Defend the Tri leader Dylan Tafoya announced he intends to delete his Facebook group “around noon” today, but that doesn’t necessitate the end of militia activity in the Tri-Cities.
A Tumbleweird editorial yesterday called for Defend the Tri and other militias to disband for the good of the community, but there was no indication of that piece having any influence on Tafoya’s decision.
“I never intended for the group to become the size that it did and I believe 90% of the issues 99% of the lies and 100% of my friends choosing to cancel me would not have happened had I not started the group,” Tafoya said in a public statement released today on Facebook.
Tafoya asked the post to be included in full in any media publication. In respect of his request, we have included the full text at the bottom of this article.
Tafoya indicated that from the beginning of the group, there was a challenge suppressing racist posts and hateful comments.
“Before we hit 5000 members we started to see a shift from defend businesses to a lot of hateful comments, harassing other members, and worst, such as racists comments. I collaborated with the other admins and we removed hundreds of members and thousands of comments, after we saw the way things were going we chose to turn off the ability to post without an admin approving it,” Tafoya said.
Despite enduring personal pushback from friends and the challenge of the whack-a-mole moderation of racist and hateful comments, he says, “so yeah I would do it again just very differently!”
“I want to thank everyone who was apart of this adventure and to the people who’s life I made hard, I’m sorry. To the people that think I’m a racist, I’m not,” Tafoya said.
A conclusion of the largest Facebook group embracing ad hoc militia activity does not necessarily ensure the end of this behavior, despite nearly 10,000 community members adding their name to a petition asking local leaders to enforce state law which considers this behavior illegal.
Kennewick Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Lee has been asking the City of Kennewick questions about the militias and raising concerns about the City’s response.
“If Defend the Tri are the good guys and they go away, who are the guys left behind and what are their motives?” Lee asked in the wake of Tafoya's announcements.
Based on both Tafoya’s own statements and Tumbleweird’s conversations with multiple anonymous sources, there are several armed groups operating which do not consider themselves represented by Tafoya’s leadership.
Beyond the negative comments about Tafoya from those who were banned from his group, this discrepancy is well illustrated by the existence of other militia groups active on social media, as well as the behavior of one man who allegedly brandished a weapon and intimidated protestors last Friday in Richland, and a man who protesters say pointed a rifle at them during last Saturday’s Kennewick protest.
Further, one source informed Tumbleweird that the group which stopped Javan Williams from entering the Burger King parking lot but allowed a car of white people to enter has continued to operate while stating they have no affiliation with Defend the Tri.
Before the group Patriots in the Tri Always was taken private, there were over two dozen posts made yesterday regarding the protests this weekend.
Dylan and the Defenders may be standing down, but the ad hoc militia dream lives on.
Here is the full text of Tafoya’s post:
The follow statement on defend the tri shall not be used by any media source if reduced in size. It shall only be shared in it’s entirety. This is very long so I want to give a very short version of my comments. Defend the tri was never created to suppress anyone’s voice, I’m extremely sorry if anyone took it that way. The community deserves protection, the country needs reform. Please consider thanking local PD for all the work we put them through, hopefully it wasn’t too much extra, I am not a writing pro so please ignore any punctuation or grammar errors.
I wanted to take a second and address the craziness that is “Defend The Tri” and all of the things that have formed around it. I will not be making another statement so please get all the way through this if you wanna comment. On one Monday morning I read a news article about the previous evening where multiple businesses had been vandalized I thought to myself “how could this happen in Tri-Cities?” I have been (like everyone) following the BLM and George protests. I believe greatly in all of these protests, I am so so saddened that we live in a community, let alone a nation where racism exists. This NEEDS to change. Later that Monday afternoon I was commenting on a post that a friend of mine had shared and the idea for people to stand outside businesses came up but we needed a way to organize, a Facebook group seemed like a perfect way for us to organize, I had no idea what it would become, I expected around 50 members(that seemed like a great contribution to the community). About 3 hours into the Facebook groups creation I got a message from a friend that said “dude it’s blowing up” I checked the page and it had almost 3,000 members. I was in shock. I immediately required multiple questions to get into the group and I reached out to a few friends that I trusted to moderate and be admins in the group. This was unsuccessful because Facebook allowed anyone who answered all the questions into the group. I didn’t realize this until almost 5,000 members. Before we hit 5000 members we started to see a shift from defend businesses to a lot of hateful comments, harassing other members, and worst, such as racists comments. I collaborated with the other admins and we removed hundreds of members and thousands of comments, after we saw the way things were going we chose to turn off the ability to post without an admin approving it. We were notified the following day of a group called “Defend The Tri Always” This group had the same intentions but had no plans to filter content (which we already saw the outcome of and had no intention of going back too). The funny part about our group is we received so many hateful comments during the day but at night everything was absolutely amazing! We had hundreds of people who were all showing their support in different ways, many with firearms, many with concealed weapons that they carry on a daily basis, many without any weapon at all, all of these were great. I met so many amazing people and we had so many good conversations. This country is currently full of hatred and divide and I can confidently say we say saw dozens of groups that were having some of the most open and honest conversations I saw people disagree and continue in respecting each other, I saw people laughing and exchanging numbers. This made me feel like the group was not only helping deter destruction from local businesses but also growing the actual community.
Then day time where a lot of the absolutely terrible comments would come from reoccurred. We (The admins) had people threatening the businesses we worked for, my specific workplace received calls asking why we were racists and told us we had it coming and expect our windows to be shattered. One of the admins chose to step down as he was a business owner and had to make the smart call for his business. Many people talked about our personal lives, many of the admin’s wives received messages asking why their husband was a racist and saying things like we know where you live, you should be more careful, some extremely vulgar things as well. I was called many things that I would never even think to say such as fuckstick, a despicable motherfucker, a fat-ass, some even went to the legnth of telling me I better believe in more than sweet baby Jesus if things went south. This is not even a small % of what was said to me.
I was contacted by all local police agencies at different times and had the opportunity to meet with other organizing admins at Kennewick PD one day. I was told there would be 3-4 groups with 2-3 people from each group showing up, this was not as simple as it sounded. The only outsiders were myself and a fellow defend the tri admin, everyone else knew each other and it quickly turned into a 12 vs 2(not all were present at the time of the picture taken and posted by KPD) We went over many things and had some good conversations, I saw us all growing throughout the meeting and at one point had one of the BLM organizers defending me during a heated moment of the conversations, this erased the 12v2 mindset I had up to that point. We established a couple major things in that meeting, the first being Defend the Tri was not and will never be against any protests, nor will they attend because Defend the Tri only occurs at a local business where permission has been granted. The second thing we established is that we all wanted the same thing, protests that are non-destructive and overall safe! We left the meetings with the understanding and agreement that we would all be making a statement on our pages, adding each other and meeting the following day for a press conference(requested by the Chief), unfortunately I was informed later that day that all the group had spoken to their peer admins and that NONE of the other groups would allow me to be in their groups and they had blocked me. This felt like a step backwards but I did not express that I simply said “I understand, it’s hard to put stuff in motion when not all the admins could make it.” Nor was a post made by the other groups about Defend The Tri to my knowledge.
This is where the media start to pick up tons of headlines, we had reports of media telling people that everyone hates Defend the Tri and everyone hates Dylan, and that ultimately led to many people scared to admit they were in the group so they could avoid an interview or being labeled a racist. I was standing right next to a reporter while he did an interview (he had no idea who I was at the time) he then interviewed me an hour later and tried to say the interviewee I was next to claimed they hated me and more. I informed him that he didn’t realize it but I was present at the interview and those were all lies, this starts the downhill chapter.
I had received hundreds of messages 30% good 30% bad 20% curious on the intentions and 10% asking why they hadn’t been accepted yet or why their post hadn’t been posted. I would like to take note that there have been some very public things brought up recently claiming we were in the wrong and they don’t like or approve of the group and I have messages from those people praising the group. I also had a direct line with KPD 2-3 times a day confirming what we were doing was okay. Which ultimately was standing outside of a business and calling the police if someone screamed at us, or chose the throw stuff at us.
We did NOT have any other social media nor did we have members who were apart of defend the tri that were entrapping people or pulling guns and pointing them at people. I saw videos and I asked multiple people about the videos taken and none of these people were in the group nor wanted to be associated with the group (due to the bad press).
I want to apologize to the community if at any point we misrepresented our mission/vision, I want to remind you I thought this would be 50 people and had no clue that I needed an entire team to help manage it. I also want to apologize to any police agency that had extra work due to our presence, we only received positive words from the police about our vision but regardless this is something that I could foresee becoming worrisome for them to control. The biggest thing that we lost control of was all the people who were motivated by our group but not apart of nor wanted to be associated with us, we are saddened that many of these people didn’t want to be apart of the group and it was frustrating for me personally because everyone was being tied to the group and their bad actions came with them. For those of you not in the group I wanted to share a post that represents the verbiage used multiple times a day to clarify what we were asking of people.
“ 1. This group is at a local business, the second you leave a local business you do not represent this group
2. We do not detain or entrap and we will continue to make sure these things do not happen
3. Do you need a gun to come hang out? No not at all we love all the support we can get firearm or not
4. ...If you go to a protest you are not representing this group... these groups are asking for peaceful protest gun free....”
5. Agitation is possible, Agitation will not be coming from any local group(which we already knew) so Please don’t take your comments out on those groups. If you are confronted, call the police.
These statements were made often and we believed strongly about informing the group everyday about who we were.
This brings me to a final point that ultimately is not fun to talk about, what this group cost me. It started with the hateful comments from strangers, then it moved to having to moderate racism (which broke me inside to even see, we banned them), then it escalated to my family that I hadn’t seen in a long time asking tons of questions and honestly I didn’t have the time to handle this by the second day let alone answer all these personal questions from my distant family. The last one is the biggest and that’s my friends. I received very few calls from friends but the ones I did I will never forget... the first one started with someone asking how things were going with the group, I replied stressful, then a question I never expected. “How are you handling everyone in the friend group being against you?” I didn’t know they were against me I replied, this crushed me. Then another call from a friend telling me what I was doing wrong with the group. 90% I already knew and that was tough because I didn’t have any good answers I only could respond with one line over and over and over to dozens of people. “I understand and I’m sorry.” I’ve never said I’m sorry so many times in my life. I never intended for the group to become the size that it did and I believe 90% of the issues 99% of the lies and 100% of my friends choosing to cancel me would not have happened had I not started the group. So the big question would I do it again? It probably sounds crazy but yeah I would because I got to sleep a hour and a half every night for 6 days and wake up knowing that a local business didn’t have to suffer more than they already have from covid. We had over 6,000 member and around 300 local businesses giving us permission to be on their property. Plus extreme amounts of donations coming to the people the media has labeled at “defenders” so yeah I would do it again just very differently! I have given this a lot of thought and we will be deleting the group effective Saturday around noon. I want to thank everyone who was apart of this adventure and to the people who’s life I made hard, I’m sorry. To the people that think I’m a racist, I’m not. Most importantly to the people continuing to write lies about me and the group, grow up. Sincerely the kid that accidentally created a local movement because he loves the tri!