Former Identity Evropa and Patriot Prayer supporter steps down

Man quits Identity Evropa, Patriot Prayer, finds Jesus

Jake Von Ott, the nineteen-year-old regional coordinator for Identity Evropa Oregon, has permanently stepped down from his position and will refrain from participating in or recruiting at any more IE and Patriot Prayer events. Von Ott’s sudden departure from IE marked nearly one month since he was interviewed for the Vanguard feature story, “Fascism on the Rise,” on July 24.

Von Ott discussed his reasons for quitting IE with the Vanguard on Aug. 18, citing the increased violence between “patriots” and anti-fascist counter-protesters, personal retaliation from local anti-fascist activists, and his desire to move on to college with a clean slate that includes renewed focus on his spiritual life, which includes a church mission trip to Africa this month.

The decision to leave IE and abandon affiliations with other white supremacists was not a choice rooted in remorse.

“I don’t regret it. I love what I did,” Von Ott said. “I love that I went out there and I got to battle the other side just like the other side got to battle me. [In] twenty or thirty years when both sides have kids, we can [say], ‘yeah, in high school and college we went and we fought the other side.’”

However, Von Ott added that if he had stayed while the violence escalated, “I don’t want there to be any guilt on my conscience like [if] I killed someone.”

Von Ott also insists “a false narrative” has painted him as a Nazi and white supremacist. “If that was really me, if I was a white supremacist, if I was a neo-Nazi…then, yeah, I would feel ashamed of that,” Von Ott said. “That I had all this hatred in my heart for people that just look differently than me. Of course I would be ashamed of that. I would hope my family would disown me for that.”

Leaving the patriot movement to “grow up”

Von Ott seemingly flipped his position overnight after appearing on the front lines of a Patriot Prayer march in downtown Portland on Aug. 6, just days before speaking again with the Vanguard.

Von Ott normally appears in public with a fresh fade combed to the side, a haircut made popular among right-wing activists by Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader and white supremacist. In addition to the signature haircut, Von Ott normally wears a polo shirt buttoned all the way to the the top, baggy jeans, and reflective aviators. Now, Von Ott arrived to his interview in a tight grey t-shirt with his hair combed to the front of his face, covering his forehead, and with stubbles of unshaved hair dotting his chin.

At first, Von Ott said he decided to leave because it was time to “grow up.” At almost 20 years old, Von Ott said he just graduated from high school this summer, meaning he became a regional coordinator before even enrolling in college. Von Ott’s online varsity sports profile confirmed his graduation date from Portland Christian High School.

“At first when it started it was just a joke, just some edgy memes” Von Ott said. In previous Vanguard coverage, Von Ott admitted to posting racist and Islamophobic memes and statements on a white nationalist Facebook page early this year. Some of Von Ott’s posts fantasized about killing Muslim refugees. Von Ott said then that he had grown since posting those sentiments.

Von Ott also said that because he could not talk about his views in public, the internet created an echo chamber in which violent speech was acceptable.

In the same interview, Von Ott confirmed that his mother, Shelly Frank, whom Von Ott claimed raised him with traditionalist Christian values, posted similar memes and images on the page, including one of a Nazi family captioned, “We are rising! Unite!”

Once Von Ott made it into the limelight, he established close connections with alt-right leaders Baked Alaska and IE founder Nathan Damigo and recalled how things progressed quickly.

“When I was in high school I had guys that had already graduated college that were like, ‘dude, you’re amazing.’ [I said] ‘I haven’t done much, buddy, I’m just a kid,’” Von Ott said. “[Joining IE] started out as a joke, and then I [decided] I guess I’ll do this for a little bit.”

Participating in IE as a coordinator, recruiter and spokesperson was of no little significance, however.

Damigo, IE’s founder, headed organizing efforts for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA. The rally ended with James Alex Fields, who participated in the rally with the similarly-aligned white supremacist group Vanguard America, ramming a Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing activist Heather Heyer and wounding at least 19 others. Von Ott said he was not aware IE had in large part planned the Unite the Right rally.

Ott said he has been doxxed by anti-fascists, meaning his personal information has been leaked on the internet, resulting in his house being vandalized. The word Nazi had been spray-painted in white on asphalt, with an arrow supposedly pointing to his house. Von Ott claimed that his car tires were slashed as well.

Other IE “have been doxxed left and right,” according to Von Ott. “One woman was just banned from her church,” Ott said. “People are getting suspended from school, kicked out of their parents’ homes and so on, [and] others have been losing their jobs.”

In addition, Von Ott claimed anti-fascists called his workplace in droves, “conveniently” getting him fired before he intended to give his two-week’s notice for his mission trip to Africa.

Despite the backlash Von Ott has gotten for his beliefs, he insisted several times that leaving IE was more about growing up than responding to pressure. “It’s not that things are escalating that’s making me step away,” Von Ott said. “It’s that I’ve got to start focusing on myself. But it just so happens that as things start escalating I have to start focusing on myself.”

Welcomed by Patriot Prayer but scared of the violence

While Von Ott’s hairstyle change and departure the movement coincide with the encroachment upon his personal life, violence within the “patriot/free speech” movement has deterred him as well.

After Heyer’s murder at the Unite the Right rally, Von Ott described the violence between “patriots” and anti-fascists as going too far.  “The intention [at Unite the Right] on both sides was to kill [and] to maim,” Von Ott said. “And sadly there was a death, so I don’t want to be involved in these rallies if now there is precedent that’s been set we can start killing people because somebody already drew the first blood.”

Von Ott is among many others in the patriot movement who claim to save violence for self-defense purposes, although he likened it to a start to civil war.

If Confederate statues are removed, Ott said, “you’re removing the identity of most of the right wing. Well, all they have left, then, is their Second Amendment.” Von Ott expressed that if if free speech continues to be under attack, like the patriot movement believes, “you’re in for a world of hurt.”

Allen Pucket, leader of the Hell-Shaking Street Preachers, agrees with Von Ott’s prediction. As reported by Willamette Week, Pucket recently posted on Facebook that more bloodshed is in the movement’s future. “Peace has never been an option” in response to violent people participating in rallies and marches, Pucket added to his post through a comment.

The Hell-Shaking Street Preachers are often at the forefront of Gibson’s Patriot Prayer rallies.

Pucket’s post came just a few days after Gibson told Vanguard reporters the Street Preachers “are good people” and “honest.” Gibson, however, has repeatedly stressed his commitment to nonviolence.

Gibson and his right-hand leader, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, marched into a crowd of aggressive counter-protesters in Berkeley at the end of August with their hands up before they were punched, chased out, and eventually “rescued” by Berkeley police.

However, during the last rally Von Ott attended on Aug. 6, several fights broke out and some were between fellow patriot members.  

A video uploaded to Vimeo from Aug. 6 shows an unprovoked Toese instigating a fight with a person walking through the crowd who was staring straight ahead and carrying a skateboard at their side. Toese faced criminal charges for other fights he was involved in during the march that day.

The Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, two right-wing militia groups, were both present at the rally on Aug. 6. According to Von Ott, however, Toese told him the Street Preachers were the only ones offering Toese protection during the fights that day.

“Tiny reached out to me and called me up over Facebook and said, ‘You know, I support [IE] and what you do,” Von Ott said.

Von Ott added that Toese told him IE members were “the only people that actually were up front the entire time along with the Street Preachers. The Oath Keepers just sat back—in his words—with their fancy gear and stayed in the back the whole time.”

Toese did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gibson, who finally denounced IE’s participation in his rallies on a Facebook video in August, expressed views contradictory to Toese’s and Pucket’s actions.

Gibson told the Vanguard in Berkeley that “uniting with extremists” to win a “war” between the right and the left is something “you hear all the time, and it’s a lie.”

As Von Ott plans to leave for Africa with his church and later attend college in the fall, patriot supporters who’ve recently incited violence continue to plan for events in the Pacific Northwest.