By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – The long-awaited trial of three anti-fascist demonstrators was set for July 15 here in Superior Court Tuesday – more than three years after anti-fascist and white nationalists groups clashed at the State Capitol, leaving at least seven anti-fascists hospitalized with stab wounds.
The long, long wait for a final determination of justice couldn’t come sooner for Mike Williams of Woodland, Porfirio Paz and Yvette Felarca. All but Paz face assault-related felonies for the incident. Paz’ charges have been reduced to misdemeanors.
Supporters Tuesday said they are planning to hold a people’s “tribunal” to put the white nationalists and the system on trial sometime before the real July 15 trial.
“We still believe this is a political witchhunt. No jury is going to convict these people. It is just costing the taxpayers money,” said Shanta Driver, one of the lawyers representing Felarca, a Bay Area school teacher.
“It’s becoming clearer now that the right wing are organizing more with Trump as president….if the right extremists get away with the attacks here, Sacramento becomes the next target of a terrorist right wing attack,” cautioned Driver outside the courthouse Tuesday.
She and the other defense lawyers, including Linda Parisi (Williams) and Mark Reichel (Paz) have claimed all along that their clients are not guilty and were only defending themselves and other anti-fascists activists from the weapons used to injure and maim counter protestors by the Traditional Workers Party and other white supremacists on June 26, 2016.
When the three anti-fascist defendants were bound over for trial after a preliminary hearing in January, Parisi was explicit in her defense.
“Of course. I am disappointed that (Williams) is going to face trial for his commitment against hate and violence, and the discriminatory illegal conduct of the Traditional Workers Party and Nazi. Our clients’ lawful protests against such despicable groups are to be lauded against those representing the Nazi…we fought a world war to end their white supremacy goals. Our clients are continuing in that struggle,” she said.
Supporters point not to just what they call Trump’s “encouragement” of right-wing white supremacists, but also to a biased law enforcement.
In fact, according to a report by the Dept. of Homeland Security and FBI in 2009, there is a growing white supremacist threat in the U.S., and particularly in law enforcement.
The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) joined other federal law enforcement agencies in stating that right wing extremists had “infiltrated” state and local law enforcement agencies.
That fits with what the anti-fascist lawyers and supporters have been saying all along – that the California Highway Patrol failed to act when anti-fascists and white supremacists met on the south Capitol lawn.
“They (white supremacists) stabbed and attempted to murder unarmed black, Latina/o, Asian, Arab, and white anti-racist and anti-fascist counter-protesters. The 133 (officers) who were present on the ground stood by and did nothing to protect counter-protesters or to stop the Nazi assault. At least 7 anti-racists were hospitalized for stab wounds, head injuries, and fractured bones, with some requiring invasive surgery as a result of the Nazi attack,” according to a statement by BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), which organizes against white supremacists.
“Instead of arresting the racists, the police and District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert have scapegoated three anti-racist and anti-fascists fighters with fabricated felony and misdemeanor charges: Yvette Felarca, Mike Williams, and Porfirio Paz,” said BAMN.
BAMN said that California Highway Patrol officers “interrogated and harassed” injured protesters in their hospital beds “without pursuing charges against the Nazi’s who stabbed people. The police released unsubstantiated public statements blaming anti-fascist protesters within 24 hours, actively covering for the Nazi’s.”
“Months later, after the election of Donald Trump, the police collusion with the fascists went into high gear. Over a year after the protest, in the summer of 2017 and only weeks before the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, (District Attorney Anne Marie) Schubert officially joined the police collusion with the Nazi’s and charged Felarca, Williams, and Paz,” said BAMN.
BAMN and other anti-fascists groups, along with the defendants’ lawyers, have maintained that the CHP and local police know the names and have pictures of white nationalists with knives out but have arrested none of them.
“(Police reports) reveal open political targeting of the anti-fascist counter protesters who were present. The police showed little interest in pursuing an investigation of the fascists. Taped phone interviews conducted by the police reveal their willingness to cover for the Nazis and to pursue a witchhunt, especially targeting outspoken BAMN leader Yvette Felarca,” said BAMN.
BAMN and other anti-fascists and social justice groups blame Donald Trump for much of the rise of the right.
“Donald Trump is capable of creating a tyrannical authoritarian regime. Every day brings a new example of Trump’s assault on democracy: kidnapping and ripping immigrant children from the arms of their parents, terrorizing immigrants and Muslims to enact a racial purge, empowering police to target and brutalize black and Latina/o communities, encouraging the rape and sexual assault of women and active discrimination of LGBTQ people, and obstructing justice..
“Groups that call themselves Nazi, KKK, and neo-Confederates are the equivalent to the fascists who followed Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany. Their Alt-Right counterparts share their same politics, but without the identifiable costumes. Thanks to Trump, white supremacists and fascists have been on the rise, becoming bolder and more dangerous. They back Trump because of, not in spite of, his racist and misogynistic attacks,” said BAMN.