Fact check: An update on claims of Antifa and paid protesters from Chicago at the Oklahoma teacher walkout

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Members of Red Dirt Defense wear black clothing and red bandanas. Courtesy
Here’s your fact check for Day 5 of the Oklahoma teacher walkout.

After a long week, The Frontier has found the group who law enforcement may have identified as as Antifa at the Oklahoma teacher walkout. We’ve also tracked down the possible origins of Rep. John Enns claim that paid protesters from Chicago are present at the Oklahoma Capitol.

Members of the anti-racist, anti-fascist Oklahoma City-based group Red Dirt Defense attended protests at the state capitol this week to support Oklahoma teachers.

Members of the Oklahoma City-based group Red Dirt Defense. Courtesy

The group wears red bandanas and a lot of black clothing, similar to Antifa. Up until a few months ago, Red Dirt Defense was known as the Oklahoma City John Brown Gun Club and was affiliated with a far-left, anti-fascist network called Redneck Revolt.

Redneck Revolt members are sometimes described as “lefties with guns” and believe in “militant resistance” including arming the working class and marginalized people.

Matt, a member of Red Dirt Defense who runs the group’s Facebook page, said he and his friends have attended rallies at the capitol this week peacefully and without incident in support of teachers. Matt, an Oklahoma City resident, said he didn’t want The Frontier to use his last name because he wants to avoid online harassment from people who disagree with his political views.

He believes Oklahoma Highway Patrol may have been monitoring the group at the teacher walkout.

“I think basically, they are are aggravated by our support of the teacher strike,” Matt said.  “We have been there because we hope they can peacefully show what it’s like to not have teachers for a while and that people can demand action from our government.”

Earlier this week, OHP issued a statement saying it was monitoring a “growing number of outside protest groups” at the capitol during the teacher walkout.

“In the past, some of these groups have been known to show violent behavior during non-violent rallies,” OHP said in a release. 

In response to The Frontier’s questions about whether  Red Dirt Defense was one of the groups law enforcement had been monitoring at the state capitol, Capt. Paul Timmons said OHP would not comment on specific groups or individuals.

Matt said Red Dirt Defense began to attract negative attention from local law enforcement earlier this year after members protested a Confederate flag rally in Oklahoma City.

Red Dirt Defense members chanted things like “Cops and Klan go hand in hand” at police during the Confederate flag rally, but were not involved in any physical altercations, Matt said.

Red Dirt Defense members have stopped wearing their red bananas to the capitol this week because they fear drawing attention away from the teachers’ cause, he said.

“It’s not about us—its not about our antics or whatever,” Matt said. “We want the focus to be on the teachers. We want to stand in solidarity with them.” 

On Monday, Red Dirt Defense members were standing close to a group representing the nonprofit Democratic Socialists of America at the Oklahoma Capitol.

DSA had large red flags at the capitol rally, which could be confused with the red, black and white Antifa flag.

The Antifa flag

DSA is a socialist 501(c)4 nonprofit. With the help of the socialist magazine Jacobin, DSA members raised money to deliver about 200 pizzas to feed teachers at the state Capitol this week.

Will Hooten, communications chair for Oklahoma City DSA, said he and other democratic socialists from across Texas and Oklahoma had been attending rallies at the state Capitol all week in support of teachers. None of them are paid protesters, he said.

“We are very concerned about the tone that the government has been taking” Hooten said. “It’s very worrying to hear them going into the same anti-fascist and and paid protester rhetoric — I think it’s deeply worrying that instead of focusing on the teachers, they are trying to find a way to discredit the greater movement.” 

Hooten said he believes he knows where rumors about paid protesters from Chicago may have originated. Representatives from the International Socialist Organization from Chicago attended the rally at the state capitol on Monday in solidarity with DSA members, he said.

Attempts to reach a representative for the International Socialist Organization were unsuccessful.

Update: Alan Maass, who works for SocialistWorker.org, a news site published by the ISO, sent the following statement to The Frontier.

“We know a group of unionists and fellow educators who were down in Oklahoma on Monday to show their support for teachers and public workers, and they wrote a report for us about what they witnessed. They, of course, weren’t paid for doing any of this. Actually, no amount of money could have stopped them from going to Oklahoma to offer what support they could to their fellow teachers and unionists, and to oppose Republican dingbats like that nitwit at the Facebook post you linked to.”

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey grew up in Idaho. Oklahoma is her adopted home. Bailey has covered issues ranging from Oklahoma's strained child welfare system to the slow decline of Oklahoma's rural hospitals. She has walked all the way across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to south via Western Avenue and once via the old U.S. Route 66. Her hobbies are baking and crashing meetings she isn't invited to attend. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma. Email her at brianna@readfrontier.com
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