Earlier this month, a day after former President Donald Trump announced he would speak at the group’s annual summit alongside fellow Republican presidential candidates Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated Moms for Liberty as an “anti-government extremist” organization for the first time. “The group’s primary goals are to fuel right-wing hysteria and to make the world a less comfortable or safe place for certain students–primarily those who are Black, LGBTQ or who come from LGBTQ families,” the SPLC said in its report published this week.In an emailed statement to VICE News, Moms for Liberty dismissed the designation as “name-calling” and said “no amount of hate from groups like [the SPLC] is going to stop” what its members are doing.
The attacks didn’t just come from Moms for Liberty members, Caballero said; they also came from members of a local Proud Boys chapter.
“The common mission”
In those chats, Jiménez-Hincapie can be seen interacting with Tarrio prior to the revelations in January 2021 that he once worked as a police informant about a decade ago. In one message, Tarrio compares Moms for Liberty to the “gestapo with vaginas.”
“There's an ongoing campaign by these neo-Nazi groups to radicalize some of these more benign patriot MAGA groups—and it's working.”
Other extremist links
In Florida, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, he asked Moms for Liberty member Alicia Farrant to speak about her role in getting the book Gender Queer banned from the Orange County School District.“I knew I could not remain silent, so I partnered with my friend Jacob Engels, who is part of the LGB[T] community and also a reporter, who helped me expose the book at one of our school board meetings,” Farrant, who is now a school board member in Orange County, said at the press conference in March 2022.What Farrant failed to tell the assembled reporters that day was that Engels is a member of the Proud Boys, an acolyte of Roger Stone, and a notorious figure in Florida’s far-right community.When asked by VICE News about her relationship to Engels, Farrant did not respond. Engels told VICE News that he has never been a member of the Proud Boys and was a journalist “simply documenting the [Proud Boys] organization over the years.” When asked why he was pictured as part of a group of Proud Boys while wearing the distinctive uniform of a black and yellow Fred Perry t-shirt, Engels said:”I have been wearing Fred Perry for years, long before Proud Boys adopted it as a look.”
Across the country, Moms for Liberty chapters have forged close relationships with other far-right extremist groups.
“In fact we have people who are ready for war. Because we are in a war of good versus evil. And historically, to win that war, it becomes an actual civil war.”
Pauley is a member of the activist group Red, Wine and Blue, and has been vocal in calling out the activities of Moms for Liberty and other extremist groups in her district. As a result, like the others standing up to the group, she and her family have been harassed."My kids have been a target. My son has been called a pedophile and a groomer. He's 17 years old,” Pauley said.She also recounted an incident a few months ago with her 11-year-old daughter when they were verbally attacked by someone who has campaigned for Moms for Liberty candidates in local elections.“A mom walked into the shop with her daughter, a little bit older than mine, and said 'Oh look the pedophile queen is here.' She shouted it so my daughter instantly went to the next aisle to hide her face,” Pauley said. “The woman told an older couple to keep their children away from me, that I was a pedophile and groomer. My daughter was hysterical, crying. Pauley said she had seen the same woman at events hosted by the Rod of Iron Ministries.These connections appear to only be growing. In Florida, Moms for Liberty have been linked to the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs movement; in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, the group has ties to the far-right Patriots Network militia; and in northern Kentucky, a local Moms for Liberty chapter brought in Pastor Jon Schrock, who is affiliated with the far-right John Birch Society, to talk to its members about defunding public education.At the event, Schrock shared the oft-repeated conspiracy that elementary school teachers are pushing critical race theory. Teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) is, according to Schrock, tantamount to emotionally manipulating children. He’s also claimed that math is racist. “Two plus two can equal broccoli,” Schrock said, in a video recording of the presentation viewed by VICE News.Ultimately, Schrock got around to telling the Moms for Liberty his main recommendation: Pastors should replace teachers in an education system that is rooted in Christian fundamentalism. “Because public school teachers are grooming your kids for sex trafficking.” Schrock did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment.“There is a direct link between Moms for Liberty and other anti-American groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers,” Karen Svboda, the co-founder of Defense of Democracy, an activist group countering Moms for Liberty, told VICE News. “We are concerned that the connections between these groups will go quickly from acts of verbal terrorism and harassment to physical acts of violence. We have seen firsthand that Moms for Liberty will attack people and groups over social media, and these attacks almost always escalate.”
"My kids have been a target. My son has been called a pedophile and a groomer. He's 17 years old,” Pauley said.