A Southern California man, Robert Paul Rundo, has been brought back to the United States from Romania to face federal charges related to his alleged involvement in establishing a militant, white supremacist group. Rundo, the founder of the Rise Above Movement, is the primary defendant among three individuals accused of recruiting and training others to engage in violent acts at political rallies. The charges specifically relate to rallies in Huntington Beach, Berkeley, and San Bernardino.
The Rise Above Movement publicly identifies itself as a combat-ready, militant group associated with a new nationalist white supremacy and identity movement. Rundo, 33 years old, along with his co-defendants Robert Boman and Tyler Laube, allegedly assaulted individuals during a March 2017 rally in Huntington Beach held in support of then-President Donald Trump. Additionally, they are accused of violently confronting people at a rally in Berkeley. Rundo is further implicated in associated activities.
According to prosecutors, Rundo and at least one of his co-defendants shared posts on social media boasting about their violent actions to recruit other prospective members to the Rise Above Movement. All three defendants have been charged under the Anti-Riot Act of 1968. In 2019, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney determined that while the Rise Above Movement espoused a hateful and toxic ideology, the government possesses sufficient means to address and punish such behavior without violating First Amendment rights.
An appellate court partially agreed with this view, finding that certain aspects of the Anti-Riot Act impinge on protected speech. Nonetheless, the judges confirmed the constitutionality of other provisions, particularly those targeting unprotected speech and conduct related to acts of violence in furtherance of a riot. Notably, charges against a fourth defendant, Aaron Eason, were dismissed earlier this year.
The extradition process involved cooperation between the United States Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s Legal Attache Office in Bucharest, and Romanian authorities. The exact details of Rundo’s stay in Romania remain unclear.
Previously, other members of the Rise Above Movement had been convicted in federal court, including four individuals involved in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which tragically resulted in the death of counter-protestor Heather Heyer and numerous injuries.
As Rundo awaits trial in federal custody, the case against him sheds light on the disturbing rise of extremist groups and the need for continued efforts to address hate speech and violence within our society.