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On June 10th, Santee’s queer community rallied for its first Pride Walk. Hundreds gathered at Santee United Methodist to hear speakers prior to marching down one of the city’s main streets. The rally was surveilled by associates of known far-right figures, as was the march, who also loudly antagonized them.
As attendees convened on church grounds, a silver sedan pulled into the lot across the street. After a small crowd had gathered, one of the passengers exited the vehicle to take photos of the event. Another passenger spoke into their phone, possibly relating crowd size and position to the far-right group up the road. Some attendees later bragged about the surveillance on social media.
“[W]e had people on every block as soon as they saw us… their march no longer mattered and they exposed themselves,” wrote Exiled Patriots founder Mike Forzano.
A religious heckler harassed the rally from across the street, shouting homophobic screeds into a megaphone. Some attendees drifted over to try to obstruct the heckler, who continued to yell.
During the rally, the mayor of Santee spoke. He told the crowd that he faced backlash after publicly supporting the event—citing angry calls and emails.
Christynne Wood also attended. Wood was targeted by a coalition of far-right groups in January for using the YMCA locker room while trans—and was subjected to a litany of lies and smears.
Robin Nicky Patch and others filmed attendees as they passed an apartment complex on Cottonwood and Mission Gorge Road. A small contingent of attendees attempted to block Patch and others from filming the march.
A group of seven other far-right agitators were posted at the intersection of Cuyamaca and MIssion Gorge Road. They waited to harass Pride attendees outside a Taco Bell. Among them were Mike Forzano of the groups Exiled Patriots and Defend East County. San Diego LEXIT’s VP, who goes by Carlos, was also with the group. A local told me they’d seen the group there hours prior, in the morning.
Some attendees stood between the counter-protesters and the Pride march. They used umbrellas to obstruct the far-right group’s cameras.
Within minutes, Sheriff’s deputies put themselves between the two groups with their backs to the far-right group–despite Forzano and others openly carrying knives while the attendees were unarmed.
Forzano has attended numerous far-right demonstrations in Southern California with his current and former crews. He’s been a frequent ally to Proud Boys and white supremacists. He attended the anti-trans rallies in Santee following the hate campaign against Christynne Wood, an anti-choice rally in Santa Monica, and an anti-drag rally in Los Angeles. He also provided security for an event attended by Mike Pomepo in 2021, where he was maced. He admitted to having met with the group Shield of David in a video posted to social media.
Carlos also attended the anti-choice rally in Santa Monica and the anti-trans rallies in Santee. He posed with a group hoisting flags in March—The Christian Nationalist ”An Appeal to Heaven” flag among them.
LEXIT has recently been losing members. Some of those who left have condemned the group’s violent tendencies.
“LEXIT has known about the violent tendencies and integrity issues with some of their leaders and members for some time,” former member Carmen Estel said in an instagram story, going on to say that “[w]hen asked to remedy these issues…they chose to do nothing.”
Both Carlos and Forzano have since bragged about their surveillance on social media. Carlos wrote that anti-fascists had no idea they were being watched by the far-right group, but several attendees indicated that the group was stationed at Taco Bell before the march started. Attendees pointed out spotters throughout the day as well. “No sexual acts took place, just like we wanted,” wrote Carlos. The right has falsely accused the queer community of pedophilia for many years.
On the return trip, several vehicles heckled the march. One vehicle “rolled coal,” or intentionally discharged smog on the marchers twice. Another driver told the attendees to “get out of my neighborhood.”
Once the marchers made it back to the church, that morning’s heckler returned. After accusing attendees of pedophilia, they described graphic sex acts and “loose anuses” in detail into the megaphone.
Since the march, Forzano has attempted to doxx some of the attendees who placed themselves between the counter-protesters and the rest of the Pride event.