The League of the South has been pushing its pro-secession message since the early 1990s, but the Florida chapter of the neo-Confederate group has in recent months taken a notably violent turn.
Photographs and videos from August’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia appear to show the league’s chief of staff and Florida chairman, Michael Tubbs (pictured above at right), and his black-clad followers in close proximity to some of the most egregious assaults on counter-protesters, including the brutal beating of a black counter-protester in a covered parking garage. Another one of the chapter’s members was arrested Wednesday after allegedly charging with a flagpole at a group rallying in support of changing Confederate street names in Hollywood, Florida—while ranting about Charlottesville.
Because of its regional focus and lack of a leader with national name recognition, like the Traditionalist Worker Party’s Matthew Heimbach, the League of the South didn’t garner as much attention for its involvement in the “Unite the Right” rally as other groups that participated. But with the urging of Tubbs, a former felon and Ku Klux Klan member, and a fixation on pushing back against the growing movement to remove Confederate monuments, the Florida chapter has adopted violence as a key part of its strategy.
“They have definitely stepped more into the violent realm just in recent months,” Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, a periodical that tracks hate groups, told TPM.
The Florida chapter has “taken the forefront on all this militarization stuff,” Beirich added, pointing to the “really prominent role” their members played in Charlottesville. “[Tubbs] is recruiting young men into the league and sees himself as the military sergeant in charge of these younger troops.”
Tubbs, center, uses this photograph of him and other League of the South members massing in Charlottesville as his Facebook cover photo.
Tubbs and several other members of the Florida chapter did not respond to TPM’s repeated requests for comment by phone, email and Facebook messenger. Nor did Michael Hill, the organization’s Alabama-based founder respond. One Florida chapter member reached by TPM sent along a link to the group’s website and did not respond to follow-up questions.
Another member, 22-year-old Miami resident Christopher Rey Monzon, was in custody with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office as of late Thursday afternoon. As the Miami New Times first reported, Monzon heckled a group of demonstrators waiting outside a commissioners’ meeting Wednesday in Hollywood, where local officials were voting on whether to rename three streets named for Confederate generals.
According to a police report obtained by TPM, Monzon directly linked the goings-on in Hollywood to last month’s deadly rally.
“I was at Charlottesville,” he yelled at attendees, as quoted in the police report. “I’m not going to forget what you people did to us there.”
After calling those advocating for the name changes “Jews” and a “cancer on the face of the earth,” the report states Monzon pointed the flagpole of his Confederate banner at protesters and charged at them, shouting, “Come on motherfucker, come on!”
He was charged with aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot, and a small pen knife was also found in his front shirt pocket, according to the police report. The Broward County Sheriff’s office confirmed that Monzon was in custody, but not whether he’d retained legal counsel.
Monzon did not post photographs from Charlottesville on the Facebook page he appears to maintain under the name of Christopher Cedeno. But that page is filled with photographs that appear to show him holding assault weapons and posing in Florida League of the South gear at Confederate monuments and plantations throughout the Sunshine State.
An attendee at the Charlottesville rally conducted a brief video interview with an individual who appears to be Monzon, however, and there is extensive documentary evidence of other chapter members marching through the streets with their signature flags featuring a black cross on a white field. Those marchers were part of the vigilante “Southern defense force” that Hill, the League of the South’s founder, formed earlier this year to combat what the group calls “a growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization.”
Jim O’Brien, whose Facebook page identifies him as a member of the North Florida chapter, confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that he was arrested on the day of the Charlottesville rally for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Tubbs also appears on the fringes of some of the most jarring incidents from that day. One was the vicious parking garage assault on counter-demonstrator Deandre Harris, which left him with eight staples in his head, a broken wrist and a chipped tooth. Two men have been arrested and charged in connection with the beating, neither of them Tubbs.
He has not shied away from violence in the past, however. As the SPLC has documented, the former Green Beret demolitions expert once robbed fellow army sergeants of their M-16 rifles during a training exercise while shouting “This is for the KKK” and served four years in prison for accumulating massive caches of weapons believed to be stolen from U.S. Army facilities that he intended to use to target black and Jewish-owned businesses.
Such an embrace of violent individuals and rhetoric have actually prompted a decline in the League of the South’s overall membership, according to the SPLC. The group was founded by academics who wanted to glorify the South, but has become increasingly radical over the years, adapting virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric, urging the accumulation of arms and calling for the former Confederate states to secede specifically to form a white ethnostate.
Those members remaining are particularly fixated on halting the removal of Confederate monuments and imagery that began in earnest after Dylann Roof gunned down nine black parishioners in 2015 at a Charleston, South Carolina church. They have traveled to Stone Mountain, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; New Orleans; and Memphis, Tennessee to promote this cause.
But the forces of history are aligned against them, as evidenced by the decision of a number of municipalities and universities to remove Confederate statues in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. And in Hollywood, Florida, while Monzon sat in jail, city commissioners voted five-to-one to rename the streets honoring Confederate generals.
Feature image: Tubbs appears pictured at far right wearing sunglasses and a “Florida” badge as he walks through Charlottesville with other League of the South members after the rally near Lee Park was declared illegal, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)