Reviews | Meet Alan Hostetter, the police chief turned yoga instructor pushing wealthy suburbanites into civil war

Hostetter is a former infantryman, sheriff’s deputy, SWAT officer, and police chief. This part of his journey is not particularly surprising. President Donald Trump enjoyed widespread support in the (white) law enforcement community, and the presence of former police officers and active soldiers at the Stop the Steal rally and the Capitol Riot was well received. documented. Though few if any other protesters who descended on Washington offered Hostetter’s combination of law enforcement and New Age mysticism, his presence at the rally illustrates the surprising, perhaps even unsettling, breadth of support. stalwart of Trump.

After retiring as police chief of La Habra, Calif., in 2010, Hostetter’s career took an unusual turn. He took up yoga and loved it so much that he soon started teaching. Before the pandemic hit, Hostetter guided wealthy housewives and senior center classes into hypnotic trances through “sound bath yoga,” which aims to promote relaxation and meditation through use of instruments such as Tibetan bowls, Native didgeridoos and Native American flutes. One thing he loved about his new career, Hostetter told the Travel LA website in 2019, was helping newcomers experience that “epiphany” of when you feel like you’ve finally found and felt your own soul.

A year after that interview, Hostetter was delivering an angry rant at an anti-lockdown rally in Orange County, a rally he helped organize. Avoiding a puffy yoga outfit for black jeans, a scrap World Trade Center necklace and a t-shirt with the words “Be the lion, not the sheep,” he urged the crowd to heed the call of Trump to travel to Washington for protest certification of the voter count on Jan. 6.

The “elected whores” in Congress could either “fix this mess and keep America, America,” Hostetter said, or make themselves traitors, in which case the “patriots” would drag them through the streets “and tie them up.” . [them] to a p—— lamp post.

The far-right in Hostetter’s Orange County is a mush of suburban well-being, law-and-order conservatism, white nationalist activity, and five of the nation’s 20 wealthiest cities. Hostetter and other activists have created an odd congregation of yogis, “spiritualists,” business owners, and mainstream Republicans, harnessing the fear and anger of Orange County’s elites. They united him with Trump’s more working-class base to build a coalition of anti-lockdown, anti-mask and anti-vaccine activists, QAnon conspirators, covid-19 truthers, wellness advocates, evangelicals, ultimate fight fans and white nationalists, all under the MAGA banner.

“Last year, I saw it go from being this calm yoga instructor to a crazy guy who would yell at you on the street if he caught you wearing a mask,” says one of the former yoga students. by Hostetter. (Some of the Orange County residents I interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals from Hostetter and his supporters.) [yoga] community with him. As his social media posts got crazier, he would get the support and likes of all those housewives and moms.

A protest to open the beaches brought surfers on board. A gathering of scorching masks to open restaurants drew business owners and what one resident describes as the “mothers of wine.” The George Floyd protests have sparked warnings that criminals and antifa violence are headed for affluent suburbs.

On Jan. 5, Hostetter’s anti-lockdown group, the American Phoenix Project, co-sponsored a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court with Virginia Women for Trump. “We are at war,” he said. He swore to “put the fear of God in the cowards, the traitors, the RINOs, the Communists of the Democratic Party”. Russ Taylor, another frequent speaker at Orange County anti-lockdown rallies and county board meetings, vowed to “fight” and “bleed” before kneeling before the communists, “deep state” actors and antifa.

Video and photo evidence the next day shows the two men on the steps of the Capitol or near the entrances. Hostetter and Taylor posed for a selfie on the steps of the Capitol. Taylor was seen carrying a knife as he marched to Congress and posted a video in which he suggested he could not attend Trump’s speech because he was armed and would not pass a security checkpoint. Taylor, who had recently posted selfies with the Orange County Sheriff and often expresses his support for law enforcement on social media, was later photographed go out a line of DC police on the steps of the Capitol, then in a group attempt to break through a police cordon. Neither Hostetter nor Taylor responded to a request for comment.

Trump’s most feverish supporters — those who could be persuaded to storm the Capitol — are often depicted as the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and other members of similar groups. But they also included “wine moms,” lawyers, respected business owners, religious leaders, and yogis. And they’re not going anywhere. Polls show the riot did little to dampen the enthusiasm of key Trump supporters or their belief without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen.

In a video shortly after the riot began, Hostetter recounts while panning from the steps of the Capitol over a red sea of ​​Trump supporters: “People have taken over their homes! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful sight in my entire life.

Seconds later, a voice off camera exclaims, “Oh shit—! They’re going inside! Hostetter responds, “We heard they’re going inside. I’ll be back later.” As long as Republican leaders and elected officials refuse to confront the fundamental pathologies of Trumpism that spawned the riot, the Alan Hostetters in this country will continue to radicalize themselves, and they will continue to radicalize others. . They will come back.

Early on Jan. 6, The Post’s Kate Woodsome saw signs of violence hours before thousands of President Trump loyalists besieged the Capitol. (Joy Yi, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)