Last week, notorious right-wing provocateur and misinformation artist Roger Stone sat in a Washington, D.C. courtroom and stated that a team of Florida-based "volunteers" runs his social media accounts, handles his cell phone, and "revolves" in and out of his home. Stone listed three well-known members of the extremist group the Proud Boys: Tyler Ziolkowski, AKA Tyler Whyte, who founded the Florida chapter of the Proud Boys; Jacob Engels, an
Stone also listed a fourth, lesser-known "volunteer," Rey Perez. Now
Perez is also involved with Nova Southeastern University's College Republicans. (He was listed as the organization's president in at least one NSU page online.) And he appears to have clear ties to Turning Point USA, the millennial-focused campus conservative group that has been accused of being a breeding ground for alt-right college students. TPUSA itself is not expressly racist; instead, the group mostly shares memes stating that "socialism sucks" and "big government sucks." But the group continues getting outed for its connections to the fringe right. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of America's most prominent civil rights groups, said TPUSA has a "blooming romance with the alt-right."
Moreover, TPUSA's former Florida director, Juan Pablo Andrade, was caught on tape in May 2018 stating he was disappointed the Nazis did not "keep fucking going." And the New Yorker caught TPUSA's former national field director, Crystal Clanton, texting the following: “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all .?.?. I hate blacks. End of story.”
This past February 18, Stone posted an image on Instagram showing the judge in his case, Amy Berman Jackson, next to the crosshairs of a gun. That same day, a video of Perez sitting with Stone in the backyard of his Fort Lauderdale home was posted on YouTube by a podcaster who goes by Bobby Pickles.
In the clip, someone asks Perez what he does for Stone. Perez replies, "I manage his social media accounts, send his emails, things like that."
Stone said in court that he did not post the photo of Judge Jackson and that it could have been one of his volunteers. Stone has also said that it was a "random photo taken from the internet" and that he did not create it.
The same day the photo was posted, Perez shared a screenshot of the Google image search that leads to the photo on his own Facebook page and wrote, "Mainstream media and the deep state want to spin it like Roger Stone wants this judge dead."
One fellow NSU student, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation by the Proud Boys, says Perez appears frequently on campus with both Turning Point members and the College Republicans.
This is not the first time a South Florida's TPUSA chapter has been linked to the online alt-right. Last year, New Times obtained internal WhatsApp messages from Florida International University's TPUSA group. Those chats showed students affiliated with TPUSA making racist jokes, stating they watch cartoon pornography featuring underage girls, and sharing racist Pepe the Frog memes about Syrian refugees raping white European women at gunpoint. A chat moderator also warned TPUSA members not to "Jew hate" in the thread or reference avowed neo-Nazi Richard Spencer.
Perez's public Facebook posts illustrate the concern many observers have raised about TPUSA's pipeline to the alt-right. Before moving to Florida for college, Perez mainly posted about videogames or shared photos of himself playing music. He began college in fall 2017 and started posting some memes not long thereafter. By April 2018, he had shared a photo of himself with Charlie Kirk, who founded TPUSA, on Instagram.
Throughout the rest of the year, Perez frequently shared posts by Kirk and Candace Owens, a TPUSA representative who recently came under fire for her bizarre comments supporting Hitler. He posted memes calling Michelle Obama transgender and referred to rapper Cardi B as the "poster girl for worn out vaginas."
In October, Perez shared a post encouraging others to attend TPUSA's Campus Clash, an event at a local high school featuring Donald Trump Jr. (who later backed out).
The following month, on November 19, Perez shared a photo of himself holding a sign that read, "Make America Proud Again." An image of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon meme popular among the alt-right, had been added to the bottom left corner of the photo.
Around that time, he made the cover photo of his Facebook page a Proud Boys logo, shared screenshots of articles discussing the group, and referred to it as "we." He also became friends with many Proud Boys on Facebook. In December, he began posting videos of himself on YouTube in a series dubbed the ProudCast, where he appeared wearing the de facto Proud Boys uniform — a black and yellow Fred Perry polo — discussing things such as "toxic femininity" and "debunking how Latinos can't be illegal." He also shared a video of himself and other Proud Boys — including Tarrio dressed in a penis costume — at the Women's March in Orlando this past January. (Tarrio attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, but claims he left before violence broke out and a neo-Nazi murdered a woman.)
Perez did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking clarification on how he became involved with TPUSA and the Proud Boys. His girlfriend, whom New Times is declining to name because she does not appear to be affiliated with Stone and is a student, did not answer similar requests for comment. She is a member of the College Republicans at Nova Southeastern University. According to his girlfriend's Facebook page, she is a campus coordinator for TPUSA and has also shared transphobic memes.
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Nova Southeastern University's TPUSA chapter might not be the only TPUSA breeding ground for the fringe right in South Florida. A photo shared by the group's regional director for Florida and the South, Driena Sixto, just last week shows three students in Florida Atlantic University's TPUSA chapter flashing the "OK" hand signal favored by Proud Boys and other members of the online alt-right.
Sixto did not respond to an email asking to clarify the pair's membership with TPUSA. Turning Point is perhaps most infamous for the actions of its Kent State University chapter: Students at that school tried to troll campus liberals and leftists by walking around in adult diapers.
Stone, meanwhile, apologized in court for the image of Judge Jackson posted to his social media account. Jackson did not accept the apology and ordered that both Stone and his associates quit speaking about the case in public. As BuzzFeed News reported over the weekend, Stone's Proud Boys team has continued to defend him in what might be a violation of the gag order.
That includes Perez, who tweeted Friday: "As much as the liberal media want to spin #RogerStoneArrested into evidence of #RussianCollusion, it only shows our innocence and their evil deeds, what a bunch of sore losers."