Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine received a “rather cool reception” at his town’s Fourth of July parade, says event organizer Pene Manale of the Kiwanis Club.
“That is maybe because Alpine is a family focused community and we believe in good family values and honesty, which he obviously does not,” she said of the indicted Republican.
But reaction grew heated when a photo circulated on social media showing a man next to Hunter flashing an “OK” sign — often taken to be a white power salute.
“Gee … a picture of him flanked by all his mistresses would be less damaging than this,” said one commenter alluding to an aspect of Hunter’s federal criminal case.
Manale wasn’t able to identify the man in a MAGA hat in front of Alpine Tobacco Co. on Alpine Boulevard.
But Will Johnson could.
Johnson said the man in a “Trump 2020” T-shirt is Kristopher “Kris” Wyrick, recognizable for his goatee. He appeared in a group shot posted on Hunter’s Facebook page.
Wyrick and Johnson have met in court at least three times — twice over a restraining order (which Johnson failed to get) and once when Wyrick sued liberal activist Johnson in small claims court for gun-storage fees and lost time at work. (Wyrick lost.)
“I’ve seen him so many times,” Johnson said Sunday in a phone interview.
.@nbcsandiego @sdut @10News @CBS8 @maddow @chrislhayes Check out @Rep_Hunter being flanked by the white power sign. He proudly has this image displayed on his Facebook page (pic #3 in this post). https://t.co/KopBL2zkka pic.twitter.com/w8I9PLwwlQ
— Barb Amador (@BarbAmador5) July 5, 2019
Wyrick was hailed as a hero a year ago when he alerted neighbors to the West Fire and took Sandy Allison and her dogs to safety in his truck. (“For him to take the time to go and warn other people is really amazing to me,” she told 10 News).
But Johnson and others say Wyrick is better known for his alleged connections to groups labeled white supremacist — a former Proud Boy and United Patriot Front member and current organizer of Bordertown Patriots.
Wyrick donated $100 to the defense fund of Bordertown Patriots member Jesse Sauve, who a fundly profile said was arrested in February 2018 at Chicano Park “surrounded by an angry crowd of militant chicanos, antifa anarchists and neo-Marxists. He was using an elongated stun gun / flashlight to ward off the angry crowd without threatening anyone specifically.”
Wyrick, 53, didn’t respond to requests for comment via email, Facebook, LinkedIn and voice mail at his workplace in Alpine. But he spoke to CBS 8 San Diego on Monday, saying emphatically: “I’m no white supremacist.”
In the wake of a 2017 arrest, however, Wyrick told a Berkeley news outlet that he has no issue with anyone of any race, religion or gender. It quoted him as saying: “My umbrella is the American umbrella. Color lines, I don’t see them.”
“Wyrick said he and his allies have nothing to do with white supremacy or racism, and are tired of being painted with that brush by people who want to silence them,” said the Berkeleyside report. “He said he’s proud to be an American, and that anyone can be part of that movement.”
The same story noted that footage of Myrick went viral after he spoke to the San Diego Unified school board, critical of an anti-bullying program related to Islam.
On Sunday, Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison denied “the premise of this whole angle,” which he called ridiculous.
“Congressman Hunter walked in the 4th of July parades in both Alpine and Julian and was happy to take pictures with many constituents, which he has always done,” Harrison said via email. “But to be clear, Congressman Hunter denounces and repudiates any beliefs in white supremacy and if anyone were to espouse any such beliefs in a photo with Congressman Hunter they did so without his knowledge.”
On Monday, Harrison said “that particular picture” has been removed from Hunter social media pages “to ensure there was no confusion regarding Congressman Hunter beliefs and whether he personally knows this individual.”
Hunter — wearing a “Free Eddie” T-shirt days afters the ex-Navy SEAL’s acquittal on a murder charge — also marched with a small group including Wyrick as shown in an NBC San Diego clip.
The OK hand sign has a complicated history, but Johnson summarized its multiple meanings.
It “started as a 4Chan joke,” he said. “(Wyrick is) intending to get people worked up because people understand that people use it to mean white power. And he’s both trying to trigger the liberals and he’s also giving a sign that the rest of the alt-right (will understand).”
George Manale, Pene’s husband, said the incumbent congressman called several weeks ago to ask if he could lead off the Alpine parade.
“My wife, who started this parade three years ago, told him no thank you. It was led off by the Patriot Motorcycle Group,” he said. “This area has always been pretty conservative, but now it appears to be much more confrontational and nasty. There are even guys who want The Kiwanis Club to be all-male again!”
Said Pene Manale: “Our parade is not a political event, and we do not support any candidate or white supremacy at all. It is a community event, open to everyone, to celebrate the holiday and unite the people of Alpine and East County.”
Of more immediate concern to Hunter is a motions hearing downtown set for 10 a.m. Monday before federal Judge Thomas Whelan, expected to rule on a defense request to move Hunter’s trial to another California court.
His supporters have been summoned as well.
On Friday, Famela Ramos announced a 9 a.m. rally Monday at the 333 West Broadway courthouse “protesting the unfair treatment Congressman Duncan Hunter has been receiving in a case that is clearly politically motivated.”
“It is plainly obvious that due to Congressman Hunter’s strong support for American Exceptionalism, Family Values and President Trump, he is being targeted by leftist and socialist forces in this highly political witch hunt,” said Ramos, who lost a November race for a seat on the Chula Vista Elementary school board.
For her part, Pene Manale is sorry that coverage of the “OK” sign may overshadow her parade’s success.
“Too bad that it was only his picture that made it to Twitter,” she said. “There was so much more to the event.”
Updated at 12:05 a.m. July 9, 2019