Danny Eugene Taylor, age 43 is a self-identified white supremacist who lives in Salida, Colorado. By his own messaging on Parlor and Telegram, he’d like to be a member of the Proud Boys. He may belong to other, similarly far-right groups.
He’s not the only far-right resident of the Arkansas River Valley, just the most visible one at the moment.
That’s because, for more than a year, he positioned himself on U.S. 50 not far from U.S. 291. Wearing some version of military-type attire, an AR-15, and carrying an upside-down U.S. flag, he waved the gun, the flag, and often shouted obscenities at passing drivers, many of whom shouted comments to him.
He was then officially on the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) right-of-way. So his antics weren’t something the city of Salida could do much about unless he had begun shooting at people, which he did not.
This summer, the man, his gun, and his flag appear to have transferred his dubious presence to downtown Salida’s F Street pedestrian plaza, where the summer vehicle closure for tourists has given him a street platform.
At least one day a week, he stands there, and occasionally a tourist or resident will confront him. Typically the result is a shouting match sometimes including obscenities.
Ark Valley Voice has been watching his actions and Senior Reporter Dan Smith spoke with him a few weeks ago, so we have a sense of his views. But as journalists who cover extremism, it is not our role to provide a platform for those extreme beliefs. So we will not directly quote him.
It should be noted that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and that Colorado is an open-carry state — so Taylor is within his rights to carry a gun, and believe whatever it is that he believes. He says that making people aware of their rights is part of the reason he’s on F Street, which may or may not be the real reason.
The Salida Police Department has said that when they checked his assault rifle, it wasn’t loaded.
But last week an article by The Mountain Mail about Taylor said the opposite — referencing him as “armed with a loaded AR-15 and an upside-down American flag.”
The reporter Lijah Sampson, also wrote that Taylor and his friends “meet in Buena Vista with the Chaffee County Patriots”. That may be true. While AVV has covered the Chaffee Patriots since its inception, we have not confirmed his membership.
A few weeks ago, Ark Valley Voice invited downtown business owners over to talk over coffee, listening to their concerns about an obviously armed man downtown at the height of tourist season. They shared genuine concerns regarding safety for themselves and their young employees and customers.
As long-time downtown businesses, they say they are worried about what his presence says about Salida’s welcoming reputation.
One shop owner said he could support any form of protest, but he strongly objected to someone walking around displaying a semi-automatic firearm.
Another said she was seriously thinking of changing her Sunday hours if the armed man remained there. “I’m afraid,” she said.
Another said he had tried to talk with his city council member, but felt that his concerns weren’t taken seriously.
During our meeting with these business owners, the idea was raised to attend the Salida City Council meeting to publicly express their concerns. But no one appeared at that meeting or subsequent sessions, and one expressed “not being comfortable being on the YouTube recording.”
Three times one is three
Over the past few weeks, Taylor has been joined off and on, on F Street by two other armed men. One of them has brandished a long gun. One man identified himself as Mike Berndt, and the other man wanted to be known only as Jeff. Both are apparently local.
They stood with Taylor at the intersection of First Street and F Street, alongside the barricades blocking the street-turned-pedestrian-mall.
Now with the appearance of more armed supporters downtown, one business owner wondered just how many more armed people might gather.
Salida Mayor Dan Shore did comment at the Aug. 1 Council meeting’s end that he had received comments from people concerned about the armed individual downtown saying, “I hear you, I share frustration …”
But he pointed out First and Second Amendment rights, assuring the public that Salida Police “are on top of the situation”, adding they had checked his weapon many times and “it has never been loaded.”
“There is nothing in his background to suggest that he can’t have a weapon, and so our hands are tied …” said Shore. He pointed out that the only time there was a legal conflict (one decided in district court some time ago) was when people confronted Taylor.
From the Streets to Social Media and Membership
Taylor goes by a social media handle “Smthgwicked”.
While the phrase originally referred to Shakespeare’s MacBeth, the words are also the title of Ray Bradbury’s 1962 horror novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Most recently the group known as Trash Talk released the song “Something Wicked in 2020 (https://radio.callmefred.com/en/song_story/something-wicked-trash-talk/ ).
Per the CallmeFred site, “The song’s lyrics talk about someone with a new attitude who is facing something bad (referred to as “something wicked”). They don’t know how to deal with it and the protagonist commits to “total warfare” and dropping old propaganda. The lyrics also mention a possible romantic partner flirting with disaster and predicting World War III; taking a stand while facing a difficult situation.”
Ark Valley Voice has confirmed through a journalistic source the communications shown here, revealing that the gun-flag guy has attempted to join the fascist street gang the Proud Boys. His social media presence reveals a white supremacy identity.
As described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “The Proud Boys is a domestic terrorism group established in the midst of the 2016 presidential election by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. The Proud Boys are self-described ‘Western chauvinists’ who adamantly deny any connection to the racist ‘alt-right.’ They insist they are simply a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda.”
The truth is decidedly darker. There are at least 31 hate groups spread across the state and The Proud Boys are only one group.
As SPLC points out, hate groups have this in common: “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people typically for their immutable characteristics.”
Salida’s armed man apparently still wants to join the Proud Boys, which is his right. But the public also has the right to question his intentions.
Editor’s Note: Two Ark Valley Voice journalists contributed to this article, Stephen Hall and Jan Wondra.
CLARIFICATION: Ark Valley Voice in the above reference to Taylor’s potential gun-toting on F St. originally did not identify competitor (the Mountain Mail), and their reporter (Lijah Sampson), because it involved a question as to whether or not the gun was/is loaded. Sampson reported it was loaded. The city says that so far as they have been able to ascertain, it is not.
Featured image: A man identified as Danny Taylor (right) with two supporters in downtown Salida on Aug. 6. Photo by Dan Smith.