Ignoring Nazis

In defense motion, anti-fascists blast ‘collusion’ between Sacramento DA, CHP and white nationalists

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the February 8, 2017, issue.

Attorneys for three left-wing activists have accused the California Highway Patrol and Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office of engaging in a monthslong conspiracy to protect the white nationalists and skinheads who engaged in a bloody riot at the state Capitol in June 2016.

In a 45-page motion filed Monday with the Sacramento Superior Court, the United for Equality & Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund alleges the agencies “colluded with the fascists and are carrying out a political witch-hunt against” defendants Yvonne C. Felarca, Porfirio G. Paz and Michael A. Williams, who protested a June 26, 2016, rally organized by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist political organization.

Organizers obtained permission to hold the rally on the western steps of the state Capitol building from the CHP, which is responsible for keeping the peace on statehouse grounds. Threats of violence brewed on social media in the days leading up to the event. The rally, to support the candidacy of Donald Trump, was promoted online by Golden State Skinheads, a racist group operating in Northern California, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

While the CHP is authorized to withhold or revoke permits based on the likelihood of violence, the agency didn’t do so in this case. Prior to the rally, a CHP official told SN&R that the agency developed an adequate security plan to maintain order with the Sacramento Police Department, which has jurisdiction over city property. But officers mostly held back as intense fighting swarmed around the Capitol, resulting in at least 10 people being injured.

“The whole affair could’ve been avoided,” said Shanta Driver, a national chair of the radical leftist group By Any Means Necessary and one of Felarca’s attorneys. “It’s hard to explain why the police didn’t play a more active role.”

Driver spoke to SN&R prior to Felarca’s arraignment in August.

Both the CHP and Police Department have resisted commenting on their response to the violence. The city hasn’t completed a public records request submitted by SN&R in September.

The motion submitted February 5 claims that seven anti-fascists were hospitalized for stab wounds, that another suffered a fractured skull and broken arm, and that Felarca, a Berkeley middle school teacher and BAMN organizer, “was stabbed and bludgeoned.”

“The cover-up began immediately, with police interrogating and harassing injured counter-protesters in their hospital beds while doing nothing to pursue the charges against the Nazis who had stabbed them,” the motion states.

A police spokesman previously told SN&R that victims and eyewitnesses declined to speak to investigators, which resulted in the department recommending no charges to the district attorney’s office. The CHP, which was responsible for the bulk of the investigation, forwarded to the DA’s office 101 arrest warrants for review, for crimes ranging from felony assault to possessing illegal signs.

Last July, the DA’s office announced it would be prosecuting four individuals for assault and riot crimes. Aside from the three leftist defendants, William Planer, a onetime Sacramento resident with white nationalist ties, was also charged.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, defense fund attorney and organizer Ronald Cruz alleged the CHP failed to recommend charges against violent fascists, despite the cooperation of at least three stabbing victims on the left: Nathan Van Dyke, who identified his attacker; Cedric O’Bannon, who turned over cellphone video of his attack, only to get his phone returned with the memory card erased; and Vincent White, whose attackers were identified by a CHP investigator.

Cruz said it amounted to an “investigation that wasn’t interested in assisting those who identified the people who stabbed them.”

Instead, Cruz said, CHP investigators steered bedside interviews in hospitals toward the victims’ political affiliations. “It’s story after story of a hostile investigator,” Cruz said.

In a statement, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi dismissed the allegations.

“Virtually every assertion made in the defendant’s motion is false,” the statement read. “We intend to prosecute this case in the courtoom rather than in the media.”

The motion, along with 161 pages of exhibits, requests the dismissal of all charges facing Felarca, Paz and Williams. Grippi said his office would respond in writing on Thursday, February 8. A hearing on the motion is scheduled the following day.

“From our point of view, we think the judge can make this ruling on Friday,” Cruz said.