Patriot Coalition: Leaked Messages Show Far-Right Group's Plans for Portland Violence
The summer of 2020 has seen the city of Portland, Oregon, become a symbol and a venue for the further, dramatic polarization of the United States. More than a hundred nights of intense protests against police violence by left-wing activists have led to further police violence in response, and to President Donald Trump declaring the city a “beehive of terrorists” and an “anarchist jurisdiction.” A great deal of reporting has been dedicated to the city’s leftist protesters. Less national attention has been focused on those who perceive the protesters as their enemies: a network of “Patriot” militias and extremist groups, who have in recent weeks been staging violent confrontations in Portland’s downtown streets.
Bellingcat has acquired several months of chat logs from the Patriot Coalition of Oregon, a network of pro-Trump, pro-police activists. These chat logs were provided by an infiltrator affiliated with the antifascist collective Eugene Antifa. We were also given login information for the infiltrator’s account on GroupMe, a secure messaging app owned by Microsoft. This allowed us to directly observe the group’s communications, to verify the information provided to us and to export a log of those chats directly from the application. (Many posts contain spelling and grammatical errors, which we have not altered.)
These logs provide an intimate look inside a growing insurgent network, and shed new light on episodes of armed conflict which are already on the public record. Topics of conversation include plans for violence in the streets of Portland, celebration of acts of thuggery and even discussions about harming elected leaders and journalists. More than anything, the chats catalog the rapid radicalization of Patriot Coalition’s membership, many of whom express a willingness to kill their perceived left-wing enemies.
Who Are These People?
The Patriot Coalition of Oregon (often just referred to as Patriot Coalition) was founded in the summer of 2020 by a person who posted under the GroupMe username “Patriot Coalition.” Most other members called her “Momma Bear.” She appears to have been largely motivated by her love of the police and military, as well as her support for President Trump. On August 20th she wrote: “I am the founder of the group- I founded it months ago and it was because I was sick and F’ing tired of watching what was happening… we have men and women fighting for us to keep us safe- they deserve to come home to peace- NOT continue to fight! We owe that to them…”
The leaked chat logs appear to reveal that some members of the Patriot Coalition have taken part in multiple violent rallies throughout the summer, and that they claim to have operated a series of vigilante patrols and checkpoints during the Oregon wildfires. While the chats appear to show they work and fight alongside members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys, American Wolf and 1776 2.0, the Patriot Coalition seems to have no coherent ideology beyond a desire to violently confront leftists in the name of the police and President Trump. A user identified as Paige summed up the general feelings of the group in a post made ahead of a what turned out to be a bloody ‘Back the Blue’ rally on August 22nd in Portland when she wrote: “I’m waiting for the presidential go to start open firing.”
Online, Patriot Coalition prides itself on an unusually strict vetting process, which they (wrongly, it turns out) believed would protect them from being infiltrated. The group’s most public face was its Facebook group. A first (now archived) page had more than 1,500 members.
Individuals interested in joining were subjected to a “security check” before being allowed into a private GroupMe room where more secretive conversations occurred and potential illegal and violent activity was discussed. Membership in this group tended to hover a little over 100.
In chats, ‘Momma Bear’ and other leaders of the group repeatedly expressed confidence in their vetting process. This probably explains why members of the group felt comfortable posting shocking and disturbing content. In one example from August 16th, a user identified as Shelly A suggested members of Patriot Coalition might kill antifascists with injected poisons.
Immediately after this she notes that she is, “…getting tired of hearing about them and the evil Democrats.” Patriot Coalition members regularly declare Democratic politicians to be “Antifa” and thus fair targets for violence.
Over the course of the summer, the group’s original founder stepped down amid dissension over the group’s response to Oregon’s wildfire emergency – her efforts to restrain members from a vigilante response to false information about Antifa arsonists cost her popularity among members.
A new leader, identified as “Trent,” was appointed in her place, heading a leadership team which was often challenged and berated in the chats. Trent soon decided he didn’t want to lead the group either, but eventually changed his mind and recommitted. Beyond this leadership turmoil, the chat logs show frequent conflicts between members over the wisdom of certain actions, including attacks in the city of Portland. Some of these arguments have led to members leaving. Those who remain have expressed a growing desire to train and prepare for further violence, up to and beyond November’s Presidential election.
As user Roger Charlie Bravo posted on September 15th: “What we are doing is not random. Patriots around the country are currently organizing and preparing. We know D day is coming after November. We know that what we are seeing now is a betrayal of trust of the people by our government. We know that this war has a long time to go. We are not alone. There are people all around us supporting us. There are people all around that would stand side by side with us.”
Planning for Violence
Discussions of violence in the Patriot Coalition group chat are not hypothetical. While some individuals are likely grandstanding, the chat logs show members gearing up for a number of events where very real violence occurred.
On August 22nd more than 300 heavily armed right-wing demonstrators rallied in downtown Portland for what was, nominally, a rally supporting the police. Yet the situation quickly degenerated into a mass brawl, with numerous injuries (including to one of the authors of this article).
Those events reflected the plans that Patriot Coalition had made. In the lead up, members discussed acquiring paintball guns and freezing their ammunition for maximum damage. During a discussion on August 18th, a member asked: “Is this for real? Paintballs?” The group founder, ‘Momma Bear,’ who at that point was still in a leadership position, responded: “Some people do not own anything else – or they can’t own anything else.” Though she didn’t clarify the comment, federal gun laws in the United States bar felons from owning powder firearms.
She went on to write: “Paintball markers can be amped up to push more power- trust me – they freakin hurt and leave nasty ass bruises…So for all of you paintball marker carriers- see if you can somehow get your hands on Dynasty’s Banana paint- it has a nasty chemical in it that causes cramping.”
One member of the group, David Willis, messaged the group on August 18th to ask: “Where do you get rubber balls for your paintball gun?” During the rally, Willis was apparently filmed and identified by antifascist activists as having fired indiscriminately into a crowd of left-wing protesters. He later bragged in the chat, after the August 22nd protest: “I was the one with the ar style paintballcgun yesterday i had 200 rubber rounds they worked great but i did have some jams it could have been the gun.”
Willis is currently being sued as the result of an assault on a Portland cider bar frequented by antifascists. During one discussion in the chats, he urged members not to freeze paintballs as “it makes them wildly inaccurate.” Instead, he suggested purchasing “glass breaker balls that are rubber coated metal.”
The authors of this article attempted to reach out to Willis but did not receive a response before press time.
Mark Melchi, a member of the chat group who also heads a militant anti-Antifa group named 1776 2.0, posted on August 17th: “My Group 1776 2.0. Has been fighting Antifa in Seattle, Portland, for months. They are all hit an run tactics from a few behind the main rows of people. When things get going. The Portland Ganges who also hide in Antifa will shoot you…Like they have done with a few of our guys. This won’t be a simple fist fight. People will get shot, stabbed and beat. We have fought with guys in Portland who are like giant Russians so, they’re not all soy boys. We must be ready to defend with lethal response. If we don’t get to enough of them they will just comeback when we leave, just like the Taliban did in Afghanistan. We need to make it dramatic enough for them not to want to return. Suggest wearing mask and nothing to identify you on Camera…to prevent any future prosecution.”
A pseudonymous user who identified as Dan-Medford, appeared to agree: “Always wear a mask at these events.” He added, “if its my time, then its my time. But I’m going out the same way I came in. Bloody and screaming. No more terrorists in my home.” Another user, Rex, said: “We need to tell the feds ‘we’re coming and Hells coming with us’ and if they’re not going to help… then stay the f..k out of our way.” This too met widespread agreement, with a user named Ken stating on the topic of antifascists: “They need to be shot down like rabid coyotes no questions asked.”
When contacted by the authors of this article by email, Melchi suggested screen grabs of comments could have been easily altered with Photoshop, without addressing the exported chat logs, or accounting for his comments. In response to questions about his comments, and his political beliefs, Melchi issued threats, writing “Communist/Domestic Terrorists/Marxis have zero place in America and will be removed from our land, with hugs, violence, snacks, however!”
The chat logs appear to show that the eventual use of less-than-lethal weapons on August 22nd was a grudging compromise, made between more aggressive and cautious members for the sake of public impressions, or “optics.” Prior to the afternoon rally user Ramon Blackwolf warned that the event would receive “nation wide attention.” He followed up by promising: “But our fun will be Saturday night.” On August 19th Melchi asked for clarification about what was planned for the night of the 22nd.
“Hey guys, I guess I miss understood something originally. All the groups we have coming is for the night clearing operation or for the back the blue event in the day? I thought the night operation was the real focus. Just trying to clarify so I can correct with my members as well.”
A user who identified as Nate D. responded to him; “Both are important in my opinion. I plan to be there all day and night until the streets are clear lol.” Another member identified as Jason followed up: “I think most are in favor of both. A huge show of presence in the day to let them know we are here and a night op to show that we are done fucking around.” This plan met with widespread approval, with Patriot Coalition founder ‘Momma Bear’ noting: “Daytime we are to be respectful, calm, quiet, only react if forced to… we must be perfect… night time- it all changes.”
This planned night time raid never occurred, The “Patriots” and their Proud Boy allies were forced out of downtown by a crowd of antifascists that substantially outnumbered them. While they would later claim victory, contemporaneous private chats suggest a disorderly rout.
The night raid was cancelled because, as one member stated, “We’re too scattered.”
By August 23rd, however, the Patriot Coalition was back to making plans for the next street fight. One of them, ‘Ken’, cited Confederate general and early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest: “War means fighting and fighting means killing. That’s the reality of it we are at war.” Two weeks later, on September 6th, Melchi suggested the group organize to carry out “tactical ambushes”:
“Yes, going after them at night is the solution… Like we do in other states, tactical ambushes at night while backing up the police are key. You get the leaders and the violent ones and the police are happy to shut their mouths and cameras.”
A user identified as Punisher95 responds by advocating “nightly raids” by Patriot Coalition members dressed in black. He suggests that this will allow them to attack the press and make “Antifa” appear to be the culprits.
After the August 25th rally, a user identified as Peter stated that it would be necessary to target more “antifa press” in the future. Willis responded that ACLU legal observers and National Lawyer’s Guild observers should also be targeted and assaulted. Peter and Willis then discussed how paintballs and paint filled balloons might be used to disable cameras.
A Growing Militant Network in the Pacific Northwest
Patriot Coalition represents just one of a network of militant right-wing groups that are increasingly organizing around direct physical confrontations with leftist protesters in Portland and other American cities. Mark Melchi, who claims in the logs to be part of 1776 2.0, appears to be the most active member of another group in the Patriot Coalition chats. The 1776 2.0 group is defined on its website as “…a Patriotic Action Group made up of mostly Combat Veterans,” and claims:
“We target anti American riots, anarchist, domestic terrorist groups and more. We harass these groups by disrupting their communication networks, reducing their command and control capabilities, limiting their live streams, and work with local law enforcement to help obtain VIPs and more.”
During an August 25th discussion about stealing the cell phones of antifascist activists, Mark noted that his organization regularly used “cell sniffers” to send data on activists to the FBI.
Prior to the August 22nd rally, Melchi promised to help his allies acquire rifle-resistant armored plates and ammunition for firearms. He bragged that he had two “arms dealers” in his organization who could acquire this gear.
Despite the fact that he and his allies ostensibly support the cause of law and order, Melchi seems to suggest lawbreaking in posts contained in the GroupMe chat. In a message on August 21st he notes: “I saw someone say bats, mace, and stun guns are illegal downtown. If you’re going to play by the books tomorrow night, we already lost. We are here to make a change, laws will be broken, people will get hurt… It’s lawlessness downtown, and people need to be prepared for bad things… they are ready to do bad things to us.”
On August 22nd, right-wing demonstrators were spotted carrying bats, mace, stun guns and a wide variety of other weaponry.
Several weeks later, on September 9th, Melchi embraced the false conspiracy theory that members of antifa were responsible for lighting many of the wildfires then raging through central Oregon. Numerous members of Patriot Coalition said they started patrols to watch for arsonists. Melchi (inaccurately) advised them that “people have officially died from these Antifa Fires.” He then wrote: “I’d shoot them on site. Let the fire cover up their bodies.”
Melchi appears to have been taken seriously by other members of the chat. One user with the name ‘Dub’ replied: “Yes sir if I see them they are getting dropped where they stand. No more fucking around with these assholes.” Melchi responded that this was “Literally trial by fire” and that, “…we have decided their is no other way than the death penalty.”
Members of Patriot Coalition repeatedly discuss the Proud Boys, who they consider allies. Individual members and Patriot Coalition leadership regularly talk of communicating with and fighting alongside Proud Boys. The far-right “Western Chauvinist” group is currently planning a rally to “take back” Portland on September 26th. The group’s current leader, Enrique Tarrio, has made repeated threatening statements about the rally on the social media apps Parler and Twitter.
In their chats, members of Patriot Coalition enquired whether this event will be guided and planned by the Proud Boys.
One member, Bravo91, responded to the above message: “We don’t know, they’re not telling us anything at this moment. We’re going to reach out and tell them to give us some kind of details or else we’re out. We aren’t going into a war zone blind.”
Subsequently, Bravo91 let everyone know that a phone call had been set up between Patriot Coalition leadership and Proud Boy leadership.
Several Patriot Coalition members insinuate connections to other far-right groups in neighboring Washington State. On August 16th ‘Momma Bear’ announced that she was talking to the leader of “another big group” who was preparing to attend the August 22nd rally. On August 17th, a user named ‘Steve’ discusses his “friends in Washington” who “would like to come” to the rally but “say they can’t transport weapons across the border.”
Numerous comments were made about a group or groups in Washington, with access to some land and weaponry. Members repeatedly reference, and share content from ‘American Wolf’, an Olympia, Washington-based group that has participated in armed protests.
Members or Patriot Coalition also claim to communicate regularly with Patriot Prayer. On September 22nd, a member with the username Jay Thomas posted a screengrab of a text message from an internal Patriot Prayer text group.
The Radicalization Chamber
More than perhaps anything else, the Patriot Coalition chat logs illustrate the ways in which members of an online community can, through discussion, push each other towards paranoia and violence. This is illustrated by the case of a user identified as Whitebear, who presented themselves as a woman, and who posted on August 31st about issues she was having with her BLM- supporting neighbors. This happened just a few days after the shooting death of Jay Danielson, a member of Patriot Prayer, in Portland.
“So been chewing on this since Saturday in between tears of sadness and anger. Neighbor has a BLM flag on house with the ugly fist. Same tats as his killer. Every time I see it I think of Jay. Do I approach them and tell them it hurts me or…..”
The first reply comes from “Dan-Medford”, who urges her to keep quiet because, “The enemy is hunting patriots right now. You go over there and say something, you paint yourself a target.” Another member quickly agrees. An individual with the username, Dub, insists that Whitebear’s neighbors, “…don’t care one bit if it hurts you. They are all about pain and destruction and have zero qualms about hurting you also.”
Despite the fact that Whitebear claims these people “have always been neighborly,” members begin to pile on with statements about the moral character of her neighbors based on their ownership of a sign. A user named Bexca warns Whitebear, “You already know their minds cannot be changed. Unfortunately they might wish harm upon you or anyone that thinks differently.”
David Willis chimes in next to suggest that Whitebear pull a “black op” and steal the flag. A user named Steve counters with advice to “Fly your flag with pride. If they cross the line, you have support.” In the end, Whitebear decides to put a Trump/Pence flag on display, “With mouse traps on the backside…lol!”
Her mousetrap plan meets with widespread approval. An hour or so later, however, the conversation takes a darker turn when members started discussing the funeral plans for Danielson. One member, Peter, declares: “We need to all come together as Patriots as people now fighting for their country their loved ones and their brothers and their right to live. We need to end this now”
A few minutes later, a member named Dub responds: “The only real way to end it is start shooting everyone of them. Fists and pepper spray are fun but don’t get the job done. I think sooner or later it’s coming. Our governor and the coward mayor of Portland will let it go on till November. If we don’t take care of it ourselves. Then there’s the whole prison thing I don’t quite like. So your damned if do damned if you don’t.”
One user seemed to push back on this, warning his colleagues that taking a defensive posture will look much better. But this did not get much of a response, with most users continuing to urge violence. Punisher95 said that, after Danielson’s death, “…if I see people wearing black lives matter shirts or masks there instantly targeted in my book.” The user goes on to write: “I have no sympathy for them at all whatsoever. I used to but not anymore.”
The commentary continues like this, day after day and week after week. When the news breaks that a wheelchair bound left wing protester has been arrested, user DeeDee writes that, “It hurts my heart a little to think just how bad I want to hurt a disabled person..lol.” Another user, Steve, responds that, “Hes a communists, its like taking out the trash.”
Members of the Patriot Coalition express the same admiration of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse that is now common across all parts of the political right. During one conversation about Rittenhouse’s criminal charges, user Dub said, “I hope i can be as brave as him when the shit really comes down.”
Another user, Peter, quickly adds: “Not to be taken a wrong way but he one upd us.”
Members also refer to the patrols to prevent Antifa from starting fires as “hunting” and talk about setting up “game cameras” to watch certain areas. In reality, there is no evidence that “Antifa” were out starting fires in Oregon, and the disorder caused by vigilantes led the FBI and at least two Oregon Sheriffs to take the unusual step of publicly exonerating leftists from suspicion during the emergency. But that did not stop the Patriots from having a number of apparent near misses, with patrols accidentally putting out alerts for cars driven by their own comrades.
In at least one case, it seems to have led to the arrest of a friend of a group member. According to the user James, “He was arrestede for holding a guy at gunpoint.” This prompted Momma Bear to issue a rare all-caps command:
“STOP HOLDING PEOPLE AT GUN POINT- STOP PULLING YOUR WEAPONS… VIDEO- TAKE PICTURES AND CALL 911… AND FOLLOW THEM IF POSSIBLE”
Discussion of Violence Towards Elected Leaders
On August 24 members of Patriot Coalition started discussing an article about an arsonist who had been released on bail. This enraged several Patriots. In response, user T.Durden made a post that seemed to directly advocate for violence against the Governor, District Attorney and local judges.
“Maybe we need to start taking care of the justice ourselves! I don’t believe in vigilante shit, bit this is so fukking insane!!” He suggested they start “with justice on our DA” and then “move on to the Governor. Maybe by the time we get to the first judge, they will have changed their tunes.” T.Durden then added his belief that the second amendment was written for situations like this: “so we the people could hold our elected officials to account for their wrong doing.”
T.Durden did not “specify” what sort of “justice” he wanted done to the District Attorney, Governor and state judges. But it appears clear from the reference to the second amendment that it involved the use of firearms. This post got no direct response, but several group members “liked” his statement. Six people “liked” his line about the second amendment and holding elected officials to account.
No one criticized T. Durden for his comments. Instead, the discussion moved on to the lack of care some members had shown during their wildfire patrols, incorrectly singling normal motorists out as “Antifa” arsonists. User Iron Wolf 9 said: “We are Patriots, not a Lynch mob.”
One of the current leaders of Patriot Coalition, who posts under the username Trent, also made statements that could be seen as threatening to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. He posts a screengrab from a local news article in which Wheeler blames right-wing protesters for bringing violence to town on August 22nd. Under it he writes: “Fuck wheeler. This is y we the patriots have to rise up to clean up his mess. And guess what soon as we are done with these punks. He’s next freaking coward !!!!!!”
Twelve members of Patriot Coalition “liked” this post.
Plans for the 2020 Election
Starting in mid-September, Patriot Coalition members began making plans for the 2020 election. Specifically, they discussed what to do about the fact that Oregon is a vote-by-mail state. T.Durden was the first member to bring up the issue.
He wrote: “Oregon Voting!! Where are the votes collected?? How many registered voters are there?? Will we be watching the collection station for weird crap like truck loads of votes coming in in the middle of the night?? I’m not even sure if we can vote in person in Oregon. If so where?? There is a LOT more to this ‘war’ than smashing heads in and making trophy ear and tooth necklaces.”
Later on the same day, a user with the name 13F1P brought the subject back up, and a user named Raider12 suggested: “We should get a list of box locations and guard them.” T.Durden announced his willingness to do ‘guard’ shifts, and user Sam O suggested watching from “afar” to avoid being, “…arrested for “intimidating” people.” T.Durden then suggested cameras with telescoping lenses and “discreet game cameras” to monitor polling locations.
An Obsession With Portland
Like much of the far right, members of Patriot Coalition appear obsessed with the city of Portland. This baffles even some members of the group. In mid-September, shortly after one of the group’s many leadership reshuffles, a user identified as JD Lake spoke up to voice his displeasure at the plan to support the Proud Boys in Portland again on September 26th. JD identifies himself as a combat veteran and advises people to: “… stay the fuck away from Portland and Eugene. Those are not areas I’m familiar with, and it is stupid to travel to an unknown area with little to no intel. That folks, is how soldiers and warriors get killed. I know from experience.”
He goes on to call the leaders of Patriot Coalition “power hungry” and said, “…they will lead you all in Portland to get run off by Antifa again. Yes I’m saying it. The last mission to Portland was a FAIL along with many other missions that failed.” He ends his message by speaking directly to group leadership: “Good luck. I hope you don’t get people from the coalition killed because of your ignorance and little man syndrome.”
The opinion was enough to earn the user a ban, but he was not the only person to have registered such concerns. Back on August 15, during a discussion about the upcoming rally in Portland, a user identified as John Hufford repeatedly asked variations of the question, “Are there more than a handful of Portland residents that are willing to do what’s necessary to take their city back from these terrorists?”
One of Patriot Coalition’s leaders, identified as Dan-Medford, jumped in to defend the decision to repeatedly send armed groups into Portland:
“…in my opinion, if nothing is done then the enemy has a stronghold. Look at the CHOP [Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, better known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone] zone. Since it was allowed to happen and accepted, everyone who wants to “make themselves heard” (besides patriots) now thinks that’s ok. If we give up on Portland, it’s just a stronghold that will just keep getting worse and worse.”
This comment met with wide approval. A few minutes later, user Chris Tough responded to Dan-Medford:
“Portland should be our main objective, personally I believe it should be our main focus and only objective at this time. Portland has become a safe haven for these scum. I think we should change that. We need numbers. People willing to fight, if We the people do not stand up we will lose ground so fast we will pay heavily trying to regain it. If we end the Portland problem we can step on the little flames that pop up afterwards. I’m in on taking Portland.”
Recently, both the Proud Boys and various Portland antifascist groups have announced changes to their plans for the 26th that might help avoid any direct confrontation. But even if violence is avoided, members of Patriot Coalition are mostly agreed on their expectations for the election: widespread mayhem, and possibly civil war if Donald Trump loses. Whatever happens, their chat logs show they intend to be prepared.