Rise Above Movement

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Rise Above Movement
FounderRobert Rundo
Founded atSouthern California
TypeAlt-Right Fight Club
Key people
  • Robert Rundo
  • Benjamin D. Daley
  • Thomas W. Gillen
Formerly called
DIY Division

The Rise Above Movement (RAM) is a militant alt-right Southern California-based street fighting group which has variously been described as "a loose collective of violent neo-Nazis and fascists", white nationalists,[1] white supremacists,[2][3] and far-right persons.[4][5] According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), it "is inspired by identitarian movements in Europe and it is trying to bring their philosophies and violent tactics to the United States."[1] Its members are primarily located in the areas of Orange County and San Diego,[2] and are variously numbered at 20 to 50.[4][6][7] Individual RAM members are also members of other organizations, such as the self-described Identitarian Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement, the "Western chauvinist" Proud Boys, and the neo-Nazi skinhead Hammerskin Nation, according to Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA).[8]

The group, which was started by Robert Rundo[3] as DIY Division (DIY standing for Do It Yourself) before changing its name in early 2017, is described as a "militant racist and anti-Semitic group"[9] which sees itself as defending Western civilization, which they claim is being undermined by "Muslims, immigrants and Jews",[5] as well as liberals.[2] Heidi Beirich, Director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, said that members of the Rise Above Movement "think they're holding onto the old California, which was white, which was conservative, which was male-run, which was connected to the military ... and now that culture is being lost and they're fighting to bring it back. In other words, it's reactive."[4]

According to ProPublica, RAM has "...a singular purpose: physically attacking its ideological foes. RAM's members spend weekends training in boxing and other martial arts, and they have publicly boasted about the acts of violence which they have committed during protests in Huntington Beach,[7] San Bernardino and Berkeley. Many of the altercations have been captured on video ..."[6] Because of its focus on street fighting, it has been described as "less like the Klan and more like a fight club".[5] According to NoCARA:

[It is] a loose collective of violent neo-Nazis and fascists from Southern California that's organized and trains primarily to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies. They have been a central participant in the recent wave of far-Right protest movements in California during the first half of 2017 which have attempted to mobilize a broad range of right-wing constituents under the banners of protecting so-called "free speech,: unyielding support for Trump, and antipathy towards Muslims, immigrants, and other oppressed groups.[8]

The group uses social media to recruit members, emphasizing the "fight club" aspect by posting videos of their training sessions,[1] and refers to itself as the "premier MMA [mixed martial arts] club of the Alt-Right."[2] According to the Anti-Defamation League, "While they consider themselves a part of the alt right, R.A.M.'s membership has deep roots in California's racist skinhead movement,[7] and it includes individuals who have faced serious criminal charges, including assault, robbery and weapons offenses."[2]

One way in which the group funds its activities is through the sale of online merchandise.[10]

By January 2021, an Active Club Network largely inspired by RAM had been formed, later developing an active presence in at least 25 states with multiple international chapters.[11]


On August 27, 2018, charges were filed by the United States attorney's office in Charlottesville, Virginia, against four members of the group in connection to their actions at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. They were arrested by the FBI, and the charges were unsealed and announced on October 2. The four California men — Benjamin D. Daley, 25, and Thomas W. Gillen, 34, both of Redondo Beach; Michael P. Miselis, 29, of Lawndale; and Cole E. White, 34, of Clayton — were charged with a single count each of violating the federal rioting statute as well as with conspiring to violate it. They were said to have come to the rally "with the intent to . . . commit violent acts in furtherance of a riot." According to an affidavit, the four men who were charged were "among the most violent individuals present in Charlottesville" for the rally. The charges were not related to the death of Heather Heyer.[9][12]

On May 3, 2019, Daley and Miselis pled guilty to conspiring to riot, joining the other Rise Above members who had done so earlier.[13][14] Three of the four were sentenced on July 19: Daley to 37 months, Gillen to 33 months, and Miselis to 27 months. Cole White was to be sentenced at a later date.[15][16] In August 2020, the unanimous United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the convictions of Daley and Miselis because, it found, any unconstitutionally overbroad elements of the Anti-Riot Act were fully severable.[17][18]

When Miselis was arrested, a search of his house found assault weapon ammunition, smoke bombs and flares, as well as a poster which read "88", code for "Heil Hitler" — "H" being the eighth letter of the alphabet. Miselis had recently met members of violent white supremacist groups in Europe, according to prosecutors.[4]

In October 2018, four other members of the group — Robert Rundo, Robert Boman, Tyler Laube and Aaron Eason — were charged with conspiracy to incite political riots in relation to multiple incidents which occurred in southern California and incidents which occurred during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.[3][19] Rundo, described as the founder of the group, fled to Mexico and then to Central America, where he was arrested and extradited back to the US. He was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport. A search of his home found a large framed portrait of Adolf Hitler.[3] Boman and Laube were arrested on October 24 in Southern California.[20] Eason surrendered himself on October 29.[21] Beside the Unite the Right rally, the incidents cited took place in Huntington Beach in March 2017 and in UC Berkeley in April 2017.[3] While Laube pled guilty in November 2018, the others were indicted by a grand jury of one count each of violating the Anti-Riot Act of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

In June 2019, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney dismissed the indictment because, he held, the Anti-Riot Act is "unconstitutionally overbred in violation of the First Amendment".[22][23] In March 2021, that judgment was reversed by a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the indictments were reinstated.[24][25]

Robert Rundo, Robert Boman, and Tyler Laube were re-indicted in January 2023.[26][27]

In early August 2023, Robert Rundo was extradited to the United States from Romania. Rundo had left the U.S. in the time between the dismissal of the charges against him and their reinstatement. Rundo pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy and rioting.[28]


  1. ^ a b c "Rise Above Movement". splcenter.org. Southern Poverty Law Center.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.)". adl.org. Anti-Defamation League. January 22, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fearnow, Benjamin (October 24, 2018) "What Is the Rise Above Movement? FBI Arrests White Supremacists Tied to Violent Riots", Newsweek.
  4. ^ a b c d Jarvie, Jenny; Mejia, Brittny; Cosgrove, Jacklyn; and Tchekmedyian, Alene (October 3, 2018) "Trained in California, a white supremacist fight club is accused of bringing violence to Charlottesville" Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ a b c McLaughlin, Eliot C. (October 9, 2018). "The Rise Above Movement is less like the Klan and more like a fight club". CNN.com.
  6. ^ a b Coaston, Joan (October 2, 2018) "4 members of an alt-right “fight club” charged with inciting a riot in Charlottesville" Vox.
  7. ^ a b c Vega, Priscella; Sclafani, Julia (October 26, 2018). "Arrests of white power leaders are a reminder of Huntington Beach's painful past". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Staff (July 6, 2017). "DIY Division: The Violent neo-Nazi Group Central to the California Alt-Right and Alt-Light". nocara.blackblogs.org. Northern California Anti-Racist Action.
  9. ^ a b Duggan, Paul (October 2, 2018) "Four members of militant group charged in 2017 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville", The Washington Post.
  10. ^ "Funding Hate: How White Supremacists Raise Their Money". adl.org. Anti-Defamation League. December 1, 2017.
  11. ^ "Active Club Network". Anti-Defamation League.
  12. ^ Reilly, Ryan J.; Campbell, Andy; Mathias, Christopher (October 2, 2018) "4 White Supremacists Hit With Federal Charges Over Charlottesville Unite The Right Weekend", Huffington Post.
  13. ^ Tchekmedyian, Alene (May 3, 2019) "Founder of California white power group, another member plead guilty in Charlottesville riot", Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Thompson, A. C. (May 6, 2019) "Once Defiant, All Four White Supremacists Charged in Charlottesville Violence Plead Guilty", ProPublica.
  15. ^ Helsel, Phil (July 20, 2019) "3 members of white supremacist group sentenced for violence at rallies", NBC News.
  16. ^ United States v. Daley, 378 F. Supp. 3d 539 (W.D. Va. 2019).
  17. ^ Note, Recent Case: Fourth Circuit Finds the Anti-Riot Act Partially Unconstitutional, 134 Harv. L. Rev. 2614 (2021).
  18. ^ United States v. Miselis, 972 F.3d 518 (4th Cir. 2020).
  19. ^ Staff (October 2018) "Robert Rundo, Other Neo-Nazi Gang Members Indicted for Conspiracy, Rioting", Daily Beast.
  20. ^ Goldman, Adam and Winston, Ali (October 24, 2018) "The FBI arrests a white-supremacist leader who fled the country for Central America", The New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  21. ^ Weber, Christopher (October 29, 2018) "Aaron Eason Arrested For Allegedly Inciting Violence In California, Charlottesville", Huffington Post. Retrieved November 21, 2018
  22. ^ Sclafani, Julia (June 4, 2019). "Judge dismisses federal charges against 3 members of H.B.-based white power group". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  23. ^ United States v. Rundo, 497 F. Supp. 3d 872 (C.D. Cal. 2019).
  24. ^ Associated Press (March 5, 2021). "Riot charges reinstated against leader of Huntington Beach white supremacist group". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 31, 2023.
  25. ^ United States v. Rundo, 990 F.3d 709 (9th Cir. 2021).
  26. ^ "A Neo-Nazi Street Fighting Gang Leader Was Just Indicted in LA". Vice Magazine. January 6, 2023.
  27. ^ "Founder of violent white supremacist group RAM re-indicted on rioting charges". Raw Story. January 5, 2023.
  28. ^ Associated Press (August 2, 2023) "US man alleged to be white supremacist leader extradited from Romania on riot, conspiracy charges" Associated Press News