A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has returned a new indictment against Robert Rundo, founder of the violent white supremacist group Rise Above Movement, and two other members of the southern California-based organization.
The superseding indictment returned on Wednesday alleges that Rundo, along with RAM members Robert Boman and Tyler Laube, conspired to violate a federal law against rioting by recruiting others to train for and engage in political violence at rallies.
The three men were originally indicted in October 2018, but a federal judge dismissed the charges in 2019 on the basis that they violated the First Amendment. In March 2021, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court decision, finding that the unconstitutional provisions of the Anti-Riot Act could be severed, allowing the government to resume prosecution.
Rise Above Movement, or RAM as it is more commonly known, pioneered the use of skull masks, an accessory that has come to be closely associated with accelerationism — a tendency in the white power movement that seeks the collapse of society as a precondition for a race war and the rise of a white ethno-state. The government describes RAM as a “combat-ready, militant group of a new nationalist white supremacist and identity movement.”
The new superseding indictment largely replicates the original charging document, alleging that Rundo, Boman and Laube committed assaults at rallies in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and San Bernardino in early 2017.
The superseding indictment cites a Facebook post by Boman with a link to an article on the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer headlined, “Trumpenkriegers Physically Remove Antifa Homos in Huntington Beach,” accompanied by the comment, “We did it fam.”
As detailed in the original indictment, video footage from the March 2017 Huntington Beach rally showed several rally attendees shoving and punching two journalists from a local news publication. According to the indictment, as one of the journalists stumbled back, Laube grabbed his shoulder with his left hand and repeatedly punched him in the face. Later, videos show Boman catching up to one of the fleeing counter-protesters and kicking him in the back.
As the melee continued, Rundo reportedly threw one of the counter-protesters on the ground, held him down with his left hand and threw several punches at his head as other RAM members looked on and cheered.
The following month, during a rally that was celebrated by the white power movement as the “Battle of Berkeley,” court documents again allege that a RAM member punched a counter-protester while holding them down on the ground. Rundo, Boman and three other members reportedly crossed the line to confront counter-protesters and rip away a banner. Court documents alleged that Rundo began throwing punches at multiple people, including someone who was falling to the ground, and then punched a Berkeley police officer twice in the head as they intervened.
Several RAM members traveled from Los Angeles to attend the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017. Three of them — Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis and Thomas Gillen — were prosecuted separately for conspiracy to riot in Virginia, and received prison sentences ranging from 27 months to 37 months in 2019. As they had previously in preparation for the rally in Berkeley, RAM members taped their hands to protect them from injury before they appeared at Unite the Right.
Rundo founded RAM as a white nationalist fight club in southern California in 2016, after serving 20 months in a New York state prison for stabbing a rival gang member in MS-13, according to a report in the New York Times.
As a result of the fallout from Unite the Right, RAM members lowered their public profile in late 2017. In the spring of 2018, according to court filings, Rundo, Daley and Miselis traveled to Germany, Ukraine and Italy to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and meet with European white power groups.
According to the original indictiment, RAM members were photographed with Olena Semenyaka, described as “the leader of the International Department for the National Corps,” an ultranationalist party in Ukraine closely tied to the Azov Battalion. Rundo also made contact with White Rex, a Russia-based white supremacist clothing company that frequently sponsors mixed martial arts competitions. Since Rundo’s legal troubles began in later 2018, he has returned to Eastern Europe, and in November 2020, the investigative journalism collective Bellingcat revealed that he was in Serbia. Three months later, he was reportedly expelled from the country by Serbian authorities. In November, Bellingcat tracked down Rundo again in Bulgaria.
Rundo has continued to exert influence over the white power scene in the United States from his exile in Eastern Europe by promoting so-called “active clubs,” modeled in part on RAM, and through his propaganda outfit Media2Rise, which has produced videos celebrating rallies by the white power group Patriot Front.
In a blog post published in December 2020, Rundo promoted his vision for “active clubs” as local groups that would “combine fitness and nationalist activism, building camaraderie, and developing team-building skills.” Over the past year, white power formations using the “active club” moniker have cropped up in at least a dozen states, along with Canada and France.
"Rundo has been able to spread the active club brand in the US while he's been in Europe, and he outlined the idea of the active club as a successor to the Rise Above Movement," Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher at the Counter Extremism Project, told Raw Story. "In communications, he is the voice of authority regarding what is considered proper and how others should conduct themselves and recruit. He's appeared on podcasts, sold t-shirts with the movement's slogans, and has managed to make ideological relationships with members of other groups in the US, such as Patriot Front. Rundo is a model for his brand of white supremacism that seeks to normalize fascism and focus on a clean lifestyle and appearance, and fitness and combat sports."
Neo-Nazis from across the country attended a mixed-martial arts tournament at an undisclosed location in San Diego in August. Left Coast Right Watch reported that the event, which was heavily promoted by Media2Rise, marked the culmination of Rundo’s “long-time efforts to bring organized white nationalist fight clubs to the US.”
It is unclear whether Rundo is still in Eastern Europe, and what, if any, efforts US authorities have made to take him into custody.
Fisher-Birch said Rundo has previously "spoken about traveling while wanted and evading authorities," adding that "it is possible that he will try to avoid extradition."
"Rundo seems to enjoy the image of the rebel on the run," Fisher-Birch said. "He's been documenting parts of his travels since heading to Europe and has made inroads with local groups."