Tiegen is known for his role as a security team member at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi during the 2012 attack. He’s prominently involved in the Trump campaign, receiving the honor of filing the president’s re-election paperwork in Colorado last November.
More recently, he’s founded a group known as the United American Defense Force. “We’re not a militia, but we are going to be a defense force and stand up for what is ours,” Tiegen told an interviewer on YouTube.
On Facebook, Tiegen’s UADF has warned that “(r)adical groups funded by our country’s enemies have organized plans of even more destruction and violence in the near future.” The group advertises services such as tactical training, insurance and discounts on ammo for members.
Tiegen claims that the counter-demonstrations he has organized in Denver are not UADF operations, though he uses similar language to describe the goals of both. Tiegen did not respond to interview requests from CPR.
Tiegen’s calls to action racked up thousands of likes and messages of approval, and word spread quickly among protesters too. Throughout the evening, demonstrators watched anxiously for signs of his group.
“We’re not looking for confrontation. We’re not looking for a fight,” said Eli Bazan, a burly man with a rainbow parasol who was helping with security for the main rally. He believed that the counter-protesters were specifically seeking out more-aggressive protesters.
“They are looking for people from a different event. … There are other elements that have mixed into our crowd and we’re doing our best to keep them out of harm’s way,” Bazan added.
Tiegen’s group was supposed to meet at the Cabela’s sporting goods store in Lone Tree before going downtown. Around 11 p.m., this reporter spotted a group of 50 or more men, many wearing camouflage and helmets. It was unclear whether they were armed.
They were headed east from Civic Center toward Denver’s 6th police precinct, where officers had just fired pepper balls and tear gas to clear dozens of protesters away from a fence around the building.
The group wasn’t interested in explaining themselves, although one confirmed that they were with Tiegen. They claimed to be dressed up for “Halloween.” When asked to identify themselves, men in the crowd responded by saying their names were Kyle — an apparent reference to Rittenhouse, whom Tiegen has called an “American hero.”
“We’re all Kyle!” several men echoed. “You know why we’re here, don’t play dumb,” another said. The group stopped at crosswalks to regroup, then marched again with calls of “come on, Kyle.”
They ignored the taunts and questions of passersby. But they did speak with a stranger named David. A member of the group explained that he had joined because his family was afraid to go downtown with all the protests going on. They were prepared for violence but they didn’t want to see it, he said.
David, who is African American and declined to give his last name, was disturbed.
“I felt intimidated, and I felt I had to let them know I was ready for them, even without a weapon,” he said.
Minutes later, the counter-protest met the protest. The shouting reached a fever pitch as the two sides squared off in a parking lot.
Police quickly intervened, with a truck full of armored officers jumping between the opposing sides. They fired pepperballs to push the main protest group back down 14th Avenue in a cacophonous, eerie scene.
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