UCLA Scholar Christian Secor Charged In Capitol Riot Recognized For Extremist Views : NPR

A university pupil charged within the Jan. 6 riot "overtly posted requires America to turn into a whites-only nation," in response to the FBI. Who was he on campus? Yifan Wu for NPR cover caption

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Yifan Wu for NPR

A university pupil charged within the Jan. 6 riot "overtly posted requires America to turn into a whites-only nation," in response to the FBI. Who was he on campus?

Yifan Wu for NPR

For almost a 12 months, UCLA college students stated, they raised the alarm about considered one of their classmates.

On Twitter, classmate Christian Secor attacked girls and minorities, they stated, and embraced the ideology of a far-right extremist. On campus, he pushed a pupil Republicans group towards excessive positions in opposition to all immigration. And on the video streaming website DLive, Secor took on the deal with "Scuffed Elliot Rodger" — an obvious reference to the misogynist gunman who killed six individuals in Isla Vista, Calif., in 2014.

College students of shade and Jewish college students stated they felt focused by Secor's rhetoric, and given his self-proclaimed "love" of weapons, they anxious about their very own security. A number of college students instructed NPR they took their considerations to the UCLA administration however stated the college took no motion.

So once they acknowledged their 22-year-old classmate in footage from the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, they weren't precisely stunned.

"I used to be a bit of shocked," stated Grayson Peters, a Jewish UCLA pupil, although "not as a result of I assumed it could be out of character."

The Division of Justice alleges that Secor stormed the chamber of the U.S. Senate and sat within the chair occupied simply hours earlier by former Vice President Mike Pence. Secor is now dealing with a number of federal prison expenses — together with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers — in reference to the violence on the Capitol.

Of the greater than 300 individuals now dealing with expenses, Secor and his path to the Capitol make clear how far-right extremism amongst younger individuals that's fostered on-line can deliver violence to the true world. At a time when consultants say extremists are more and more trying to recruit younger individuals, the case additionally highlights the wrestle of public universities attempting to tamp down on extremism, whereas adhering to First Modification protections.

The Justice Division says Christian Secor could be seen in surveillance footage from contained in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Charging papers embody this display seize, allegedly displaying Secor pushing in opposition to Capitol Cops together with different members of the mob. U.S. Division of Justice cover caption

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U.S. Division of Justice

The Justice Division says Christian Secor could be seen in surveillance footage from contained in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Charging papers embody this display seize, allegedly displaying Secor pushing in opposition to Capitol Cops together with different members of the mob.

U.S. Division of Justice

Secor's legal professional declined to remark for this story. In a court docket submitting, his legal professional conceded that the proof that he was current within the Capitol on Jan. 6 is "incontrovertible" however argued that he was appearing below the sway of former President Donald Trump and that there isn't any proof he deliberate the riot or assaulted legislation enforcement officers.

In a press release, UCLA instructed NPR, "Data on this individual shouldn't be obtainable to the general public."

NPR has pieced collectively a portrait of Secor by trying again at who he was on-line and on campus within the lead-up to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

"Not a libertarian anymore"

Secor is from Orange County, Calif., which is among the many wealthier counties within the state. It is also intently divided politically.

In an interview on a far-right podcast in 2020, Secor stated he grew serious about politics as a young person by Ron Paul, the libertarian former congressman from Texas whose coverage positions, akin to ending all overseas support and halting U.S. navy interventions overseas, would turn into central themes in Trump's political campaigns. Paul's unsuccessful presidential candidacies have been typically fueled by enthusiastic younger individuals who discovered one another on-line. At occasions, Paul additionally obtained backing from right-wing extremists, together with anti-government militias and white nationalists, although the previous congressman disowned such supporters.

Christian Secor instructed the little-known right-wing podcast New American Patriots that 2017 was a turning level for him.

He was 19 on the time, and he stated he and his pals went to a protest in opposition to racism in Laguna Seaside, Calif. quickly after the lethal Charlottesville "Unite The Proper" rally.

Secor instructed the podcast he and his pals determined it could be "humorous" to hold a Rhodesian flag round a bunch of left-wing protesters he described as being a part of antifa. The flag originates from a former white-ruled apartheid state in Africa and has been embraced by white supremacists. The person who massacred 9 individuals on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 wore a Rhodesian flag patch.

So when Secor and his pals carried the flag on the rally, he stated, "we're strolling round ready for them to comprehend what we have been."

A bunch of protesters then surrounded him and his pals, he stated, screaming at them that they have been white supremacists. Secor stated at that second he realized that antifa was "evil" and "these individuals should be crushed, which is why I am not a libertarian anymore."

Taking inspiration from a web-based extremist

At UCLA, Secor majored in political science and joined the Bruin Republicans, a conservative pupil group on campus that included reasonable Republicans alongside extra pro-Trump members.

Round this time, Secor additionally began to embrace a pro-Trump podcast host and extremist named Nick Fuentes.

The Anti-Defamation League describes 22-year-old Fuentes as a "white supremacist." Each Fuentes and Secor have Hispanic ancestry, however Fuentes, who has Mexican roots, has stated he identifies as white. He marched within the lethal 2017 Charlottesville rally, which he described as "unimaginable," and has been denounced by different conservative teams for his excessive views. He advocates a halt to all immigration to the U.S. to cease what he phrases "the racial displacement" of white individuals. Variations on that concept — together with the "Nice Substitute" or "White Genocide" — are on the core of white supremacist propaganda.

Fuentes' present, America First, sometimes consists of apparently unscripted rants. He wears a go well with and makes use of a inexperienced display to digitally add a metropolis skyline behind himself — creating the impact of a low-budget TV set.

Fuentes claims his most excessive statements attacking African People, immigrants, Jewish individuals, girls, LGBT individuals and plenty of others are satire. He has engaged in Holocaust denial and used different anti-Semitic rhetoric, solely to later declare he was joking. Ultimately, in February 2020, YouTube banned the present for violating the platform's coverage on hate speech.

Nick Fuentes (left) shakes arms with Christian Secor (proper) in a photograph cited by the Division of Justice in its prison case in opposition to Secor. Fuentes is a far-right extremist podcaster who has repeatedly engaged in Holocaust denial. A pupil activist at UCLA saved the photograph from Secor's Twitter feed, which has since been deleted. Twitter cover caption

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However Fuentes has continued to search out different platforms to stream his present and has amassed a following.

Followers of his America First podcast describe themselves as "Groypers," a reference to a mutated model of the "Pepe The Frog" meme in style among the many "alt-right." They typically assault opponents on-line to impress a response. Secor's Twitter feed, recognized in court docket paperwork, often used that type of "trolling" provocation. Close to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he tweeted, "Can ICE simply cough on illegals or one thing?"

"That is hateful, direct assaults on members of our neighborhood," stated Aidan Arasasingham, a UCLA pupil whose dad and mom immigrated to the U.S. from Sri Lanka. He described the rhetoric coming from Secor as "extremely traumatizing."

Classmates stated that on-line tactic generally crossed over into the classroom. In 2020, for instance, Secor took a course in authoritarian politics, and one pupil, who requested to not be named attributable to worry of backlash from extremists, instructed NPR that he was identified for asking "satan's advocate"-type questions in school. However the true considerations got here when Secor deployed these provocations in a pupil debate.

"Hateful, direct assaults" on fellow college students

A number of college students pointed NPR to a debate in February 2020 between members of the campus Democrats and Republicans. Secor, who holds excessive pro-gun rights views, debated for the Republicans on the subject of gun management. He instructed the New American Patriots podcast that totally computerized machine weapons needs to be legalized and added, "I like weapons — all people ought to have weapons."

Witnesses of his debate efficiency described him as "combative" and excessive. Mixed along with his Twitter feed, his help of Fuentes and his use of a faculty shooter's title as a web-based avatar, UCLA college students grew more and more anxious.

"I felt threatened," stated Oona Flood, a Japanese American UCLA pupil and member of the Bruin Democrats.

A number of college students instructed NPR that they reported considerations about Secor to the UCLA administration, however they stated they didn't see the college take any motion.

Specialists say that as a result of UCLA is a public college, its response to extremism is restricted by the First Modification. The Structure doesn't defend severe threats of violence in opposition to particular individuals, however extremists are sometimes cautious to keep away from crossing that line. Secor's legal professional has argued in a court docket submitting that his campus political actions amounted to "protected First Modification speech."

"Hate speech most frequently is free speech," stated Elissa Buxbaum, director of campus affairs for the Anti-Defamation League.

Given the authorized restrictions, Buxbaum argues that college directors ought to struggle extremism on campus with their very own counter messaging. "Counter speech is crucial device within the toolbox," stated Buxbaum. "So simply because somebody is allowed to unfold messages of hate doesn't suggest that it goes unnoticed or with out opposition."

In its assertion to NPR, UCLA stated: "UCLA believes the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was an assault on our democracy. As an establishment, UCLA is dedicated to mutual respect, making choices based mostly on proof and utilizing rational debate — not bodily violence."

Some UCLA college students stated they have been disillusioned that the college's statements about Secor didn't denounce extremism.

"I might have most popular one thing alongside the traces of 'We condemn white supremacy. We condemn white nationalism. And we help college students who is perhaps affected by this,'" stated Grayson Peters.

In response to that criticism, a UCLA spokesperson pointed to an "ongoing racial justice and fairness initiative" that the college introduced in June 2020, following the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

A tough-right flip

UCLA college students described a type of suggestions loop between Secor's exercise on-line and on campus, as he took concepts from on-line extremists, introduced them to UCLA, after which pushed the campus Republican group to take extra far-right stances — particularly on social media.

Average members of the Bruin Republicans discovered themselves more and more alarmed about Secor's rhetoric and the hard-right course he was pulling the group. Ultimately, Secor broke away and based a campus group known as America First Bruins (bearing the identical title as Fuentes' podcast), however he nonetheless had allies among the many campus Republicans.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Secor's group and the Bruin Republicans each signed on to a press release calling for an "Quick and Indefinite Immigration Moratorium."

Secor commented to The Gateway Pundit, a far-right web site identified for selling conspiracy theories, that "our coalition of younger college students have come collectively to ask for President Trump to maintain true to his phrase of America First and shut the borders."

A number of reasonable members of the Bruin Republicans disagreed with the assertion, and in response they resigned from the group.

"Many members are youngsters of the very immigrants the letter rails in opposition to," a number of former Bruin Republicans wrote in a letter. "Xenophobia and racism don't have any place inside the conservative motion."

A number of UCLA college students described the scenario to NPR as a "coup."

"Bruin Republicans was a extremely honorable group," stated Evan Farrar, president of the Bruin Democrats. He stated he used to work intently with campus Republicans to arrange quarterly debates. However by 2020, he stated, he witnessed a "decline into retweeting alt-right conspiracy theories."

The Bruin Republicans would later declare that they "banned" Secor from their group for "inappropriate habits" and stated the group was wholly impartial from Secor.

However the group's Twitter feed suggests the group continued to carry far-right stances. In one tweet, the group continued to name for "zero immigration" to the U.S. and argued that "America shouldn't be a nation of immigrants however a nation of settlers and residents. America would nonetheless be America with out immigrants, wouldn't it not?"

Bruin Republicans declined to remark for this story and didn't reply to questions from NPR.

The highway to the Capitol

After the November 2020 election, Secor; his group, America First Bruins; and the Bruin Republicans all embraced the baseless conspiracy concept that the election was "stolen" from then-President Donald Trump. Fuentes appeared at "Cease The Steal" rallies and urged his followers to affix the protests.

On Jan. 5, Secor tweeted a photograph from an airport with the caption "be there or be sq...."

On Jan. 6, federal prosecutors now allege, he joined the storming of the Capitol, sporting a pink "Make America Nice Once more" hat and carrying a blue "America First" flag.

In a single video, prosecutors say, Secor was seen amongst "a bunch of rioters making an attempt to push by a doorway that's blocked by at least three law enforcement officials" and "breaking by a police line."

There isn't any proof that the Bruin Republicans knew Secor might have been among the many rioters. However the group tweeted help for the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, describing them as "grassroots Trump supporters protesting for our nation."

"Those committing 'violence' are most likely Feds," the group said in one other tweet.

Nick Fuentes was in Washington, D.C., throughout the rioting and declared it a "wonderful day," however he stated he by no means breached the Capitol. Fuentes didn't reply to NPR's request for remark.

Later, on his livestream, Fuentes urged his followers who may need entered the Capitol to "destroy your telephone, your SIM card, all of your data." He appeared to then backtrack, including, "I do not know, is {that a} crime to say?"

Primarily based on federal court docket data, Secor might have agreed with that recommendation.

One witness instructed the FBI that Secor moved again in along with his mom in Orange County after the rioting, "removed his telephone" and "bragged that he wouldn't be caught."

The FBI carried out surveillance of Secor in late January, in response to court docket paperwork, and he was arrested on Feb. 16.

NPR's Investigations intern Emine Yücel contributed to this report.

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