Man wrongly named in viral Twitter photo at Michigan anti-CV-19 state demonstration
By Nate Thayer
May 10, 2020
On April 30, an anti-Corona Virus lockdown demonstration at the Michigan state house attracted a hodge-podge of disparate participants, some of them armed, some who believed the CV-19 virus is a hoax, and some who believe the quarantine threatens their freedoms. But most of the the demonstrators, like anti CV-19 quarantine demonstrations across the nation, were not focused on the Corona virus but rather promoting other agendas, including conspiracy theorists, many loyal supporters of President Trump, 2cd amendment rights activists, members of far-right wing ‘constitutionalist’ and ‘militia’ groups, believers in bizarre QAnon conspiracy theories, racists, anti-semites, and Neo-Nazis, as well as other more mainstream citizens who are legitimately concerned about their economic ability to survive the continued lockdown.
A photo of a man inside the state house shouting angrily inches from the faces of masked law enforcement quickly went viral over social media.
But the man, Brian Cash, a flooring installer from New Holland, Michigan was misidentified as “Robert Cantrell”, from “Los Angeles”, and named as a member of the recognized hate group “Proud Boys.” Not only was the man not “Robert Cantrell,” but that name was mispelled and the real “Robert Cantrall” (correct spelling), a former member of the Proud Boys, does not live in Los Angeles, was not in Michigan, and was not present at the demonstration.
But both Cantrall and Cash, and others who shared their names, were bombarded by death and other threats, according to interviews with both men and others.
The real person in the photograph is Brian Dean Cash, 53, of New Hudson, Michigan, a self-employed flooring installer, right-wing conspiracy theorist, and pro-gun advocate, but mainly a long time advocate of rescinding federal government laws against Marijuana.
In a series of May interviews, Mr. Cash expressed being upset that his small father and son flooring installation company had been shut down because of the Michigan state ordered quarantine and ‘essential worker’ definitions, although state government contracts for flooring were made exempt.
“I helped build two hospitals,” Cash said. “I can’t work now, but construction projects funded by state contracts are exempt and can still work? No, that is not right and makes no sense.”
But Mr. Cash’s personal political views include far from mainstream beliefs that have nothing to do with the CV-19 virus or quarantine.
“There is no way Sandy Hook happened,” Cash said in a May 7 interview, referring to the Connecticut school shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, and six adult staff members. “They made it up. Same with 9-11. And the CIA killed Kennedy.”
But there is no evidence that he is a member of a hate group, or that he is a “paid republican operative,” as was widely alleged in the Twittersphere, according to an investigation and interviews, including with both Mr. Cash and Mr. Cantrall. “I am not a member of any group,” he contended.
Mr. Cash’s main political agenda is as an advocate of legalization of marijuana laws. In January 2020, Cash, wearing his signature marijuana leaf patch which he wore last week at the Michigan state house rally, demonstrated in support of a black man in front of the Federal courthouse at the sentencing of Danny Trevino on federal pot charges which he was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in federal prison.
“I like my pot. It is legal in Michigan, but the federal laws sentenced this man to 16 years. He has a five-year old child,” Cash said in an interview. “It broke my heart.”
Mr. Cash has been no saint over the years and has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, aggravated assault, larceny, stolen vehicles, and other charges from the early 2000’s.
@Stonecold2050 tweet misidentification of the photo of Cash as “Robert Cantrell” immediately garnered more than 6000 retweets and hundreds of comments on Twitter and Facebook, which metastized to thousands of other online conversations and posting of Brian Cash’s misidentified photo as that of Robert Cantrall, all excoriating the wrong man and, with the misspelling, all taking at face value, with no fact checking, that the identification was accurate.
One retweet, accompanied by a photo of Brian Dean Cash, read: “Rob Cantrell lives in Los Angeles. He is a White Supremacist paid to attend rallies. He is a super spreader. His germs will kill you. #RobCantrell is paid. He goes to whatever state the GOP pays him to go to.”
There are numerous people named Rob Cantrell–under that spelling– in both Los Angeles and Michigan, who have received threatening and hateful messages, according to interviews and social media posts, because of the incorrect social media postings.
In a May 5th interview with the real Mr. Cantrall, who lives in rural Oregon and has been active in right wing demonstrations in California and Oregon as a member of the Proud Boys, Cantrall confirmed he was not in Michigan and was misidentified.
He also detailed having received numerous telephone, text, and other message threats since the photo went viral. Cantrall said he has had “at least three death threats.”
Rob Cantrall at demonstration at Revolution Books run by the Revolutionary Communist Party in Berkeley, California
But Cantrall’s organization, the Proud Boys, (Cantrall contends he was kicked out of the Proud Boys and is no longer a member) have also engaged in the same tactics of threats and intimidation.
Cantrall has been documented as far back as 2017 as having engaged in violent clashes between the Proud Boys and Antifa in both Portland, Oregon and Berkeley, California. Footage from a May 13, 2017 anti-police-brutality event in downtown Portland shows Cantrall repeatedly attempting to fight or attack demonstrators. “Yeah, I can be in your face,” said Cantrall in the interview.
Gwen Snyder, who researches far right extremist groups was visited at her Philadeplhia home late one night by Proud Boys in 2019 and warned that Snyder should stop posting the names of Proud Boys members and other information on Twitter.
“You tell that fat bitch she better stop,” one of the Proud Boys told her neighbor, according to Snyder, who wasn’t home at the time.
The Proud Boys, contend they are a harmless fraternal organization devoted to supporting Trump, ‘Western Chauvisinism’, and drinking beer. But the designated Hate Group routinely promotes racist, homophobic, mysoginist, and pro-Trump rhetoric at public rallies and online in signature black-and-gold polo shirt uniforms.
Public leaders of the Proud Boys have been publicly welcomed by the pro-Trump Republican Party and have violently attacked counterprotesters in New York and Oregon where they now face criminal charges.
During the interview, the wrongly identified Cantrall from last week’s Michigan state house rally photo was initially not happy with Brian Dean Cash, who was the actual person in the photograph, for criticizing Cantrall for being “an open racist” in an interview published in the Detroit Free Press.
Cantrall said “I’m not a racist. I’m just not. So I am a little pissed off at Cash.”
In addition, Cantrall said that Brian Cash “has all his teeth. I don’t have any teeth.”
“People who identify as left or right, they want little to do with me anymore,” said Cantrall who said he no longer attends demonstrations. “Nobody wears masks these days. I avoid the city,” he said, referring to the CV-19 virus.
“I don’t have an affinity towards any race. I don’t believe that race matters,” he contended.
“Her’s what I don’t get: Antifa refers to American conservative and right leaning patriots as Nazis. But neo-Nazis embrace Hitler’s socialism, whereas American patriots are die hard anti-socialist. Does Antifa ignorantly think that all American nationalists are Nazis? I don’t think all of them are that ignorant,” Cantrall said. “I hate bullies. I also hate liars.”
What both the correct demonstrator, Brian Cash, and the misidentified former Proud Boy Rob Cantrall have in common are they are both advocates for the legalization of Marijuana.
When informed that Cash was a pot legalization advocate, Cantrall said “Okay. Maybe we can get along. I’d like to talk to him.”
“I hope we can get together and fight pot laws together,” Cantrall said when informed of their shared political views.
A single re-tweet by “Occupy Democrats” who also republished the wrong man from the wrong hometown and the wrong spelling of the of the wrong man’s name (which numerous people with the name who were misidentified received numerous hate messages) garnered 10,000 other retweets, 8000 shares, and more than 3000 comments from that single “occupy democrats” posting.
When contacted and informed of Cantrall’s shared views supporting legalization of Marijuana, Brian Cash said “Give him my phone number and email. I think we’d get along. We can get together and fight pot laws together.”
Mr. Cantrall, when informed of Mr. Cash’s interest in communicating directly, said “That sounds like a great idea! Maybe we can fight federal pot laws together.”