American law enforcement working with neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups to crack down on progressive activists?
Yes, according to court documents that state some California police officers expressed sympathy with white supremacists, and even solicited their help targeting counter protesters after a violent June 2016 white nationalist rally in Sacramento.
The documents were included in a court briefing from three anti-fascist activists charged with felonies who urged a judge to dismiss their case. They also accused California police and prosecutors of a “cover-up and collusion with the fascists.”
Yvette Felarca is a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer who was charged with assault and rioting after participating in the Sacramento rally, where she claims she was stabbed and struck on the head.
“It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis. The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys.”
California highway patrol (CHP) investigation records indicate examples of CHP officers colluding with the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), the neo-Nazi rally organizer. Those records show police treating white nationalists as victims and anti-fascists as suspects.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), TWP is “intimately allied with neo-Nazi and other hardline racist organizations,” and “advocates for racially pure nations.”
Its leaders have extolled Trump. The group has even claimed to have shown up with more than 100 people at the August pro-Confederate statue rally in Charlottesville, Va. where counter protester Heather Heyer was killed when a white nationalist protester struck her with his car.
Police have identified Doug McCormack as the TWP contact who obtained the permit for the Sacramento rally. A phone call between him and CHP investigator Donovan Ayres indicates Ayres warning McCormack police might have to release McCormack’s name in response to a public records requests, and that Ayres would attempt to protect McCormack if that occurred.
According to the call, Ayres told McCormack:
“I’m gonna suggest that we hold that or redact your name or something until this gets resolved. If I did, I would tell you.”
McCormack was armed at the rally with a knife, Ayres’s reports state.
In his write up, about an African American anti-fascist activist, Ayres included a picture of him at a hospital after the rally where he reportedly received stab wounds to the abdomen, chest, and hand. Ayres recommended the African American man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly, and wearing a mask. His evidence for the activist’s “support for anti-racist activism” was a Facebook picture of the activist’s “Black Power salute,” supposedly indicating his intent to violate the neo-Nazi group’s civil rights.
Ayres’s report also noted Yvette Felarca’s political activism on behalf of students of color and women’s rights.
One of Felarca’s attorneys said in an interview:
“This is a textbook case of a political witch-hunt and selective prosecution.”
Officers also tried to identify anti-fascist activists through TWP member Derik Punneo, arrested for an unrelated domestic violence charge. Audio recordings captured investigators admitting they brought photos hoping Punneo could help them identify left-wing activists in them, saying:
“We’re pretty much going after them. We’re looking at you as a victim.”
Ayres’s report noted one stabbing victim at the Sacramento rally told police he believed Punneo was responsible for the wounds he sustained. It also noted Punneo was “in the vicinity” of another victim, but the evidence wasn’t clear.
Punneo and McCormack were not charged.
In a response filed last Thursday, prosecutors accused Felarca’s lawyers of using the filing to “make a political statement,” and blamed stabbing victims or ignoring the district attorney’s inquiries.
The response states:
“Despite the fact that we have not gained the cooperation of these victims, the investigation to hold their attackers responsible continues forward.”
Arguing charges were based on video evidence, prosecutors added:
“No one is beneath the protection of the law, no matter how repugnant his or her rhetoric or misguided his or her ideals.”
This is not an isolated event.
Last year, US prosecutors relied on video evidence to target anti-Trump protesters in Washington D.C.
An “alt-right” event in Oregon saw police permitting a right-wing militia-style group member to help officers arrest an anti-fascist activist.
Sam Menefee-Libey, an activist advocate for protesters charged for Inauguration Day rallies last year, said the government has made a practice of targeting those who actively resist the current administration’s policies.
“We have patterns of acknowledged and unacknowledged overlaps between the interest of ultra-right nationalist organizations and the police and prosecutors’ offices.”
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