Panhandle Patriots’ Mike “Viper” Birdsong talks to the Inlander about violence, skinheads, and Pride in the Park

click to enlarge Mike "Viper" Birdsong interviewed after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot - MOTHER AMERICAN NIGHT YOUTUBE VIDEO SCREENSHOT

Mother American Night Youtube video screenshot

Mike “Viper” Birdsong interviewed after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot

It’s not hard to identify Panhandle Patriots’ motorcycle club president Michael “Viper” Birdsong in the crowd during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. For one thing, he’s the guy wearing the leather jacket that says “VIPER” “PRESIDENT” and “PANHANDLE PATRIOTS” on it. In one moment, you can see him holding a metal barricade and yelling at Capitol police officers. He’s even interviewed about it in a YouTube video that day.

Trump’s own Attorney General said there was no widespread election fraud, but Birdsong, and thousands of others, were convinced that something was terribly wrong.

“You’ve got about 70 or 80 million pissed off people,” Birdsong said. “We will not accept a coup or an overthrow of the duly elected president.”

And he made pains to emphasize that he saw the Jan. 6 protesters as different from the radical left.

“We’re not Antifa,” Birdsong said. “Do you see anything burnt here?”

He pointed toward the Capitol with an arm clad in homemade armor, cobbled together from plywood and a biker chest protector. (He later tells the Inlander that he built it as a purely defensive weapon intended to block, say, a piece of rebar swung from “Antifa” during altercations in Portland or Seattle.)

“Yeah, we breached up there,” he says on the Jan. 6 YouTube video. “We own this house. It belongs to all of us. We’re not destructive people. We don’t believe in violence. Sometimes it’s a necessary evil.”

And that’s the kind of tension — initially decrying violence, but undercutting it with ambiguity — that has coursed through the rhetoric Birdsong and other Panhandle Patriots in the lead-up to the June 11 “Pride in the Park” event.

This week’s cover story, about the red-on-red primary fight in Idaho, digs into that dynamic, exploring how national memes, school curriculum controversies, and wild charges about “groomers” have poured gasoline on local culture wars.

While reporting our story, the Inlander pressed Birdsong on his beliefs, giving us a glimpse into how he sees the world, and clarifying how those views could impact North Idaho politics

Even before our piece had been published, alarms were ringing out on social media and in the Coeur d’Alene Press about the Panhandle Patriots’ plan to hold a fully-armed “Gun d’Alene” event intending to counter the June 11th “Pride in the Park” celebration.

The rhetoric, in both in the Panhandle Patriots’ speeches and posters made some observers worried that the response could descend into violence. On Wednesday, after our story had been sent to printers, the Panhandle Patriots’ sent out an official statement arguing that their planned event was being hijacked.

“Antifa radicals are planning to come and disrupt our event to provoke violence… while a “White Nationalist group called White Lives Matter” is also planning to attend, the statement says.

“While these two groups plan on causing violence, the media plans to condemn and tarnish our peaceful group,” the press release claimed, arguing the conflict would be “used against good, God-fearing conservatives as a bludgeon against all that is healthy and normal, to further their progressive agenda.”

They weren’t canceling their event or even canceling their still unexplained plans to counter the Pride in the Park event. But they were rebranding: Instead of calling their event “Gun d’Alene — a reference to when armed citizens stood outside shops in downtown Coeur d’Alene in 2020 to protect them from potential rioters and rumored Antifa radicals — they’ve changed the name to “North Idaho Day of Prayer.”

How groups like the Panhandle Patriots handle events like these is crucial — not for Pride in the Park, but for the far-right “Patriot Movement” as well. The ability of Idaho’s existing network of militia groups, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and radical libertarians are going to resist the influence of more pernicious groups like White nationalism will come down to decisions made by controversial local grassroots leaders like Birdsong.

click to enlarge The Panhandle Patriots pose for a team photo. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO

Daniel Walters photo

The Panhandle Patriots pose for a team photo.


No, Birdsong says, he’s not the “QAnon shaman” and he didn’t go “to DC to assassinate people.”

“If I believed everything that was written about me or somebody said about me I’d be happy to kick my own ass,” he says.

He says he won’t apologize for taking part in the Jan. 6 riot.

“As far as bowing down or backing down, f—- that shit dude, I won’t do that,” Birdsong says.

He describes himself as an “ex-jarhead” — a Marine veteran — and emphasizes that he’s good at violence if it comes to that.

“We don’t encourage or condone violence,” Birdsong says. “We don’t think that’s the way to go. But if somebody brings violence on us, you bet we will defend ourselves.”

Anyone who takes violence completely off the table, he says, is an idiot.

“If a mugger come up and he punched you in the mouth, would you stand there and say punch me again?” Birdsong says. “I don’t turn the other cheek. Somebody punched me, I’m going to whip your ass.”

He also claims he’s used threats to chase off drug dealers from places in Spokane.

“We’ve been going into the hoods down into Spokane right off of Sprague and into apartment complexes, kicking the dope dealers out,” Birdsong says.

He says they offer drug dealers a choice.

“‘You could just leave of your own accord, and go do dope if that’s what you want to do,'” Birdsong says.  “‘You’re an adult, but you will not bring that shit around kids here. Or I’ll beat your f—-ing ass and drag you out of here. Pick one because that’s what’s going to happen.'”

Kids are a particularly sensitive subject for Birdsong. He says he was a founder of a motorcycle club group called the Knights of Artemis, with a specific mission of helping sexually abused kids, including by escorting them to court.

On multiple occasions, Birdsong alludes to the potential of violence against “groomers” or people who abuse kids. When I press him on what that means, he chooses his words carefully.

“Somebody like that needs to be run through the system and they need to be in jail,” Birdsong says. “If you think you’re going to get me to say something f—-ing stupid that ain’t gonna happen.

Still, he adds, “F—- with a kid and find out.”

click to enlarge Audience members at a Panhandle Patriots forum listen to Idaho state Senate Candidate Carl Bjerke - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO

Daniel Walters photo

Audience members at a Panhandle Patriots forum listen to Idaho state Senate Candidate Carl Bjerke


If you go too far to the left or you go too far to the [right,] you come to 12 o’clock high and you have a f—-ing idiot,”  Birdsong says. “We’re constitutionalists. We’re not Democrats or Republicans, really.”

But he’s far more eager to criticize Antifa —  a term right-wing groups use loosely to describe a wide variety of left-wing protesters — than far-right groups like Proud Boys.

When I point out that the Proud Boys have been violent in Portland, as well as left-wing protesters, he says he knows a lot of Proud Boys, and they police their own.

“They will beat the shit out of their own,” Birdsong says.

In an email, the Panhandle Patriots cited a trio of tweets from the “Redoubt Antifascists” Twitter account that scoffed at the idea that Antifa was coming to confront far-right groups at Pride by saying that Antifa was already there.

“Antifa and pride are two sides of the same coin,” the account wrote. “The fash are coming to confront us, we aren’t confronting them.”

click to enlarge In Gab, alt-right videostreamer Vince James uploads a modified version of the CDA4Pride logo that adds a Star of David into the design... - GAB SCREENSHOT (WITH NAMES OF SPONSORS BLURRED)

Gab screenshot (with names of sponsors blurred)

In Gab, alt-right videostreamer Vince James uploads a modified version of the CDA4Pride logo that adds a Star of David into the design…

The Redoubt Antifacist account has since issued a statement that they weren’t involved any organized attempt to confront fascists in Coeur d’Alene. The account has claimed it consists of merely a “research collective” of observers of the far-right, spread across five states. (Since the account has declined to identify itself to the Inlander, it’s next to impossible to verify these claims.)

Still, when I ask about white nationalists, Birdsong does explicitly say he condemns them.

“We don’t endorse or will tolerate any of that shit,” Birdsong says. “We denounce any crap like that.”

He says he “grew up in the hoods” and is the “whitest black person you ever met.” 

click to enlarge ...and someone in the comments makes an allusion to Kristallnacht, the campaign of Nazi terror waged upon Jewish people in Germany. - GAB SCREENSHOT

Gab screenshot

…and someone in the comments makes an allusion to Kristallnacht, the campaign of Nazi terror waged upon Jewish people in Germany.

When it comes to “skinheads,” he says, “I only run across one at one time. I ran his ass out of town.”

“Spoiler alert: We’re into unity and I don’t give a shit if it’s gay people or whatever or straight people. I don’t give a shit what somebody’s color is. People should unite together,”  Birdsong says. “If any of us get cut, all I want to see we all is red, white and blue.”

Birdsong describes himself as a “Martin Luther King guy.”

“I don’t give a shit what race it is, you’ve got a certain percentage that are going to be racist and they’re pieces of shit,” he says. “There’s good people and there’s pieces of shit. It doesn’t have to do with the melanin and pigmentation of your skin.”

The problem is that, when it comes to Pride, a lot of the rhetoric of used by racist and alt-right leaders like Vince James is very similar to the rhetoric that the Panhandle Patriots have been using. Both wildly accuse the LGBT groups of being “groomers,” a word typically used to describe pedophiles, perpetuating a very old and destructive anti-gay myth. (And one that’s done damage to gay people in Idaho long before.)


“We’re going to pull a scab off around here,” he said at an event at LYFE Coffee & Public House last month. “We’re gonna piss a lot of people off.”

Part of their strategy seems to consist merely of compiling particularly shocking or offensive material.

“We’ve got an information pack that we’re going to be putting out, we’ll have it available for people to make up their own minds on June 11,” Birdsong tells the Inlander. “Some of this stuff is explicit material, illustrations. No young impressionable mind should see that.”

The Panhandle Patriots’ statement still calls for their supporters to meet at Pride in the Park to take a stand against LGBT groups “infiltrating our schools, children’s cartoons, Disney, even local organizations in North Idaho,”

But Joey Pugmire, vice-president of the North Idaho Pride Alliance, the organization that puts on Pride in the Park, says that assumes that acknowledging the existence of gay or trans people is indoctrination but acknowledging straight relationships isn’t.

“The moment I was born, I was watching movies that, like, would help to indoctrinate me to want to marry a woman or a princess and grow up and be a prince,” Pugmire says. “If you look at the history of Disney, that’s a whole rabbit hole you could go down.”

Pugmire says there’s been a big increase in threats to the event this year.

While Pugmire initially told the Inlander the Pride Alliance had removed the names of the sponsors from the website, the organization later clarified that they were only temporarily removing the leadership page from their website, hiding the names of board members.

Meanwhile, some of the most recent examples of sexual crimes in North Idaho have been far more associated with straight men from the far-right world than with any gay or trans rights group. Alex Barron, 2020 Idaho senate candidate and self-proclaimed “Bard of the Idaho Redoubt,” was charged with “felony sexual abuse of a child under 16” after groping a 12-year-old. Barron claimed he’d been drugged, but acknowledged the groping, pleading down to “disturbing the peace.”

Similarly, Idaho state Rep. Aaron Von Ehlinger was convicted of raping a young female intern. The Panhandle Patriots have been rallying for Lt. Gov. candidate Priscilla Giddings, who was censured by the legislature for linking to a far-right website that named and shamed the rape victim.

It’s one thing to decry the hypothetical crimes of your enemies. It’s another to police your own. Birdsong knows well that some of the people in his group have their own skeletons in their past.

“Some of us what we’ve done… don’t judge just some of us by what we were, but judge us by who we are,” Birdsong says.


click to enlarge DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO

Daniel Walters photo

The Panhandle Patriot statement is filled to the brim with references to religion: They cite “God-fearing Idahoans,” “God-fearing conservatives,” and declare that “we are, and will always be, for God, His Word, and the natural order which He established on the earth” and that “God still rules in the Panhandle”

Indeed, in their April 24 event, Birdsong ended the meeting by calling for a volunteer to lead them in a closing prayer.

But when you talk to Birdsong personally about the issue, he preaches a different kind of Gospel.

“God?” Birdsong says. “God can kiss my ass.”

He says he runs with plenty of Christians. Pagans too. Freedom of religion, he says, is one thing that makes this country great.

But like a lot of people, Birdsong feels like everything is falling apart, from the 100,000 dead from drug overdoses in the past year to shootings in cities like Chicago.

“They’d have to be watching CNN to not see this shit,” Birdsong says. “Anybody that doesn’t see what’s going on in this country and around the world is either in a f—-ing coma or has two brain cells of a f—-ing amoeba.”

His life has been painful. His daughter died in a car accident when she was 21. No, he says, he doesn’t see a loving God in his life.

“He hasn’t never done shit for me,”  Birdsong says. “To me personally, if he’s sitting up there on a f—-ing cloud,? He’s kind of an asshole, if he lets a shit happen to these kids and stuff in the street?”

Article Source: Inlander