Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Husband And Wife Accused of Planning Violence in Shooting at UW Milo Protest

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

After a three-month investigation that entailed combing through hours’ worth of video recordings, the King County Prosecutor’s office in Seattle announced this week that it was filing felony charges against a married couple accused of shooting a man involved in the Jan. 20 protests outside a Milo Yiannopoulos speech on the University of Washington campus.

Elizabeth Hokoana and her husband, Marc Hokoana, both 29, were charged with first-degree assault in the shooting of Joshua Dukes, a 31-year-old computer programmer who had been acting as a peacekeeper during the protest, which featured multiple violent melees. Marc Hokoana had been a participant in several of them, and according to the charging papers, had been dosing protesters with squirts from a small pepper-spray gun.

During one of these brawls, authorities say, Elizabeth “Lily” Hokoana pulled a Glock semiautomatic pistol from her coat and shot Dukes once. Dukes spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from the wound, which damaged several internal organs.

The charging papers claim that, the day before the event, Marc Hokoana had messaged a friend on Facebook: “I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’m going to the milo event and if the snowflakes get out off hand I’m going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.”

The friend asked him whether he was “going to carry.” Hokoana replied: “Nah, I’m going full melee.” He then added: “Lily … is.”

Marc Hokoana had messaged Yiannopoulos via Facebook from the protest, saying his “Make America Great Again” hat had been stolen. He also asked Yiannopoulos for a new hat, but the alt-right provocateur never replied.

Video recorded by Hatewatch during the protests showed Hokoana acting as a provocateur throughout the evening, egging protesters on and trying to provoke them by demanding his hat back.

The charging papers say a witness identified as “B.F.” described his activities throughout the evening: “B.F. stated that the individual kept going over to the group of protesters and agitating the group by calling them snowflakes, libtards and saying that (Trump) was their president. B.F. stated that the man seemed to be there only to provoke the crowd.”

In a still taken from the video (about 2:00), Elizabeth Hokoana
 can be seen reaching inside the back of her coat.
A key portion of the Hatewatch video proved important in establishing the charges against Elizabeth Hokoana. Recorded nearly 30 minutes before the shooting, she can be seen, wearing a two-toned winter coat and pigtails, approaching the scene where a young Milo supporter had been hit with a blue paint ball by black-clad protesters. As the young man’s father pulls him away, she can be seen opening her coat and reaching behind her inside it, appearing to stand guard as her husband confronts the protesters. (He shortly afterward emerged, spoke briefly with his wife, and embraced the young man with the paint on his face.)

A detective cited in the charging papers said the movement “was consistent with a person who was attempting to pull a concealed pistol from a holster.”

Later in the Hatewatch video, Marc Hokoana, now wearing a bright yellow ballcap, can be seen chanting with a crowd of Yiannopoulos fans waving a banner bearing the image of Pepe the Frog, the hate-symbol mascot of the alt-right, and then briefly conferring with friends wearing red "Make America Great Again" ballcaps. In the final frame of that video — taken less than a minute before the shooting — the victim, Josh Dukes, is comes into view.

The Seattle Times reports that further video evidence found Marc Hokoana attempting to keep his wife in check, telling her to “calm down” and “don’t shoot anyone.”

An audio analyst told the Times: “Marc Hokoana can then be heard telling Elizabeth Hokoana that others in the crowd, ‘They have to start this. They have to start it.’ ”

The Hokoanas’ lawyers maintained their innocence. “We have provided the police and the prosecution evidence showing that our clients acted lawfully in defense of others,” a joint statement said. “The accuser, Joshua Dukes, has repeatedly stated that he does not want this to go through the criminal-justice system. We are disappointed that the prosecution has decided otherwise. We look forward to presenting our case to a jury and we anticipate an acquittal.”

Joshua Dukes, who was eventually released after weeks in the hospital since the bullet entered his stomach, traveled up his chest and lodged in his back, has been pleading for “restorative justice” in the case.

“Being shot was devastating for Mr. Dukes, his family, and his community,” his attorney, Sarah Lippek, told reporters. “The Hokoanas harmed many people by their violent actions. Mr. Dukes hopes that the defendants will take accountability for shooting him, for taking guns and other weapons into already unstable circumstances, and for their involvement in escalating violence in the situation. It is crucial for the Hokoanas to understand the damage they caused, in order to reach accountability and resolution for this violence.”

Yianniopoulos attempted to claim in his speech inside the hall that the roles were reversed — that it had been one of his alt-right fans who had been shot by an antifascist. Breitbart News and the Daily Caller both reported the same. The Daily Caller wound up writing a story that corrected the facts but, notably, did not explain that it was a correction of the site's previous reportage. Breitbart, meanwhile, not only never bothered to correct its reportage, it instead (without a hint of irony) accused the UW president of changing her story about the event, and left the shooting utterly unmentioned in its subsequent reportage.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chobani Bites Back, Sues InfoWars For Smearing Idaho Operation, Refugees

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

To hear the conspiracy-spawning hosts at Alex Jones’ InfoWars operation describe it, Chobani Yogurt and its Turkish-born owner are part of a vast plot to populate rural areas with disease-bearing and rape-prone criminal refugees from war-torn nations, driven out by the machinations of “globalists” who want to destroy America. Or something like that.

This, more or less, is the conspiracy theory that InfoWars contributors have been spinning for the past year or more, reaching hyperbolic stages in the past month as the site has produced segments with videos titled “MSM Covers For Globalist's Refugee Import Program After Child Rape Case” and “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.”

This week, Chobani chose to fight back—in the courts.

Pointedly observing that Jones “is no stranger to spurious statements,” Chobani filed a lawsuit in Idaho District Court this week demanding $10,000 in attorney fees, full corrections on its false reportage and an apology from Jones and his InfoWars operation.

“The defendants’ conduct in this matter was extreme, outrageous and warrants punitive damages,” the lawsuit said.

The focus of the conspiracists’ fearmongering was Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, a native of Turkey who has donated heavily to liberal causes and is well known as an advocate for refugee resettlement in the United States and elsewhere. It opened its Idaho plant near Twin Falls, the nation’s second-largest such operation, in 2012. InfoWars and its army of true believers—who descended upon Ulukaya and other Chobani officials with a deluge of threats and hate mail through social media—claim that this is part of a nefarious scheme to drive “ordinary Americans” out of rural districts and replace them with brown-skinned foreign refugees dependent on their benefactors.

According to InfoWars, Ulukaya not only is bringing in crime in the form of child rapists to Twin Falls, he’s bringing disease in the form of tuberculosis.

The anti-refugee contingent had already been whipped into high dudgeon in the Magic Valley in preceding years over its longtime refugee program by a steady drumbeat of Islamophobia engendered with the help of various extremist anti-Muslim organizations, culminating in the open involvement of armed “III Percent” militiamen in anti-refugee protests.

However, the hysteria whipped into high gear in the summer of 2016 when three refugee boys sexually assaulted a five-year-old in an apartment-complex laundry room, and the story hit local news media, and then went viral. The ensuing sensational news reports—amplified by screeching headlines at right-wing outlets such as Drudge Report and Breitbart News—described the assault as a “rape” and the boys as rapists. Some of the accounts claimed that the boys pulled a knife on the girl; others claimed they were from Syria.

However, as Michelle Goldberg explored in a definitive report on the case for Slate, the facts are much more complicated. There was no rape involved; one boy inappropriately touched the girl’s genitals. There were reportedly other acts involved in the assault that were similarly appalling but did not constitute rape. The boys were from Eritrea and Iraq, not Syria. And there was no knife.

Nonetheless, InfoWars’ reports on the case consistently described it as “the Idaho rape case” and described the boys as rapists. Contributor LeeAnn McAdoo also described Chobani as “the target of a lot of anti-refugee anger. People say that the factory there and other local businesses are linked to the refugee program, because the existence of the refugees as labor is needed to fuel Chobani.”

The three boys, ages 14, 10 and 7, pleaded guilty to committing felonies in the assault earlier this month.

Host David Knight kicked off the reportage on the case in 2016 by describing it as “a story of an unbelievable takeover of our country. It’s not just refugees coming in and taking blue-class factory jobs, or middle-class jobs with H1-B visas. No, they’re coming in and they’re taking over our entrepreneurship. They’re taking over American businesses. They’re taking that role and shutting us down, using their connections in Washington.”

The attacks on Chobani led to a deluge of threats against the company and its founder. Social-media sites were flooded with calls for a Chobani boycott, as well as memes attacking Ulukaya, claiming he was “going to drown the United States in Muslims and is importing them to Idaho 300 at a time to work in his factory.” Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar was subjected to death threats when InfoWars and other sites began suggesting he was part of a “government coverup.”

Knight later repeatedly claimed the refugees were responsible for a rise in disease in the area: “They have a five hundred percent increase in tuberculosis,” he told the InfoWars audience. “That is another one of the costs, along with $54 million dollars from the local and state community. That’s the cost to the taxpayers.”

Knight’s claim was based on a wildly distorted report from Breitbart News that “TB Spiked 500 Percent In Twin Falls in 2012, As Chobani Yogurt Opened Plant.” The Idaho Department of Health shortly thereafter explained that, while seven refugees with tuberculosis had indeed been admitted to the program, none of them had a contagious form of the disease.

Nonetheless, Knight repeated the charge last week, after CBS’s 60 Minutes had featured an interview with Ulukaya: “So the report from the hill said that Breitbart at the time had said that the plant had brought not only refugees but crime and tuberculosis—but of course, [sardonically] that was just fake news. Remember when we heard the reports of that five-year-old special-needs girl who was raped? Everybody said, ‘Aw, that was just fake news. That’s false.’ But now of course we have seen them admit to sexually assaulting five-year-old girl, getting their plea deal done last week.

“And so now it’s time for CBS’ 60 Minutes to let’s sweep all that under the carpet and let’s revitalize the image of Chobani Yogurt.”

As Jennifer Patterson, project director for the federal Partnership for Refugees, explained to the Idaho Statesman, Chobani and similar companies working with refugees are not exploiting them.

“It’s the exact opposite,” Patterson said. “These companies are looking to provide resettled refuges with the ability to live happy and productive lives. There’s never any malicious talk about getting them on the cheap.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Washington Anti-LGBT Seminars Begin Organizing For Another 'Bathroom Bill' Initiative

Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

In the bigger scheme of things, Joseph Backholm sees the fight over bathrooms and transgender rights as something of a short-term battle in what he calls a “war” against LGBT rights—but, he predicts, it will prove to be the decisive one.

“Same-sex marriage is temporary,” he recently told participants in a “Gender Revolution” seminar in Tacoma, Washington. “It cannot endure because it’s not true. Now, same-sex marriage might survive America, but it won’t survive.”

He continued: “There is no chance that, 300 years from now, we’ll look back and man will realize gender doesn’t matter. That’s not because we’re smarter. Eventually humanity will discover that is a broken model, it doesn’t work. It is going to go away.”

The ostensible purpose of the seminars—organized by the Family Policy Institute of Washington, founded and overseen by Backholm, who lives in suburban Lynnwood—was to discuss the so-called “gender revolution.” Most of the 90-minute talk given by Backholm in the seminars, held in locations around Washington state, was devoted to attacking the transgender movement by ridiculing claims and assertions about gender identity common among people who choose to identify with a gender other than that which they are born with.

The larger purpose of the seminars, however, became clear as the talk wound on and Backholm began describing the “cultural” part of how people could combat the “gender revolution”—namely, to encourage participants to engage in the political battle over gender by supporting and helping to promote the FPIW’s new anti-transgender “bathroom bill,” Initiative 1552.

The new version goes beyond similar legislation in other states. For example, it provides for civil penalties against school districts that allow minors to be exposed to transgender persons.

This is not FPIW’s first go-round with a “bathroom bill.” It attempted to pass an earlier version of the same legislation, dubbed Initiative 1515, in 2016 during the general election. The measure, however, failed when FPIW was unable to gather enough signatures to make it onto the ballot.

Indeed, the organization has a long history of sponsoring anti-LGBT legislation and policies. It also has a long track record of failure when it comes to persuading voters.

Backholm appears on local newscasts as an anti-LGBT
spokesperson frequently.
Founded in 2008 by Backholm, the group is the only organization listed by the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council as its affiliated “family policy council” for Washington. Backholm and his group are warmly listed as “alliance” members for another anti-LGBT hate group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which describes how Backholm “is drawing on all of his [ADF] resources and contacts to generate a strong response to the legislature’s new marriage law.”

  • In 2009, Backholm and his group helped lead the charge against same-sex “domestic partnerships,” which were then legal in Washington. The FPIW’s initiative to outlaw the status failed, 53% - 47%
  • After the Washington Legislature voted in 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage, Backholm’s spinoff organization Preserve Marriage Washington campaign led another initiative attempt to have the law overturned. Instead, voters upheld the law by a similar 54% - 46% margin. 
  • In 2016, FPIW led the campaign for Initiative 1551, a “bathroom bill” which it titled “Just Want Privacy.” That one didn’t even make it onto the ballot. 

Backholm’s FPIW has also led the charge on a number of religious-right fronts in the state, including:

  • Support for anti-abortion legislation to define life as beginning at conception. 
  • Campaigning to require parental consent for anyone under 18 seeking an abortion. There were no exceptions for rape or incest in the legislation, and Backholm dismissed claims that teens’ lives could be put at risk by the requirement. 
  • Opposition to legislation expanding access to birth control for poor women; FPIW claimed that access to contraception was already adequate. 
  • Lobbying against a telemedicine bill, providing for health care services delivered through video and interactive audio. FPIW claimed it would allow "webcam abortions." 
  • FPIW also lobbied against a bill requiring insurance companies that cover maternity care to also cover abortions. 
  • Campaigning in support of a bill about "informed decision making" for Washington state's Death with Dignity Act, which permits people to choose doctor-assisted suicide. The FPIW-supported bill would have required doctors, as with anti-abortion “informed consent” laws, to inform patients about "feasible alternatives" before they could access drugs for assisted suicide.

Backholm has a history of outrageous and bigoted remarks in support of his agenda as well. He contends that gay relations in general are in violation of “natural and moral laws”: "The idea that all sex is good sex, so long as it involves adults, will not survive because it cannot survive,” he writes at the FPIW site. “The natural and moral laws of the universe are not subject to court ruling or UN resolution. While many within the tolerance movement will go to the grave convinced of the justness of their cause, history will inevitably see it differently.”

Arguing against same-sex marriage, Backholm compared it to the medieval practice of bloodletting:
Redefining marriage in this way, saying that there is no difference between men and women, that it’s not important for children to have both a mother and a father, that’s not just bad policy, it’s wrong in the eternal sense. So because it’s untrue, it will ultimately be proven as untrue and we will come around to recognize the error of our ways. We used to believe in bloodletting as good medical practice, culture has embraced a lot of things temporarily until they realized it’s based on things that are not true. This is one of those, it has to be temporary, not just because I want it to be temporary, but because it’s untrue in the eternal sense.
While organizing for Initiative 1515 in 2016, Backholm quipped to an audience he was preparing for signature gathering: “For the gentlemen, what I would encourage you to do, if you want to be so bold and to make the point, take your petition and stand outside the women's restroom at the mall, and if any of the women don't want to sign it, just go ahead and follow 'em on in,” he said, to laughter. “Maybe this will be a better time to sign our little petition.”

Last year, FPIW was sued by Planned Parenthood to prevent the release of names of people from the University of Washington who had become embroiled in the widely disproven claims about the health-care organization’s purported sale of fetal tissue. FPIW had worked to support the claims of the Center for Medical Progress and its leader, David Daleiden, concocted through spuriously edited video recordings, that fetal tissue sales were being promoted by PP; Daleiden and one of his cohorts is currently under indictment in California for conspiracy to invade privacy.

For now, Backholm’s focus is entirely about passing I-1552, dubbed once again the “Just Want Privacy” initiative, though the rhetoric is once again charged and bigoted. While campaigning for the bill in 2016, Backholm compared trans people to the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes."

"I once thought that story was useful as an illustration but patently absurd," Backholm said. "No parade would gather to celebrate the new clothes of a naked emperor—until Bruce Jenner. And we now have a nation celebrating the fiction that a man is now a woman."

The FPIW's "Gender Revolution" seminars were held in eight locations around the state, including Bothell, Bellingham, Sequim, Spokane and Pasco. The Tacoma seminar featured a discursion on a component of FPIW’s campaign against transgender acceptance in the state’s schools, attacking the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction over new learning standardssaying that kindergarten students should "understand there are many ways to express gender," third graders should learn that "gender roles can vary considerably" and "understand [the] importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity," and fourth graders will learn the definition of sexual orientation.

As Backholm made clear, the FPIW believes that this constitutes an attack on conservative students: "It is frightening to think that students who hold traditional beliefs about gender and sexual identity may have to choose between accepting politically correct talking points or failing assignments and being ostracized by school administrators."

FPIW promoted the seminars with provocative taglines: “We celebrate ‘Women’s Day’, but no one can define what a woman—or a man—actually is anymore” and “[W]hy is my child’s school working so hard to convince them there are 56 genders and you can be any gender you want?”

During the seminar, Backholm suggested a common conspiratorial explanation of the progression of LGBT rights to feature transgender concerns. He described how, once same-sex marriage became the law of the land with the Supreme Court’s 2014 Obergfell v. Hodges ruling, LGBT organizers immediately began moving toward “comprehensive federal LGBT non-discrimination protections,” and the cause of transgender rights became a central player in their agenda. “They needed a new victim class,” Backholm said.

All this, he argued, was simply the product of a long moral slide: “The thing that binds this all together is the desire to create an environment in which there are no rules,” he told the audiuence.

Backholm also proffered his views on the nature of transgender identification, claiming that LGBT people have simply slapped a trendy new label on something mundane: “All of this begins to make sense when you realize that when they use the word gender, what they really mean is personality,” he said. “The discussion about gender is really a conversation about personality.”

He urged seminar-goers to get involved on three levels—interpersonally, at their churches, and politically. He described the churches as being “at war, for sure,” and urged everyone at the seminar to help organize support for the drive to gather signatures for I-1552.

“Our kids are just flat-out being lied to, about stuff that’s going to destroy their mind, spirit, soul and body,” he warned. “We should be a place equipped to patch that up when it happens, but we should also be a place that’s involved on the front end of that, so that we can prevent the harm from happening in the first place.”

The larger enemy, as Backholm acknowledged, was the “LGBT agenda,” but added: “That’s not our primary objective right now. There’s hotter irons in the fire. It’s not the root, it’s the fruit of the tree.”