Ollie Cline’s band, White Lighter, is having some bad luck lately. Last month, they were booted from historic Berkeley venue 924 Gilman. Two other Bay Area venues cancelled their shows shortly after.
Why? It started with a hoodie.
White Lighter was on the bill at Gilman on November 3rd. They loaded their gear in and a Gilman volunteer named Tuesday, who was acting as security that night, heard from a patron that someone was wearing a Proud Boys hoodie.
“I told him that if he was affiliated with the Proud Boys or the movement or white nationalism that he was not allowed back in my venue”
The Proud Boys, founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, claim to be “Western Chauvinists” who believe Western civilization and values are superior to others. Despite a policy welcoming “all races, all religions, gay or straight,” the Proud Boys have drawn national attention for numerous members’ associations with white nationalism and other far-right extremism. Members of the Proud Boys and the now-defunct Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, their paramilitary wing, attended the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Several Proud Boys and associates, including at least one member of a racist skinhead gang, are on trial for an alleged October gang beating in New York. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels them a hate group.
Tuesday couldn’t find anyone wearing a Proud Boys hoodie inside the venue, but spotted Cline wearing it at nearby Gilman Brewing where he and his bandmates were drinking.
“I told him that if he was affiliated with the Proud Boys or the movement or white nationalism that he was not allowed back in my venue,” Tuesday says. “I didn’t want him near patrons who come to this place because it says on the door we don’t tolerate racism.”
Cline says he made “sure to state that I was not a Proud Boy and had no intention of wearing the jacket anywhere on stage.”
Tuesday says Cline wanted the hoodie to be a “conversation piece.”
“He wanted to discuss with me about why ‘the Bay Area is like a liberal bubble,’ I think is what he said,” Tuesday recounts. He told Cline that “it wasn’t really a debate,” that “the damage had already been done.” He told Cline to leave.
Tuesday says the “intention was to just drop them off the bill and have the show continue as normal.”
But it didn’t end there.
Cline says there were no issues getting their gear out of the venue. Yes Devil, the headliner that night, was using some of White Lighter’s equipment, so the band had to stick around. “We waited outside a little bit down from the venue to hear what would happen,” he says.
“The staff and the band were staring down the long block at each other,” says Christopher “Lexxx” Stanley, a local radio host and promoter who attended the event. Stanley is an acquaintance of members of White Lighter.
“The band came closer to ask if they could play after all,” Stanley continues. “Then it got out of hand.”
“They had told their friends and their friends had told their friends,” Tuesday recounts, “So there was a fairly large crowd who was now pretty upset with the venue’s decision.”
Tuesday remembers that in between sets, a large group gathered outside near the side door of the venue.
“So I go out there and it’s only Tuesday and a bunch of these guys like yelling about ‘Oh it’s just a shirt, this is stupid,’” Joey Miller, another Gilman volunteer who was working sound that night, says. “I was trying to tell them like it’s not a shirt, it’s an ideal. Like, we can’t fuck with that here.”
“They were yelling at me and yelling at the patrons and yelling at other venue staff. They were yelling some things that were pretty difficult to tolerate,” Tuesday says. “The only response I ever gave them was that they just had to leave–that they weren’t playing.”
Stanley says there was “some pushing, loud talking” and “emotions running a little high.”
“Not what I’d call a fight,” he added.
“Things escalated so quickly off of their words. It was their fans–I don’t think their fans even knew what the Proud Boys shit was. They–all these people like, they’re just yelling at us. Like, the band was egging them on and shit,” Miller recounts.
Miller says some who crowded around them boasted about fights they’d previously been in, saying things like “We got these guys. Fuck ‘em.”
“They ended up staying outside for so long. And I ended up staying outside and they would periodically regroup and I guess fire each other up and then come back and shout again,” Tuesday recounts. He remembers people in Cline’s group said “some pretty insensitive things” including homophobic remarks, although he doesn’t recall whether Cline made such remarks himself. 924 Gilman has a “No Homophobia” policy.
Tuesday says someone in the group told him “something along the lines of like, ‘if this was 10 years ago, a guy like you would’ve gotten his ass kicked.’”
Myles Klein, White Lighter’s manager, attributes the remark to a “friend who was not in any way violent that night” and says “The comment didn’t spark any violence from either person and was more to do with [the] volunteer security guard trying to start violence than the other way around.”
Klein doesn’t recall hearing homophobic remarks, saying “If anything was said by anybody I can only imagine it was probably in retaliation to the way the staff was acting.”
Cline also denies egging the crowd on or heckling the staff himself.
“Any egging they thought we did came from the venue egging us on,” Klein says.
“Our fans got mad at the Gilman for being so unprofessional, not because they were following my lead,” Cline said.
According to Klein, Gilman staff “went much past their duties and were harassing everyone involved with White Lighter and people that aren’t.” Klein says staff were “yelling insults in peoples’ faces so close that spit was flying out,” calling people “racist, idiot, hateful, bigot.” Klein alleged that “[m]ultiple security guards didn’t want us out of the building. They wanted a brawl.”
“Gilman security are trained in de-escalation, and the whole night I was attempting to deescalate the situation from violence,” Tuesday says, noting he was the only one assigned as security that night. Although Miller intervened at some points, he was working sound.
“It is deeply unsettling and unfortunate that Myles Klein and White Lighter wanted to make these accusations,” Tuesday says, adding “It would be deeply unprofessional of me or any Gilman staffer to act in that way described.”
“Myles’s claims seem to just be lies,” Miller says. “None of us raised a fist or wanted a “brawl.””
Cline didn’t mention himself or those around him yelling at staff or ‘egging on’ patrons during his initial statement to LCRW, but says he “tried to initiate a discussion” with Gilman staff “to see how we could remedy the situation” and claims they “refused to have any kind of discussion or give any kind of further explanation.”
Tuesday remembers having to tell a large group who had wandered out to a nearby neighborhood to stop drinking around the venue. 924 Gilman has a ‘No Alcohol’ and ‘No Drugs’ policy that has to be enforced within two blocks of the building.
“No one under 21 was drinking that night” Klein says, adding that he doesn’t drink, do drugs or smoke. Klein said “no one was excessively drunk” and those who drank were “100s of feet away.” Cline said he had one beer at the bar and one outside the venue.
One person got physically confrontational. Miller says one man had been drinking outside with the group White Lighter was mingling with. According to Miller the man “reeked of alcohol” and had gotten in his face once that night already. The man got in Miller’s face again and started shouting at him not to follow them around, he says. Miller informed him of the no alcohol policy. Then Miller says he refunded the man’s cover charge out of his own pocket and informed him that he wasn’t allowed back in the venue.
“As he got closer to the door, he said something along the lines of ‘I’m going in or you’re gonna have to stop me,’” Miller recounts. He blocked the door and the belligerent person tried to force his way past him.
“I eventually had to pull him out and I accidentally ripped his shirt,” Miller says.
Alex Keppel, an attendee and friend of members of White Lighter and the person in question, says the belligerent person “had bruises and scratches everywhere” because of the altercation.
“People started crowding around and yelling “even more threats of violence and shit,” Miller recounts. “The band was egging it on, still there with the Proud Boys shirt on.”
Tuesday says the man “was looking for a fight” and complained dropping White Lighter from the bill was “censorship.” Tuesday got between the man and Miller and asked him to leave.
Cline says the aggressive person was not “our friend, our ally or our acquaintance.” Tuesday doesn’t believe the person in question was affiliated with the band.
Tuesday says Gilman staff decided to cancel the rest of the show. Every band except headliners Yes Devil had played at that point. Tuesday says the staff was afraid the belligerent man would incite violence among those outside and already upset.
“Our staff being endangered just wasn’t worth having the rest of the show,” Miller said.
Patrons and members of Yes Devil who didn’t know about the fight, according to Tuesday, were upset and decided to side with White Lighter and continued heckling.
“One of them comes in and hops on the stage and says ‘Fuck 924 Gilman! They don’t even do their job right,’” Miller recounted.
Tuesday says as a safety precaution, all staff waited inside the venue for the bands to pack up their gear and merchandise before leaving. In the end, Miller says, nobody was hurt or attacked, but Miller says a drunk friend of the band threatened to “beat [his] ass.” Miller recalls another intoxicated person “smashed his [own] head on the wall and broke his [own] hand” in an apparently unrelated incident. Tuesday says someone threw a glass bottle at the door as staff waited for everyone to leave.
Cline, in an email to LCRW, said “I talked to the person who I understood to be the manager for the night, and came to an understanding with him that everything was cleared up. EVERYTHING was cleared up. EVERYONE KNEW I was not a Proud Boy, and everyone KNEW I was in no way out to cause harm to anyone.”
“My take on it is the Gilman staff overreacted, then handled it poorly after that,” said Stanley.
Tuesday and Joey Miller both stated their accounts and opinions are their own and not representative of the 924 Gilman collective. This article will be updated to include an official statement from the venue.
A member of the Gilman community sent LCRW an uncredited and undated screenshot of a Facebook post about the incident that had been circulating online.
The Facebook post alleges staff asked Cline to take off his Proud Boys hoodie and he refused. The post goes on to allege Cline’s “buddies who were also repping Piss Boys gear started harassing staff members and urinating on cars outside the venue.”
The term “Piss Boys” is commonly used to refer to the Proud Boys by opponents of the group, due to group members' purported fondness for claiming liberals threw urine on them at protests.
Tuesday says he didn’t give Cline the option of removing his Proud Boys hoodie and no one interviewed for this article remembers anyone other than Cline wearing Proud Boys attire.
Miller says members of the crowd, including White Lighter’s bassist Garrett Bell, were urinating on parked cars, however.
And White Lighter acquaintance Keppel said she remembers hearing about people “pouring beer on cars.”
Bell did not respond to requests for comment sent to him on Twitter and through White Lighter’s email at press time.
Klein says he saw “a couple guys pee at the other end of the block not on any cars” because security “wouldn’t let us in the venue whether they were a member of White Lighter or not.”
“I urinated on a fence down the street,” Cline says, but denies urinating on any cars and says he didn’t witness any such action from others.
“Even if they were kicked out of the venue they could have gone home,” Miller says, adding that close-by businesses also had open bathrooms.
Miller also says people urinated on the door of the venue while staff waited for the crowd to leave.
The day after the show, Dez Monroe of local band The Color Six posted a negative review on 924 Gilman’s Facebook page that concluded “Never coming back to this place, unless it’s to piss on the front door.”
Monroe called his review “an empty threat,” adding “I would not even waste my piss on that place.” He says his only retaliation against 924 Gilman was the Facebook review.
“The only piss I saw was pissed off people,” he said.
The day after the show, Cline posted an Instagram photo of graffiti on the wall of 924 Gilman that read “kill Trump” and seems to read “kill all republicans.”
“Well… @924gilmanstreet looks like your #safespace needs a new motto. Clearly not safe to all. Republicans are people too! Shame Shame,” Cline wrote on the post.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, Cline said “@924gilmanstreet If you try to get @itswhitelighter banned from ANY musical venue for MY OWN AND EXCLUSIVE political beliefes [sic], you will loose [sic] extremely fast. ive [sic] got way to [sic] much on you.”
On November 24th, the anti-fascist activist (Antifa for short) account @berkeleyantifa tweeted a photo of Cline wearing a Proud Boys hoodie along with the number of Oakland venue Elbo Room. White Lighter was supposed to play there the next day.
Superior Booking, who was in charge of the show, cancelled it and stated that they “have decided to drop the band White Lighter from all of our Bay Area events moving forward.” This included their appearance at DNA Lounge in San Francisco on December 2nd.
Superior Booking received at least one threat in return. Rob Cantrall, a Proud Boy who has attended violent rallies in Berkeley and Portland and threatened to burn down a far-left bookstore in a viral video in March, replied to Superior Booking’s tweet, saying “I am free not to give a shit….or bring all my boys to your shows.”
Cline has repeatedly stated that he is not a member of the Proud Boys. Three attendees LCRW spoke to, all of whom know members of White Lighter personally, said he was not involved with the Proud Boys and that no members of the group were at the show.
Miller said he thinks it was important to kick Cline out even if he wasn’t a member “because he’s spreading the word of a hate group.”
“If you’re not a Proud Boy, why are you wearing that shirt?” Miller said.
Cline says he thinks Proud Boys founder “Gavin McInnes is hilarious and misrepresented” and that his words are “taken out of context, even by people who are trying to agree with him.”
McInnes' white nationalist sympathies are well documented. He was a regular contributor to white supremacist website Taki’s Magazine, and has also written for white-supremacist outlets VDARE and American Renaissance. All are publishers of Richard Spencer’s work. He has been pictured with numerous white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, including members of the skinhead gang that participated in the assaults in New York City. And he once posted a video titled “10 Things I Hate About Jews," drawing praise from David Duke for the video’s false claim that on balance Jews have killed more people than the Holocaust.
Myles Klein, White Lighter’s manager, says he was aware of Ollie Cline’s “general opinions toward the Proud Boys,” but “didn’t have any clear understanding of what it was until after the event.” Klein says Cline’s political leanings came as a surprise to many who knew him from playing shows.
“Ollie has been going through major transitions in his beliefs in the past year or so. Figuring out who he aligns with politically. So I have to go more based on his actions than month to month opinions. I have never seen him do anything racist, sexist, etc,” Klein says.
“I have had lost many friends and respect from family members from my “coming out” as conservative,“ Cline said in a follow-up email.
Cline says he wanted to “start a conversation,” not “promote the group itself or affiliate myself with their actions.”
“I was living in a digital world that I thought was real and wanted to see what a non-digital response would be,” Cline adds.
“To actually admit that you wore that to provoke people like that–they got what they wanted,” Miller said when told of Cline’s motivation.
“No one’s personal safety should be compromised so that we can have a discussion about whether or not this band deserves to, I guess, say that they want to provoke this reaction,” Tuesday says. “It comes at the expense of real people’s safety and real people’s comfort and real people’s trauma. And we don’t tolerate that.”
“To me, this is the ultimate example of their blind faith to their progressive cult. A “Safe Space” if you will. My politics are not welcome, I see that now,” Cline said in his statement to LCRW.
“All of this chaos was never about my affiliation with the Proud Boys. ANTIFA could have easily asked the Gilman staff what had happened (Nov 3) and been clearly told that I was not a Proud Boy/had no malicious intent WHATSOEVER,” Cline continued in the email, stating that “This chaos they create is about targeting people who question the status quo. PROGRESSIVISM.”
“I’ve been fired from my Job, kicked out of venue after venue, and been called every Anti-White name you can think of. All within the confines of the “all inclusive” Bay Area,” he wrote.
In a follow-up, Cline says “I was not fired for the incident at 924 Gilman. I was fired later on for my political beliefs and the safety hazard of ANTIFA doxing me and my band a while later.” Cline declined to say where he was fired from.
Cline concluded his statement by saying “I am not a Nazi, I am not a White Nationalist, I am not Alt-Right, I am not homophobic, I am not Islamophobic, etc… All lies just propagated by the FAKE NEWS. And I am living, breathing proof of that.”
White Lighter has since been dropped from a January 6th gig at the Honey Hive Gallery in San Francisco.
“I understand why. It was a huge risk for a venue to take on for a variety of reasons,” Klein said.
Honey Hive Gallery did not respond to requests for comment at press time.
Cline stated he will not “be wearing/speaking about ANY conservative/nationalist ideology as long as I am still labeled racist, sexist and homophobic for my beliefs.” He emphasized that this policy is “in respect of my band members' (and only my band members) wishes.”
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