UPDATE: March 15 ― Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of felony third-degree burglary. A hate crime will also be considered during sentencing, Det. Liliana Duran of the Tempe Police Department told HuffPost.
A disturbing Facebook live video has recently surfaced of a troubling excursion in which two women take a group of children to vandalize and steal materials at a mosque in Tempe, Arizona,in an attempt to “expose the evil that is happening in our backyards.”
In three bizarre videos published March 4 by Facebook user Tahnee Gonzales, she and another woman take three unidentified children on a trip to the mosque in order to “collect as much information” and “expose mosques” in order to teach the children how to be “American patriots.”
In one outlandish scene, Gonzales and the second woman, identified as Elizabeth “Liz” Dauenhauer, lead the children to trespass onto the mosque’s private property after Gonzales delivers a hateful lecture on Muslims during the car trip there.
“They smell like goat,” exclaims a girl in the background once the group enters through the gated fence and walk around a play area at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe. Both women immediately laugh. Gonzales then tells the group and the viewers on camera that Muslims are destroying America and are “devil Satan worshippers.”
Once back in the parking lot, after having stolen flyers and other items from the mosque, the women praise the girl and two boys for their racist comments and for participating in the burglary.
The women then circle the property and take photos of the kids standing in front of the mosque. The little girl instructs one of the boys to put his “thumbs down” and pouts as the group poses for a photo.
“Be careful, because Muslims are waiting to rape you,” the young girl is heard telling the boy.
The children are then seen climbing upon the mosque’s funeral van while one of the women warns one of the boys about the “dead Muslims” and “sex goats” that she says were once stored in the truck.
One of videos posted by Gonzales has since been taken down but was reposted on a number of other accounts, including a Facebook page under the name Naui Ocelot that has accumulated over 10,000 views. The other two videos are still on Gonzales’ personal Facebook page. HuffPost has also obtained copies of the videos.
The Tempe Police Department confirmed to HuffPost the identities of Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer. HuffPost also matched the women in the video to their individual Facebook pages based on their appearances. In addition, the Facebook page Naui Ocelot, which reposted the now deleted video, included links to both Gonzales’ personal Facebook page and to Dauenhauer’s Facebook page.
Local news reports said Wednesday morning that the women were part of the Patriot Movement AZ, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a “fringe group being energized and influenced by the president’s over-the-top rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims.”
The video begins with the two women in the front of a car with the three children in the back. The women have brought flags for the children and call them “little infidels.”
Gonzales rallies her viewers to “get off their butts” to fight Islamic religious law. She then calls Deedra Abboud, a Muslim woman running as a Democratic candidate in Arizona for the U.S. Senate, a threat to America.
Abboud posted on Facebook her condemnation of the pair’s actions, saying they are “not ‘standing up for America’ or representing American values in any way.” Abboud told HuffPost that Patriot Movement AZ told her it removed Gonzales from the group before the incident. The group, however, denied to HuffPost that Gonazles was ever a member.
HuffPost spoke to the imam of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, where the incident occurred. Ahmad Al-Akoum reviewed the footage and delivered evidence to the Tempe Police Department the same week. The Islamic Community Center is working with the Tempe police to investigate charges against Gonzales and Dauenhauer.
This isn’t the first time the mosque has been on the receiving end of a hate crime, but it was shocking for the community to see young children participating in the vile attacks, Al-Akoum said.
“What really affected me the most is seeing those young children getting real-life lessons in hate, that was the thing that made me really, really upset with those people. Those innocent 5-, 6-year-old children are now really learning hate from their parents. It’s really disheartening,” Al-Akoum, the operations director and acting imam of the center, told HuffPost.
The Tempe Police Department says it is investigating trespass reports against Dauenhauer and Gonzales on behalf of the Islamic center, the police department’s media relations officer, Det. Liliana Duran, told HuffPost. More charges are likely to be filed, she said. The two women are not now charged or in custody, however.
HuffPost reached out to to Gonzales but did not hear back. HuffPost was unable to contact Dauenhauer, and she has since deleted her Facebook page.
HuffPost reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to inquire about both women’s employment status after Dauenhauer claimed on Facebook that she worked for the agency. CBP confirmed to HuffPost that neither women is employed by the agency.
In one of the videos posted on the same day after the trip, Gonzales asks her daughter for her thoughts about sharia, or Islamic law, and the child responds, “F it.” When her mom asks to explain more, the young girl says sharia allows “old men ... to marry young kids at my age.”
The litany of disinformation repeated by the young children in the video has alarmed the Muslim community in Arizona.
“The most jarring thing about the video is clearly the fact there are children involved, indoctrinated to hate people based off their belief system or what they look like or the color they are. You can see that unfolding in real time,” said Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“Ironically about all of this is that the trope exists among these people that Muslims teach their children to hate. Yet they are right there on camera, telling the children just extremely inflammatory false information about this group of people that is definitely going to shape their perspectives about Muslims as they grow older. My hope for these children is that they are able to overcome the hate that is being taught to them by their parents.
The series of videos, thought to all have been taken on the same day, is filled with dangerous Islamophobic rhetoric about the Muslim community, stating that Muslims “use our Constitution against us” and “get everything for free,” such as food, assistance and housing.
In reality, Muslims have consistently contributed to American society since the birth of this nation. Muslims comprise 10 percent of American physicians, are leaders in politics and activism, and give more to charity than any other religious group.
The statements made by Gonzales and Dauenhauer are a common ploy by far-right activists to vilify the Muslim-American community.
During the longest video of the three, viewers can follow the family trip from the car ride to the mosque. The group’s first stop is a strip mall that includes a store and Muslim-owned restaurants that offer halal food ― food prepared according to Islamic customs ― that is next to the Islamic Community Center of Tempe. There, Gonzales discusses the “illegal invasion of Muslims” while showing the children the storefronts, speculating that the restaurants were closed because Muslims were busy “worshipping the anti-Christ.” The children follow Gonzales closely everywhere she goes, listening to every word.
Once at the mosque, the two women and the three children let themselves into the mosque’s gated outdoor play area. Gonzales notices the “No firearms” sign at the gate and at first hesitates to enter, acknowledging in the video that she is carrying a weapon. “I have to take my gun out of my bag back.”
“Go take it back,” she instructs the young boy who is out of the camera frame. She then proceeds to enter the gated area that has a “No trespassing” sign. “I had Betty on me. So I had to put Betty away,” she tells Dauenhauer, laughing. It’s unclear whether Dauenhauer enters the premise with the gun or whether it was given to the boy to place somewhere else.
Once inside, the women, led by Dauenhauer, begin tearing pamphlets off a bulletin board as the children watch. The women then instruct the kids to grab as many of the flyers as they can.
The family then continues the hateful and bizarre tour toward the mosque and try to enter the prayer space. Instead, they bump into a worshipper who is exiting at the same time. The man is seen attempting to engage the family in a dialogue, clearly shocked, but the group instead accuses him of wanting to eat their dog and engage in pedophilia.
“We’re coming after you. We, the people. We’re exposing you. You guys stand for evil and nothing but evil,” Gonzales is heard yelling at the stunned worshipper.
“We’re trying to be peaceful,” the man is heard responding. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
In a separate video, posted by Gonzales on the same day, the group is gathered back in the car, singing along to a song known as the Donald Trump song.
“Build a wall. Ten feet, 20 feet, 100 feet tall,” they all sing.
“Look at these patriots!” Gonzales says as she points to her children. “Raise your kids to love your country. Get involved with your children. You only have a certain amount of time before they leave you and become adults. You raise great patriots and you get great Americans. Raise your kid right to love your country, and we’re going to have a great country in the end, working with our president, Donald J. Trump. We’re winning 2020 again. What’s up. 2020 President Trump.”
This incident, although alarming, does not come as a shock to the Muslim community. Islamophobia is at an all-time high in the United States.
“This is not happening in a vacuum. It’s a troubling trend. We live here in the intersection of gun culture and Islamophobia in Arizona, where you have very lax open-carry laws,” said Siddiqi. “It’s not acceptable for people to encroach on a house of worship like this, to harass worshippers and to take materials from the mosque. There needs to be perimeters that are there and clearly laid out, and these types of things need to be prosecuted.”
Al-Akoum and his congregants are optimistic that justice will be served. They have received a letter of support from a member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix condemning the hateful attack on the mosque and offering solidarity.
“While we may disagree on matters of religion, you deserve nothing less than respect and recognition of your basic human dignity. You are welcome here,” the letter said.
Al-Akoum, touched by the gesture, also has hope for the children brought along by Gonzales and Dauenhauer.
“My hope is that those kids will grow up and be more engaged in the community and meet some Muslims and see what they did learn is not true about Muslims.”
This story has been updated to include further comments from Abboud, as well as comments from Patriot Movement AZ.
Clarification: A previous version of this story indicated the Islamic Community Center of Tempe had received a letter of support from the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix. While the letter was from a member of the society, it did not represent the whole group.