Rod Webber says he was targeted by the FBI after his documentary mocked Donald Trump

Rod Webber says he was targeted by the FBI after his documentary mocked Donald Trump

In 2020, Rod Weber and his team of performance artists and filmmakers found themselves the target of what Weber called an unwarranted FBI and Boston Police Department investigation.

Weber, who wrote and directed the documentary 2020: Dumpster Firesaid investigators were falsely using footage from a Movie trailer—so that Weber and his team burn an effigy Donald TrumpAnd a book with the word “truth” blasted that agents mistook the word Trump — as evidence of an assassination plot.

A still from 2020: Dumpster FireWeber is shown being arrested.

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The FBI and BPD made multiple visits to Weber and his friends and served them with grand-jury subpoenas. A January 2021 subpoena addressed to Weber reviewed by The Daily Beast cites a “government investigation … into suspected violations of federal criminal law.” They have not been formally charged, but Weber said investigators told him they were looking into a conspiracy to kill Trump.

Weber’s wife, co-producer and activist Lauren Pespisa, said the allegations and law enforcement attention are unwarranted. “It’s just art,” she says. “Conflictual Art.”

Their film is a chaotic exhibition of Weber’s performance art that he pursued Propagation path. He shows up at events done by everyone Joe Biden per Andrew Young per Donald Trump. It’s serious interviews and Weber’s trolling, an attention-grabbing way to break the electoral cycle and expose the hypocrisy of many candidates.

It culminates in a sketch featured in the trailer meant to draw attention to various sexual-misconduct allegations against the then-president-elect. Weber, Pespissa, and co-producer Embry Gallen—dressed as Trump—carried a large cutout of the president, attending a rally in downtown Boston. Pespissa himself e. Introduced as Jean Carroll, journalist and author who in 2019 Allegedly, Trump sexually harassed her In 1995.

The mannequin is allegedly used to encourage investigations.

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“I’m here for all women who [Trump’s] Dirty hands cling to a ritual,” Pespissa tells the crowd. “To make sure his filthy paws never touch our beautiful country again.” He’s a Trump impersonator Galen and Weber set their effigies on fire and rip out hearts.

To understand how Weber and his friends found themselves in this situation, it is necessary to understand how they tick. For the uninitiated, Weber’s world is nothing if not strange and difficult to understand. He maintains that he is an artist first and foremost. “My way of calling out authority is through art,” he explained in an interview with The Daily Beast. But that could cause problems: He’s been arrested 10 times since 2016.

Weber has had a knack for mischief since high school. He remembers filling his school yard with thorns stuck in the ground as a prank. As a graduation gift, he placed a pine tree on the school’s steeple. However, this genre has always been balanced by a desire to create serious art. Early in his career, this meant making anti-folk music and directing indie-films I thought you were completely lost in the end And North Comfort, Both of which are stars Greta Gerwig.

His interest in the intersection of art and politics combined with documentary making, A man among giants. Through it, Weber tracked WWE wrestler Doug “Tiny the Terrible” Tunstall’s mayoral campaign in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Weber, who was politically active during this period, participating in protests and events, realized that he could use the footage for further documentaries.

He has since become one of those characters who pops up wherever something is happening in the US political world, devoting much of his energy to provoking people in power into what he calls “moral trolling”.

“It means we’re punched,” he explains. During election cycles, this includes campaign events and protests to create noise and try to catch politicians in embarrassing or hypocritical moments.

The approach resulted in surreal moments, including a clip of Trump supporters chanting “Suck Trump’s cock” at the request of Weber and his colleague Vermin Supreme. His 2016 indie documentary Flowers for peace The absurd scene of Weber, a staunch leftist, praying next to then-candidate Jeb Bush during a rally has garnered more than a million views on YouTube.

Weber and Vermin Supreme, ridicule The the comedianA 2019 artwork by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, which was at the 2019 Art Basel.

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As a painter and digital media artist himself, another natural area for Weber’s trolling is in the art world. By the end of 2019, Weber was arrested and headlined For writing “Epstien [sic] He didn’t kill himself with lipstick on the wall at Art Basel’s showcase of the work “The Comedian”—which, famously, has a $120,000 collar duct-taped to the wall.

The misspelling is intentional. “That’s how shit goes viral,” Weber laughs.

I am like Don Quixote. I lean towards the windmill and write about it.

“I’m like Don Quixote,” he explains. “I tilt at the windmill and then write about it.” And indeed, he sometimes charges politicians like a frenzied knight, playing a bullhorn or a guitar, only to be restrained by campaign workers and gallery security guards.

A piece of Weber’s AI artwork.

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But unlike the character, Weber occasionally hits a nerve and has lasting consequences.

Filming time Flowers for peace In 2015, Weber met the Trump campaign at an event in Rochester, New Hampshire, and Trump took a break from his speech As an opportunity to quote him from the Bible.

Weber hears Trump quoting a paraphrased version of 1 Timothy 3, which says that anyone who “desires the office of overseer” must be “above reproach, of a sober mind” and “not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” Weber said he suffered multiple injuries as he was later escorted out of the building by Trump campaign personal security.

He was later arrested at an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, when he tried to ask Trump why he was beaten in Rochester. But the charges were dropped, and Weber then turned around and sued the Trump campaign and the Manchester Police Department.

Years later in 2020, Weber and the Trump campaign settled. Weber was awarded $20,000 in damages, and in a separate case, Weber and the Manchester Police Department settled for $15,000 in damages.

To Weber, the FBI investigation is absurd, but it falls into a familiar pattern. He points to a court case for a convicted terrorist in the Boston Marathon bombing in which Agent Kimball had to confess. He tried to use the online evidence There were memes and pop song lyrics to show radicalization.

“Fuck the bombers, but that’s basically what they’re doing to us,” Weber said. “They are taking this trailer out of context and falsely accusing us of conspiracy to kill.”

The FBI declined to comment, and the BPD did not respond to a request for comment.

Although Weber is often out to provoke, what he does is protected by law—and always, he claims, victimless.

Of course, the line between art and vandalism is thin for Weber, and is often crossed in terms of his goals. “On the afternoon of December 8, 2019, a visitor entered a gallery booth and used lipstick to deface a wall inside the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC),” an Art Basel representative told the Daily Beast. “Vandalism is a clear violation of fair rules, and therefore, the Miami Beach Police Department has ejected him from the fair.”

his charge Soho and Basel were excluded, except for a $60 fine for disorderly conduct in New York, which Weber said he only paid because he was dealing with recent and increasingly pressing harassment by the FBI.

“Everything comes to nothing,” Pespissa said of Weber’s arrest. “For a guy who gets so many arrests, it’s amazing that a query check turns up nothing.”

He recalled that the case in Florida was dismissed almost immediately. “I was ready to defend myself, and as soon as my butt hit the seat, they told me everything was being dropped.” Weber said he was disappointed. “I wanted to stand out when I grew up.”

Weber is often so confident of his innocence that he chooses to advocate for himself in court by performing his own legal research. He won a settlement from the Trump campaign without representation. “He puts me to sleep reading a book on jurisprudence that he got from his grandfather,” Pespisa says with a laugh.

“It’s not all unicorns and political performances,” Weber said. “Like the ACLU, I choose cases because setting precedent is how we keep legislative power in check.”

To them, the means are justified. In their filmmaking and feather-ruffling, they strive to speak truth to power and make light of often dire situations.

“A protest without joy becomes hard work,” he says. “As long as my team and I can put a smile on some people’s faces, I think we’re fine.”

Weber and his production team.

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Legitimate desire to make a difference by documenting social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock in their documentaries under trolling. Battle of North Dakota.

“Sometimes you have to give up naivety and act as a faithful documenter of history,” explains Weber.

But Weber and Pespisa had to slow down in the face of a federal investigation into them. “We had to take the time to read and understand what we were being accused of and how to defend against it,” Weber explained.

And though things have calmed down recently—they say the last visit from law enforcement was in February—Weber and Pespisa still don’t think they’re in the clear. When asked if he worries about another tour, Weber said, “All the time. They always come after an article is published.”

“We had a congratulatory speech in 2020 when we thought it was all over,” he continued. “I’m never having one of these again.”

“I’m positive they’re keeping a file open for us,” Pespisa added. “How many other people and other artists are they doing this?”

Despite all this, Weber and Pespissa never considered quitting. In early July 2022, Weber and Pespissa encountered the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front as they attempted to protest in downtown Boston. Documenting the entire encounter, Pespia, Weber, and other operatives chased members of the Patriot Front out of town.

Weber took to Twitter Speaking of law enforcement response or lack thereof. “We’re not just making fun of politicians,” Weber said. “We are hard at work researching information that allows us to be on the scene to confront neo-Nazis in Boston — a feat that city officials claim is impossible.”

This latest encounter proved that no amount of pressure and harassment could stop Weber and Pespissa. “What are we going to do, roll up and die?” Weber asks. “We’ll continue to call on the power. It’s a constant struggle, but we’re looking forward to what’s next.”

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