RPD Would Have ‘Gassed’ Protesters, if Not for Militias’ Help, Says Militia Leader

Photo by Annelise Pierce.

“If you guys hadn’t been there, we would’ve gassed them all.” 

Cottonwood militia leader Woody Clendenen claims those words were spoken by some Redding Police officers regarding actions RPD would have taken against June 2 protesters who’d marched for racial equality in Redding; if not for the militia-groups’ assistance that night.

It’s been nine months since protesters gathered in front of the Shasta County Courthouse in response to the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody.

Woody Clendenen, Cottonwood militia leader, speaks at the Church of Glad Tidings in Live Oak Friday.

Clendenen, who was at the Freedom Coalition Meeting as a California State Militia representative, shared this piece of previously undisclosed information Friday at Church of Glad Tidings in Live Oak, Calif., where the militia leader/barber was a guest speaker. The meeting covered myriad topics, such as praise for Constitutional sheriffs who assertively ban federal agencies from their counties, and encouragement for patriots who recall all elected leaders who don’t get with true patriots’ program.

Clendenen included the RPD anecdote as an example of the “great relationship” between the North State’s militia and law enforcement.

As the attentive church audience applauded in appreciation, Clendenen told the full story of how fellow militia members had shown up the previous night (June 1) in Red Bluff to lend officers a hand during a small downtown protest against racial inequality. Clendenen chuckled as he recalled how some officers “were jumping out of their police cars and coming and taking pictures with us.”

In anticipation of the June 2 Redding protest, Clendenen said he contacted the California Highway Patrol, Shasta County Sheriff and the Redding Police Department to let them know that local militia groups would be on hand.

“That one there was over 500 protesters,” Clendenen said of the Redding protest. “We also heard they had a trailer load of bricks that were delivered to the block by the courthouse. And so we went up there with around a hundred guys and people just started coming. All of a sudden here come a bunch of bikers, a bunch of cowboys, a bunch of Trump flags, and pretty soon you had 300 guys there, and they were guys that meant business.”

‘So we let them finish their protest’

The audience laughed as Clendenen continued.

“They were just like, ‘Hey, what are we going to do?’ So we let them finish their protest. They had a permit for a protest until 8. At 8:15 we went up the hill to let them know that their protest time was over. They didn’t like that at first, but you know, I had to explain to one of the guys, ‘Hey, we’re all for your right to protest, that’s an American thing. And if the cops tried to keep you from protesting we’d be on your side. We’re here to keep you from tearing our businesses up; destroying  businesses because of the coronavirus, we’re just not going to let you do it.’ ”

Hundreds of North State militia members showed up at the June 2 protest in Redding.

Clendenen said that after he spoke with some protesters they “calmed down” and began walking away. He described as “funny” what happened after the militia members passed RPD’s riot task force.

“They later said, ‘When they came toward us, if you guys hadn’t been there, we would’ve gassed them all. Because there wasn’t enough of us,” and they only had 20 guys,” Clendenen added.

“So really, unbeknownst to the protesters, they actually had a better night because we were there that night,” Clendenen said.

Redding Police officers stand with batons in hand during the June 2 protest against racial inequality in Redding. A News Cafe photo by Annelise Pierce.

The audience applauded. One man said, “That’s awesome!”

Revisiting the protest’s he-said, he-said story

For the record, despite the presence of hundreds of militia members, some of whom taunted protesters from the sidelines, the truth is that Redding’s protest was peaceful. Protesters marched north on Court Street. They shouted a variety of messages, such as, “No peace, no justice,” and “Why are we here? George Floyd.”

Meanwhile, militia members, such as Jesse Lane, Stake in NorCal co-founder, waded into the crowd of protesters.

Jesse Lane, facing the camera, was among hundreds of militia members who showed up at the June 2 Redding protest.

Shortly after the protest you may recall that Lane created a video in which he indignantly contradicted Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini, who claimed the militia were there, but not necessarily welcome at the protest, and Lane, who said they were absolutely welcome. I wrote about it. Phil Fountain provided a cartoon to illustrate the disconnect between Magrini’s and some militia members’ versions of what happened at the Redding  protest.

Only Magrini and Lane know whose story is the most accurate.

You may also recall that in the days following the spring protest Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini and Redding Police Chief Bill Schueller both issued press releases that distanced themselves and their departments from the local militias. Both Magrini and Schueller stated that while they were aware that the militia would attend the protest, they did not invite them, nor were they in contact with them during the protest.

Here’s an excerpt of A News Cafe’s June 10 post that addressed the disconnected stories, “Shootin’ for the Truth About Magrini and the Militia.”:

“Schueller said in a statement that it was “ridiculous” to suggest RPD would ask militia to help out at a protest.

And Thursday night Sheriff Magrini issued his statement in which he “set the record straight” about a number of things, including the Tuesday protest.

“I did not invite any “militia” groups or any other groups to come to town and participate. The day of the protest, our office was contacted by two different groups. The first group, the Cottonwood Community Watch, sent me a message stating they were going to be in town attending the protest. Another group, the Northern California Militia, came to the Sheriff’s Main Office. They told a records clerk they were in town for the protest. I repeat, I did not solicit or request any groups or organizations to come to town to appear at any event.”

Back to the June 2 protest

Some militia who showed up at the June 2 protest carried Trump flags. Others brought baseball bats, knives and other weapons. Yet others were dressed in camo clothes.

Others yelled, “ALL lives matter,” which resulted in some protesters cautioning others to back up, away from the militia. “Don’t take the bait!”

At one point some protesters spontaneously began singing the National Anthem. And as the protesters neared the line of RPD officers — flanked by militia — many front-line protesters kneeled, and some positioned themselves face down on the asphalt to demonstrate that they meant no harm. Some chanted, “Keep the peace!” Others said, “Don’t shoot!”

A News Cafe photo by Annelise Pierce.

And toward the end of the evening, as protesters reached what seemed an impenetrable line of Redding Police officers decked out in full riot gear who blocked passage beyond Tehama Street, some protesters chanted, “RPD, RPD, RPD! Be leaders! Lead us! We love you, RPD. You guys rock.”


Some protesters invited officers to link arms with them and walk in unison to the courthouse.

“Walk with US! Walk with US! Walk with US!”

Eventually, that’s exactly what happened. The rumored bricks never materialized. There were no acts of violence. There was no bloodshed. The protesters disbanded, leaving behind a quiet, clean street.

The typical age of the majority of the Redding protesters was in the teens-to-20s, range, followed by those who looked to be in their 30s. The rest represented an assortment of ages.

They were the peaceful protesters who, according to Clendenen, the RPD would have gassed had they advanced any closer to officers, had it not been for the militia?

Glad Tidings

Clendenen’s story was a sample of the evening’s entertainment and information at the Church of Glad Tidings in Live Oak on Eager Street, where dozens of people sat in a sanctuary adorned with huge panels that displayed scriptures written in golden cursive. By day the Church of Glad Tidings’ – also known as “GT” – calendar boasted a Men’s Prayer and a Young Mom’s Class. By night the church hosted one in a series of Freedom Coalition meetings during which Clendenen was a guest speaker. The evening was emceed by Dave Bryan, GT’s pastor.

In addition to introducing the speakers, from the stage Bryan acknowledged Shasta County’s own “Rally” Sally Rapoza (who filmed the meeting) in the audience.

Rapoza spoke from her seat during the meeting about how some Shasta County citizens are taking steps to remove undesirable elected officials:

“I just wanted to say I’m from Shasta County and I’m so happy to see this happening here in your area,” Rapoza said.

“For Shasta County, our board of supervisors locked us out of the meetings from May to December. The doors were locked. We stood outside the board of supervisors chambers in the smoke, in the heat, in the rain, and we stood outside the doors looking in and they even went so far as to take the seats out of the board of supervisors. Well, we walked in, we had a new board of supervisor elected and he said, ‘January 5th, we’re going to open up this board of supervisors.’ He was our guy. He opened up the board of supervisors and we all went in and we stood en masse. And that is where the recall is coming from. We’re recalling three of our boards of supervisors. That is the power of the people. You have the power. All of you have the power.”

Between speakers Pastor Bryan did a show-and-tell of his authentic belt-buckle pistol, which he said allowed him to sometimes “open carry” a loaded weapon without getting in trouble. He shared a story about humorous reactions from kindly, observant police officers, who of course noticed the pistol.

All joking aside, before Bryan introduced Clendenen, he gave the group a pep talk.

“If God is with us, we can get ‘er done,” he said. “Just because you’re an unknown patriot, doesn’t mean you can’t do something absolutely sensational to turn things around.”

As riveting as Clendenen’s RPD/gassing story was, he had other subjects to address. He spoke words of motivation to his fellow patriots, and cited Cottonwood as a successful role model of a town that ignored state pandemic mandates, with zero negative consequences.

I mean, in our town not one business stayed closed,” he said. “Not one business requires masks.”

He told of a conversation with a state representative regarding Clendenen’s refusal to comply with public health mandates to shut his doors.

“They called me and told me I was the only barbershop that never closed a day in California,” Clendenen said. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know they threatened to take my license. The health department threatened to fine me. And what do you think happened?”

After a pause, someone in the audience responded, “Nothing.”

“Not a thing,” Clendenen agreed.

“They never even came to my barbershop. They would just call.”

Clendenen spoke of his militia buddy/Red White & Blueprint pal Carlos Zapata, and how his bar and restaurant (the Palomino Room in Red Bluff) was paid a visit by federal agents.

“The ABC threatened to take his license, “Clendenen said. “They would go in there every week and he would say, ‘You didn’t bring enough guys. You need more guys.’  So they would leave.”

What really tickled the audience was when Clendenen said that now, some of those very ABC agents who threatened to remove Zapata’s license, work out at Zapata’s jujitsu studio.

Clendenen described how Cottonwood’s militia’s modest beginnings grew to where it is now, an organization so influential that political candidates ask for an audience with militia members to gain their support. They’re invited to stand along parade routes. They respond to calls long before a 911 dispatcher could send out professional law enforcement. 

“It started out as a squad, and then it grew to a platoon, and now it’s a full company on its own, running as a company,” Clendenen.

“So up in that north area, the Cottonwood area, it’s a battalion size group of guys. We’ve gotten an influx, just unbelievable … At our last approved class in Cottonwood, or the one before last at the little fire station in Cottonwood, there was a hundred and thirty-seven new members.”

“Wow,” exclaimed someone in the audience.

But getting to that point was no easy task, Clendenen said. The first thing the militia members set out to do was change negative perceptions about the militia.

“At that time the media had done a really good job of tearing that down,” Clendenen said.

“We were right there with the Ku Klux Klan. Guys would come into my barbershop and they wouldn’t even say a word. They’d be like, ‘So how’s that group doing?’ I’d say, ‘You mean militia?’ It was pretty funny at first.”

According to Clendenen, initially the militia was created in Cottonwood because the rural area lacked dependable law enforcement patrols, which meant a lot of unchecked property crime.

“We started driving around at night,” he said.  “… It started out with five guys — and a sheriff and deputies that were really not digging what we were doing at all — to a point where now there’s a thousand people participating.”

“Awesome,” said someone from the audience.

“One thing I realized through all this is, we are the majority,” Clendenen said.

“I think and I believe that Christians, and particularly conservatives and patriots, we are the majority.”

In closing, Clendenen said success will come if everyone sticks together. Of course, by everyone, he doesn’t really mean everyone. For example, when he mentioned Democrats, he referred to them as Communists. 

“You need to call them Communists; and they hate America and they hate our country and everything it stands for,” he said.

“This is a war of good versus evil, unless we get back to God first. And the only way we can do that is to stand together. Then there’s no stopping us,” he said. 

Someone from the audience responded, “Right!”

At that, Woody Clendenen, the Cottonwood barber/militia leader, got a standing ovation as he exited the stage.

When the next speaker, Cristo Hartman of Oregon, approached the lectern, Hartman laughed and said that he wanted to live in Cottonwood, too.

Christo Hartman of Oregon.

When Hartman finished speaking, Clendenen popped back on stage to announce that the Red White and Blueprint trailer had just been released. With that, the trailer was played inside the church, much to the audience’s delight.

Begging questions, for truth’s sake

Raise your hand if you think that some of Clendenen’s claims seem far-fetched.

First, what exactly is the relationship between the North State militia and law enforcement? And while we’re asking, who was telling the truth about the June 2 protest, Magrini or Lane?

Who granted Clendenen the authority to tell the protesters that they were done for the night? Whose idea was it to herd protesters like sheep until they were penned in and had nowhere else to go?

That protest wasn’t the militia’s gig. It belonged to those who’d assembled to peacefully protest racial inequality and the death of George Floyd.

Second, is it true, as Clendenen said, that no Cottonwood businesses have ever closed, or required masks during the pandemic?

Is it true that federal agents yucked it up with Woody at his barbershop, rather than enforce public health violations?

Is it true that when FBI agents showed up at Zapata’s restaurant, Zapata told them they didn’t “bring enough guys” – so the agents simply left?

Is it true that ABC agents have abandoned any pretense of enforcing COVID mandates at the Palomino Room, and instead now work out at Zapata’s jujitsu studio?

Finally, there’s the most damning quote Clendenen attributed to RPD, that officers were prepared to “gas” – presumably tear gas – protesters if they’d advanced any further; that the only thing that prevented RPD’s use of gas was the presence of the militia.

Gee, thanks a million, militia!

My gut says the RPD “we would have gassed them all” claim is far-fetched because I don’t want to believe it. I don’t want to visualize how tragically that evening would have ended had RPD deployed teargas on non-violent protesters, mainly young people, who’d shown up to exercise their right to gather and protest. I was there. I saw one young woman protester walk straight up to the line of officers and proceed to hug them. Some officers awkwardly hugged back.

Yes, the protest was a sensory overloaded scene. It was loud, crowded, overwhelming and dramatic. But I saw with my own eyes a peaceful, passionate protest. In fact, what distressed me most were the militia members, with scowls, glares and crossed-arms galore. Some carried Trump flags. Most stood in clumps with other militia, talking.

And when the insanely manipulated situation unfolded that I think of as a “protester sandwich” — RPD officers in riot gear to the north, hundreds of militia members to the south, protesters trapped in the middle — it’s a miracle that cooler heads did prevail. And by cooler heads, I’m talking about the protesters. I give zero credit to the militia who showed up that night. Not only were they unnecessary, but they exacerbated an already tense situation.

One thing is undisputed, and that’s the fact that militia did contact law enforcement to let them know they’d be there.

Those calls should have triggered law enforcement to strap on a pair and say, “You know what, guys? Thanks for the offer, but no thanks. Stay home and clean your guns or something. We’ve got this.”

Maybe next time.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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