Prosecutors on Monday indicted at least seven people, whom they described as self-identified anti-fascists, in eight alleged assaults in January during a “March of the Patriots” in Pacific Beach organized by supporters of the president of the time, Donald Trump.
Those arrested Monday in San Diego Superior Court were among the group arrested Thursday in raids by police and sheriff’s deputies in southern California. Prosecutors allege the defendants “self-identified as being affiliated with anti-fascists or antifa,” according to a criminal complaint, and began to organize – with one group originally from San Diego and the other from Los Angeles – a week before Trump’s pro-rally.
The case is said to be one of the first to use charges of conspiracy – in this case of conspiracy to riot – to target suspected “Antifa” members, a term often used to describe the anti-fascist movement.
The The Center for Strategic and International Studies describes “Antifa” as a “decentralized network of far-left activists who oppose what they believe to be fascist, racist or otherwise right-wing extremists” and whose adherents “often mix anarchist and communist views”. Antifascists are generally not afraid of clashes, instead using what they call “direct action”To confront the systems, groups and individuals they see as their political enemies.
According to a criminal complaint, the defendants indicted on Monday began their criminal association “by liking and sharing” a January 2 post on social media that called for a counter-demonstration against the pro-Trump rally, “essentially agreeing to to participate in ‘direct action.’ Others agreed by showing up at Pacific Beach on January 9, 2021 and participating in the violence “detailed in the complaint, according to prosecutors.
They are accused of using pepper spray, small flag poles, sticks and other items to attack the pro-Trump mob January 9 in the streets and promenade near Crystal Pier. Protesters at the rally held signs and flags adorned with “Stop the Steal,” “Trump 2020” and other similar messages just days after the January 6 uprising on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
Several of the attacks detailed in the complaint appear to correspond to incidents that have been recorded and shared online, such as a video of an anti-fascist counter-protester spraying pepper on a dog and its owner. Prosecutors allege the act was committed by Jeremy Jonathan White, 39, one of the defendants who remained in jail Monday in lieu of $ 200,000 bail. White faces charges of conspiracy, assault with a deadly weapon, use of tear gas not in self-defense, and animal cruelty.
A Los Angeles-based videographer captured an attack lasting nearly two minutes by counter-protesters involving the use of pepper spray, a wooden folding chair thrown in the air, sticks, punches and kicks. Prosecutors detailed an identical attack in the complaint.
Those arrested on Monday, according to the district attorney’s office, were whites; Luis Francisco Mora, 30 years old; Joseph Austin Gaskins, 21; Faraz Martin Talab, 27; Bryan Rivera, 21; Brian Lightfoot, 25; and Jesse Merel Cannon, 31.
Alexander Akridge-Jacobs, 31, also faces charges, according to a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office; Christian Martinez, 23 years old; and Samuel Howard Ogden, 24.
A $ 250,000 arrest warrant has been issued for Erich Louis Yach, 37, according to records from the district attorney’s office and the county sheriff’s department.
Information on the defendants’ defense attorneys was not available on Monday evening. A lawyer who represents one of the defendants in two other criminal cases did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
Although reporters and passers-by have also documented the violence by pro-Trump protesters – a video showed a group attacking a barefoot man in a George Floyd t-shirt, including a man who spat at him and punched him – the district attorney’s office claimed most of the violence was carried out by left-wing counter-protesters.
“Analysis of the video evidence shows that an overwhelming majority of the violence in this incident was perpetrated by Antifa affiliates and was not a mutual melee with the two parties moving from the legal expression of the First Amendment to riot and violence, ”District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office said in a press release. .
Stephan’s office said in the statement that prosecutors lay charges when the evidence supported the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt, regardless of the victims’ political affiliation, because “the right to peaceful protest must be protected.” .
Stephan spokesperson Steve Walker noted that in August of last year, two men who have been charged in connection with an attack on Black Lives Matter protesters at Imperial Beach. During the protest in June 2020, a black man who was recording the event was punched and protesters were cursed and had eggs thrown at them.
One of the accused pleaded guilty to assault and the second pleaded guilty to assault and battery. The two men too pleaded guilty to hate crimes allegations. They were sentenced to probation in April.
Editor-in-chief David Hernandez contributed to this report.