UCLA Student Christian Secor Charged In Capitol Riot Known For Extremist Views A college student charged in the U.S. Capitol riot was known on campus for his far-right views, which were nurtured by an online extremist. How do colleges confront extremism in their midst?

UCLA Student Charged In Capitol Riot Took Inspiration From Online Extremist

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Justice Department continues to charge more people for allegedly storming the U.S. Capitol. One recent case involves a 22-year-old student at the University of California, Los Angeles. NPR has been investigating how and why young people have been radicalized. And NPR investigative correspondent Tom Dreisbach has this look at that student.

A note for our listeners - this story contains details that some may find offensive or disturbing.

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UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Treason. Treason.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hey. Let's take a seat, people.

TOM DREISBACH, BYLINE: It's January 6. A group of rioters have reached the Senate chamber and are rifling through senators' desks, some taking documents. One of the rioters, a young guy in a red MAGA hat and with a blue America-First flag sits down in the same chair that then-Vice President Mike Pence was in just hours before.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Belongs to the vice president of the United States.

DREISBACH: Another rioter yells for him to get out because it's bad for their image.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's not our chair.

DREISBACH: The young guy gives a kind of smirk and says, but we just broke into the Capitol. Federal prosecutors say that guy is Christian Secor, a 22-year-old student from UCLA. His attorney declined to comment to NPR. In court, his attorney conceded that the evidence he was in the Capitol is incontrovertible, though argued he was not violent that day. Not long after this video was published by The New Yorker, a lot of his classmates recognized him like, Aidan Arasasingham.

AIDAN ARASASINGHAM: Once we saw him, I don't think we were surprised that it was him. And I think that's the problem.

DREISBACH: In fact, for about a year before the riot, students had been raising concerns about Christian Secor and his far-right, anti-immigrant ideology. That hit home for students like Arasasingham, whose parents immigrated from Sri Lanka. One of the biggest warning signs was Secor's support for an extremist named Nick Fuentes.

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NICK FUENTES: My name is Nicholas J. Fuentes. We have a great show for you tonight - very excited to be back with you.

DREISBACH: Fuentes, like Secor, is 22 years old. He live streams a show online called "America First," and he did not respond to NPR's requests for comment. On top of racist, homophobic and misogynist rants, Fuentes has repeatedly engaged in Holocaust denial. He also pushes white supremacist propaganda and has called for an end to all immigration to keep America white.

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FUENTES: We are standing in front of this big thing called demographic change - the racial displacement of the native people in the country - and we're saying, stop.

DREISBACH: At UCLA, Christian Secor was a member of the campus Republicans, then started his own group, America First Bruins, named after Fuentes' show and the UCLA mascot. And on Twitter, Secor pushed the anti-Semitic propaganda that Jewish people have too much power in the U.S.

Grayson Peters is a Jewish UCLA student, and he saw Secor's Twitter feed as a threat.

GRAYSON PETERS: I was certainly concerned not that it would immediately lead to violence but that it would create an unwelcome culture.

DREISBACH: So your sense, looking at the Twitter feed, was that it was racist, anti-Semitic and fascist.

PETERS: That is entirely correct.

DREISBACH: So Peters wrote an essay about Secor and his group for a campus Jewish publication. Secor's response to that essay raised even more concerns.

Here's Secor talking to a far-right podcast last summer.

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CHRISTIAN SECOR: These people are just liars. They lie through their teeth. They know they're lying. These people are essentially enemy combatants, and they have to be dealt with that way. I don't mean it like that, but...

DREISBACH: In that same podcast, Secor talked about his love of guns and said he wanted to legalize fully automatic weapons, and that scared students because Secor allegedly used a video-streaming platform under the name Scuffed Elliot Rodger, a reference to a misogynist who killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif., near UC Santa Barbara back in 2014. So students said they took their concerns to the UCLA administration. UCLA told NPR it could not comment on Secor's case. Public universities like UCLA face a challenge when dealing with students like Secor because they're legally constrained by the First Amendment.

ELISSA BUXBAUM: Hate speech most often is free speech.

DREISBACH: That's Elissa Buxbaum of the Anti-Defamation League. She says a public university cannot expel a student for hate speech that does not cross the line into a violent threat. But she argues schools can - and should - respond by actively condemning hate on campus.

BUXBAUM: So just because someone's allowed to spread messages of hate doesn't mean that it goes unnoticed or without opposition.

DREISBACH: After Secor's arrest, the school condemned the Capitol riot, but students said they were disappointed that UCLA did not specifically condemn Secor's extremist ideology too - like Oona Flood, a Japanese American student who had been worrying about Secor for a year.

OONA FLOOD: UCLA definitely could have seen this coming, and it's just such a tragedy that they didn't.

DREISBACH: Federal prosecutors now cite Grayson Peters' essay about Secor as well as screenshots of Secor's tweets taken by UCLA students. So in the criminal case against Christian Secor, a year's worth of warnings are now evidence.

Tom Dreisbach, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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