway Pundit, while complaining that the view of the White House had been “obstructed by Marxist propaganda trash.” Tarrio credited Beatty and Chavannes with taking “charge,” adding that “we went straight to Black Lives Matter Plaza and proceeded to clean the White House before next week’s historic election.”

Salinas arrived in DC days later, and on Election Day she livestreamed a protest outside the CNN building that was also attended by Tarrio and fellow Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino.

Salinas’ statement to her viewers is striking, considering the alleged assault that she would film later that night, long after the polls had closed.

“Yeah, it’s gonna be crazy here tonight, you guys,” Salinas said. “The insurrection is going to happen tonight, and a lot of us are going to be….”

She paused, and continued: “Doing stuff. Just stay tuned. It’s gonna get crazy tonight here in Washington, DC. And we are ready.”

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