While investigating a violent white nationalist rally in June 2016, California state police demonstrated sympathy for the neo-Nazis who organized the Sacramento event, coordinating with them in an effort to identify, arrest, and prosecute “anti-racist” activists involved in the counter-protest against it, court records revealed.
The documents, which were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists who were charged with felonies after attempting to disrupt the Traditionalist Workers Party’s (TWP) rally, show that a California Highway Patrol (CHP) investigator assured a white supremacist that he would protect his anonymity and told another he was being seen as a victim in the violence that ensued at the 2016 Sacramento event. The defendants were urging a judge to dismiss their case and accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists”.
Defense lawyers highlighted the Sacramento rally as the latest example of US law enforcement appearing to align with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups while targeting anti-fascist activists and Donald Trump protesters following violent confrontations.
“It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis,” Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer charged with assault and rioting after participating in the June 2016 Sacramento rally, where she was stabbed and bludgeoned in the head, told the Guardian.
“The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys.”
The Guardian‘s report on the documents comes after rising concerns about police against African-Americans throughout the country, and the emboldening of white supremacists amid President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and his administration.
Some CHP investigation records raise questions about the police’s investigative tactics and communication with the TWP. Felarca’s attorneys obtained numerous examples of CHP officers working directly with the TWP, often treating the white nationalist group as victims and the anti-fascists as suspects.
The TWP is “intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations” and reportedly brought more than 100 white nationalists to the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer.
At the Sacramento rally in June 2016, dozens of TWP members gathered outside the state capitol building, while counter-protesters led by Antifa organizers staged a “shut down Nazi rally.” Ensuing clashes ended with ten people sustaining injuries including stab wounds and head traumas; nine of the ten victims were anti-racism activists.
A CHP report in the case filings showed that an investigator recommended one of the injured protesters, an African-American male who was stabbed in the chest, abdomen, and hand, be charged with 11 offenses. As evidence, the officer submitted information about the man’s “support for anti-racist activism.”
Felarca was also one of the injured. She was charged with assault and inciting a riot, with information about her activism on behalf of women and people of color submitted as evidence of her wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, one stabbing victim identified TWP organizer Derik Punneo as the person who had injured him. Punneo was armed with a knife at the rally, CHP noted, but police did not pursue charges for him regarding the violence.
According to audio recordings, police told Punneo: “We’re pretty much going after them. We’re looking at you as a victim.”
“This is a textbook case of a political witch-hunt and selective prosecution,” Shanta Driver, one of Felarca’s attorneys, told the Guardian.
The three activists who were charged are seeking a dismissal of the case, citing the biased investigation into the violence.