Update July 9: This photo has been deleted off Hunter's social media. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison stated, “Congressman Hunter has never supported or been accused of supporting white supremacy and if anyone were to espouse any such beliefs in a photo with Congressman Hunter they did so without his knowledge or consent,” Harrison said in an email. “To be clear, Congressman Hunter does not personally know this individual, or what his views may be.”
Updated July 7 with information on identity of the man standing next to Hunter: Kristopher Wyrick, founder of an avowed white nationalist organization. Updated July 8 with statement from Ammar Campa-Najjar.
By Miriam Raftery
July 6, 2019 (Alpine) – A photo making the rounds on social media claims Congressman Duncan D Hunter spent the Fourth of July in the company of white nationalists. A photo shows Hunter standing next to a man flashing a hand signal that’s commonly used as a white power symbol as well as A-okay sign. The image was cropped down from a group photo taken in Alpine, where Rep. Hunter participated in the town’s annual 4th of July Independence Day Parade.
However, the man in the photo has an apparent history of participating in and leading groups that espouse white nationalist positions and of violence against protesters as shown in videos.
According to a Times of San Diego report published July 7, the man flashing the white power sign is believed to be Kristopher Wyrick, a cofounder of the Bordertown Patriots, a white nationalist group that organized an event at Chicano Park that reportedly resulted in clashes with counterprotesters and multiple arrests. Wyrick is also reportedly a former member of San Diego Proud Boys and the United Patriot National Front. Will Johnson, who has had two court battles with Wyrick, told Times of San Diego that he's certain it's Wyrick in the photo because "I've seen him so many times." Johnson sought a restraining order against Wyrick but lost; Wyrick later won a small claims court against Johnson over lost work time and gun storage costs.
Wyrick did not respond to requests for comments from Times of San Diego, an ECM news partner, says editor Ken Stone.
Above is the cropped photo circulated on social media sites. Below is the full image, as tweeted on Rep. Hunter’s Twitter feed with a message reading, “Happy Independence Day. God bless those who fought for it. The struggle for freedom is forever. The photo was one of several, including an image of Hunter marching in the parade."
In the 2016 book, "The Gilded Rage" by Aleander Zaitchik, the Wyricks told the author that Hunter is a friend who shops at Alpine Motorsports, the business owned by the Wyricks. Kristopher Wyrick also described patrollinng the border, armed with a gun, as part of a Minuteman border vigilant group.
Asked whether Rep. Hunter was aware of the white nationalist symbol when he tweeted the image, Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison e-mailed a one-word response: “Ridiculous.”
In an e-mail to Times of San Diego, Harrison elaborated, "Congressman Hunter walked in the 4th of July parades in both Alpine and Julian and was happy to take pictures with many constituents, which he has always done,” Harrison said via email. “But to be clear, Congressman Hunter denounces and repudiates any beliefs in white supremacy and if anyone were to espouse any such beliefs in a photo with Congressman Hunter they did so without his knowledge.”
Wyrick has denied being a white supremacist, telling a Berkeley news outlet after he was arrested and releaed without charges at a protest that "My umbrella is the American umbrella. Color lines, I don't see them." According to the Los Angeles Times, he was arrested on suspicion of fighting in public.
However, Wyrick has a history of participating in aggressive clashes including at least one at an event where Hunter was the key speaker. Johnson claims to have been assaulted by Wyrick in 2017 when Rep. Hunter was hosting a pro-wall rally with Jeff Schwilk (photo, right; screenshot off vide), San Diego Free Press reported. Schwilk founded the San Diego Minutemen, described by the SPLC as a "particularly virulent nativist extremist group" that was "making a thuggish name for itself" that prompted a police investigation. Schwilk's new group, San Diegans for Secure Borders, was shut down by Facebook, according to a post by Schwilk.
Johnson says he was approached by Wyrick, his son and others. Johnson claims that after verbal taunts, the attacks turned violent. Wyrick and his son "began to sucker punch and attack our protesters," he says. Despite videos of the clashes, Wyrick was not arrested. View video, in which violence escalates around minute seven: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Hit1fqIOSXmpE2LObFE5BC-de3Smkm1s/view
In March 2019, Jaime Chambers of Fox5 shot video of a man who appears to be Wyrick punching another man in the face at a Bernie Sanders rally at Waterfront Park: https://mobile.twitter.com/jaimechambers/status/1109282722906689536
Wyrick and the San Diego Proud Boys reportedly earlier disrupted an anti-impeachment march and rally at Waterfront Park in 2017, forcing the rally to halt. According to San Diego Free Press, "The Southern Poverty Law Center called this group an “Alt-Right Fight Club” in an article following the April street fighting in Berkeley, California. Many of the disrupters came down from Orange County. Some wore helmets and appeared as though they were ready for combat; others kept their battle gear tethered to their belts or hidden under American flag capes they wore."
In Alpine, Wyrick has also drawn praise for his actions during the West Fire in Alpine a year ago, when he drove a woman and her dogs to safety, also alerting others of the fast-moving fire, Times of San Diego reported.
To date, none of the Republican candidates vying for Hunter's seat have spoken out on this issue.
Hunter's Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, issued the following statement to the media on July 8. “When Congressman Hunter leaves the courtroom today, he should stand in front of the press and clearly and unequivocally denounce white supremacy, in light of recent news reports. Congressman Hunter has remained completely silent, choosing instead to hide behind staff. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Congressman Hunter has lost all ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. It’s one scandal after another, one embarrassing news story after another, one potential crime after another, one courtroom appearance after another. The people of this District simply deserve better than all of this. We need a Congressman who will focus on the people’s needs -- making health care more affordable and good jobs more available – rather than this circus that Congressman Hunter creates with his embarrassing conduct."