Clashing ideologies, lack of arrests after violent Capitol rally spur competing ‘doxing’ campaigns
Sacramento police say they’ve identified some of the suspects, but that victims aren’t cooperating with investigation
Last month’s violent Capitol clash between white nationalists and anti-fascists has spilled onto social media, where both groups are stoking hostility with the online dissemination of personal information and, in some cases, evocating mass shootings.
Ever since the June 26 mass-casualty event left 10 people injured and no one in custody, members of both groups have engaged in competing “doxing” campaigns—posting and sharing personally identifiable information about the individuals they hold responsible.
The Traditionalist Worker Party, which advocates strict racial segregation, had obtained a permit to host a rally on the state Capitol’s west side beginning around noon that Sunday. The relatively new white-separatist group supports presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and is itself supported by white-supremacist and skinhead groups.
Violence erupted when those assembled for the rally were confronted by a large group of protesters. Despite assurances from the CHP that it had developed a security plan to maintain order, the event quickly devolved into a roving series of uninterrupted brawls that caught officers flat-footed and left five people stabbed. Much of the violence was captured on video, and shared and debated on social media.
A pro-white Facebook group calling itself Pioneer Little Europe posted an image of at least one individual it associated with the anti-fascist group Antifa Sacramento, and seemed to be gathering forces. “If you are in Sacramento, Berkeley, Oakland, or near one these places, contact me right away. We are going to bring a communist to face justice,” one post read. A later post conjured images of a mass shooting:
“If the TWP members in Sacramento all had AR-15s complimented with the Stand Your Ground law and defended themselves against all of the Antifa terrorists, and by that I mean got rid of all of the violent ones rushing them, Sacramento would wake up the next day with a new record of a low crime rate that would last for at least 5 years.”
The page has since been disabled.
At least two rally attendees from opposite sides have had their employers contacted, including Berkeley elementary school teacher Yvette Felarca, an organizer with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which fought with the TWP supporters. One day after a bandaged Felarca appeared on TV and claimed victory for shutting down the rally, the school at which she works arranged additional security because of an anonymous email threatening students if she wasn’t terminated.
Meanwhile, protesters believe they identified one of the stabbing suspects by matching an image taken at the rally to a Facebook profile of a self-described skinhead, and encouraged each other to call the Facebook user’s union to demand his firing. The union set up a recorded message saying it does not condone discrimination or violence, and urged people with information about “any illegal activity” to contact the Sacramento Police Department.
The two agencies responsible for providing security at the rally are sifting through a large amount of digital evidence already, officials said.
“They’re still reviewing lots of tapes and videos. The public is helping out by sending” information, too, said CHP spokesman Officer George Granada. “The Capitol has a lot of cameras, so all that is being reviewed, along with what’s on social media.”
The amount of video and image content that has been submitted to authorities “is starting to bog down the system,” Grenada said. The CHP is figuring out a way to store it as investigators comb through the raw footage from the event.
Grenada was otherwise mum on the specifics of the investigation, including which attacks occurred on their jurisdiction on state property.
Sacramento police are investigating three separate assaults that occurred off Capitol grounds and in their jurisdiction on June 26, said department spokesman Officer Matt McPhail. Two of the victims were engaged in the rally or counterdemonstration, McPhail said. One was stabbed; the other was physically assaulted. The third victim was a reporter covering the rally, McPhail said. KCRA reporter Mike Luery has said he was shoved to the ground by protesters who objected to his covering the event. He also had his iPhone and reporter’s notebook stolen.
Of the three victims, McPhail said only the reporter was cooperating with police. That has complicated the investigation, he said, and could influence the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, which would be responsible for filing formal charges if arrests are made.
“It is a barrier that would have to be overcome,” McPhail said. “The ultimate decision on whether or not charges will be filed rests with them.”
A DA’s office spokeswoman said that every case is evaluated based on its individual circumstances.
Police have identified persons who may have been responsible for one or more of the assaults, McPhail said, but he cautioned against expecting an immediate resolution to an event that attracted widespread coverage and criticism about the role that law enforcement did or didn’t play in preventing and responding to the violence. “I know people are interested in seeing some closure. What I would say is be curious, but be patient,” he said. “Within the legal process, you only get one shot.”
As for the idea that the two factions may be using the internet to spur vigilante justice, McPhail suggested that technology may have changed, but not human nature.
“If this was done a hundred years ago, you’d probably see people calling each other out in the newspaper,” he said. “We just have a different way of expressing ourselves.”