Earlier this summer, anti-immigrant hysteria fueled protests in Murrieta, California, compelling news outlets to cover them and urging activists in other cities and states to follow suit. It should come as no surprise that the activists involved in organizing the protests are linked to a coalition based in Southern California that includes white nationalist, anti-Muslim and far-Right extremist groups.
These anti-immigrant activists gained notoriety after they blocked buses transporting Central American children who fled violence to Border Patrol processing facilities. Those credited in organizing and participating in the protests included Patrice Lynes, Diana Serafin, and Robin Hvidston, executive director of We the People Rising. It was later revealed Lynes and Serafin share a bigotry that is not limited to just immigrants; they have targeted Muslims as well. Hvidston also has a history of associating with groups within the organized anti-immigrant movement.
Hvidston’s We the People Rising belongs to a coalition called Unite Inland Empire, or Unite IE, a nexus of right-wing groups in California’s Inland Empire area. The coalition consists of various Republican and Tea Party groups, and it includes chapters of anti-Muslim, white nationalist, and extreme far-Right groups.
Here are some of the more notable groups that make up Unite IE:
The John Birch Society
One of the groups in the coalition is the Norco chapter of the John Birch Society, an organization known for codifying white nationalism and far-Right conspiracy theories for the past 50 years. In the book Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, authors Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons wrote:
“In a sense, the Birch society pioneered the encoding of implicit cultural forms of ethnocentric White racism and Christian nationalist antisemitism rather than relying on the White supremacist biological determinism and open loathing of Jews that had typified the old right prior to WWII. Throughout its existence, however, the Society has promoted open homophobia and sexism.”
The Oath Keepers
Unite IE also includes the Oath Keeper’s riverside chapter. The Oath Keepers are a violent, anti-government “Patriot” group that recruits police, soldiers and veterans into its ranks. The group aims to oppose what it deems as government tyranny by any means possible, including violence.
ACT! for America
The Corona, California, chapter of the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT! for America is also included. The national chapter of ACT! recently awarded Corona’s Don Dix with its chapter leader of the year for his involvement in setting the coalition of what it called “other like-minded organizations.” It should be noted that ACT! considers notorious white nationalist groups to be “like-minded.”
Connection to Patrice Lynes
In 2010, Lynes attended the Murrieta We The People Freedom Rally. During the event, Lynes appeared alongside Douglas Gibbs, who runs The Constitution Association, another group included under the Unite IE umbrella. According to the flyer, immigration and “Islam rising” were among the major topics at the rally. ACT! for America was said also had a booth at the there. Various anti-Muslim propaganda including including Geert Wilders’ film “Islam Rising” and Bill Warner’s “Sharia Law for Non-Muslims” were available for purchase.
It’s clear Murrieta’s anti-immigrant protests against the Central American children were anything but spontaneous given its organizer’s long histories of bigotry. However, their connections to the Southern California-based coalition steeped with white nationalism and far-Right extremism proves just how rooted in hatred this really is.