Founders defend mission of Patriots Pushing Back group after being linked to Nevada City protest
Unless you spend a lot of time on social media, less than two months ago you probably were — at best — only peripherally aware of Patriots Pushing Back, a Facebook group started by Nevada County residents Ali Behr and Claude Dixon.
That all changed after Aug. 9, when a Black Lives Matter protest organized for downtown Nevada City was met by a group of counter-demonstrators who caused multiple physical confrontations.
After the incident, Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis noted the counter-protesters were waving Thin Blue Line flags as a show of support for the police, but said the actions and behavior did nothing more than put the community in danger and would “absolutely” not be tolerated. Since then, three men have been charged with assault and battery, and Ellis said this week that one more case is still under review.
In the wake of the protest, a number of counter-protestors were linked to Patriots Pushing Back, leading organizers to make a public statement that it is “not a violent retaliation group against BLM, and we do not condone violence.”
In the statement, Behr said there were several peaceful members of Patriots Pushing Back at the protest who were there “in an attempt to protect our small town of Nevada City against any potential violence or disturbance.”
Behr stated many BLM protestors were violent and said one of her group’s members was spit on, bit, hit and run over by a bicycle. According to Ellis, the Nevada City police department has received no assault complaints from any of the counter-protestors.
“The people that were pushed to their breaking point were not specifically from our PPB group,” Behr wrote, adding they were “apparently residents … simply trying to protect their community from looting, rioting and violence that has been occurring by BLM rioters across the globe.”
In an interview, Behr cited the Aug. 9 protest flyer shared by the Black Lives Matter group that included a cartoon person holding a sign that said “ACAB,” or All Cops Are Bastards, as proof of violent intent.
Behr acknowledged that fear of “outside agitators” has been disseminated by national news coverage of rioting and violent protests as one trigger for the events of Aug. 9.
“We see media about Black Lives Matter, we hear they are coming to town,” she said. “In our mind, our town is going to get burned, there’s going to be riots and violence — we’re picturing it as the media shows us. …People kept hearing that antifa was coming to town.”
Behr and Dixon, as it happens, were out of town that day.
“It went so horribly wrong, on so many levels,” Behr said, adding the counter-protestors “truly thought they were protecting their town.”
Genesis of Patriots Pushing Back
Behr said she started the Facebook group as a way to provide a voice for conservatives in the community who were frustrated about the COVID-19 shutdowns.
She had been training to become an esthetician and had her testing delayed. Once she passed, she said, the salons got closed down.
That, combined with watching the effects on school children and on business owners, made her determined to speak out.
“It was beginning to feel like we were losing our rights,” Behr said. “I wanted to find a voice for people to express their concerns.”
Faced with backlash after she posted on local Facebook groups, Behr decided to start her own group for “like-minded” people, to gain support and to fight back against closures and mask orders forced by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“We wanted to get people together to talk about important issues,” Dixon said.
Patriots Pushing Back launched in July and was initially primarily local, Behr said. It has become a national sounding board and currently has more than 12,700 members.
“Within 28 days, the group grew to 10,000 people,” Behr said, adding she was unsure why. “We never purposely shifted direction. After the Aug. 9 protest, all of a sudden we got pegged as an anti-BLM group. But it was never about that, it was always about supporting our country, supporting our police and our military.”
Dixon, a medically retired Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, came under criticism for making posts that were viewed as promoting violence.
Behr eventually made Dixon take his profile down temporarily. It is now set to private. He has also removed himself from the Patriots Pushing Back Group, Behr said, “because of the bad light he cast on the group.”
“I don’t necessarily agree with his Facebook posts, but that’s his freedom of speech,” she said, attributing his propensity for inflammatory comments to PTSD.
“I know in my heart what a wonderful man he is,” Behr said.
For his part, Dixon remains unrepentant as to his statements.
“I swore an oath to defend the Constitution,” he said. “When you are attacking (this) country, that is treason and the penalty for treason is death. I believe that either you love this country, or (you should) go move. There are plenty of countries that offer socialism. You can’t destroy this country. … There’s not one peaceful thing about Black Lives Matter, not one.”
After Aug. 9
Both Behr and Dixon complained of being harassed and “doxxed” after the Aug. 9 protest, and felt they were vilified at an Aug. 21 Nevada City Council meeting.
“What is unfortunate is that it has caused such a greater divide in our community,” Behr said. “I’ve had so many people attack me, I’ve lost so many friends, I’ve blocked so may people. I’m peaceful by nature — I don’t like conflict. I just want things to go back to what we stood for. It’s been hard because we can’t get away from it.”
Behr said that in recent weeks, she has been trying to circle back with Patriots Pushing Back and remind people why they started the group in the first place.
“We want to support the community in positive ways,” she said. “I would love it if we could come together and hash out our differences. Our community has taken one hit after another. … We want to mend fences and move forward and represent ourselves accurately.”
While the recent Freedom Ride was not organized by Patriots Pushing Back, Behr promoted it on the page.
The group is co-hosting a Fallen Heroes Rally from 3-6 p.m. this afternoon at the Neal Street Safeway in Grass Valley, in conjunction with Back the Blue Nevada County.
“Please bring your flags and dress patriotically to show support for the red, white and blue,” the event post states. “This is a family friendly, zero tolerance for violence event. If you antagonize or perpetuate any violence you will be removed from the event and the group.”
Behr said that Back the Blue organizers did talk to the Grass Valley Police Department about the event and concerns were expressed about the participation of Patriots Pushing Back. In response, she said, she has gone to great lengths to stress the non-violent nature of the rally, in order to honor Back the Blue’s good name with law enforcement.
“We have put a lot of thought and energy to trying to come together with the Back the Blue (group), to move into a place where there is strength in numbers with our cause,” Behr said Friday. “The rally is nothing political, nothing anti-BLM. It’s to honor the heroes of 9/11 and try to resonate with the way the American people felt the day after 9/11. That’s why we decided to have it on the 12th, to bring back the feeling, the strength we had as a nation that day. Everyone had their flags out, everyone was being kind to one another. We want to remind each other who we are as the American people.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User