Prosecutors have charged at least seven individuals, who they described as self-identified Anti-Fascists. They were charged in connection to eight alleged assaults which occurred during the San Diego “Patriot March” in January, organized by supporters of former President Trump.
The group of arrested in raids by sheriff’s and police officers across Southern California on Thursday were among those arraigned in San Diego County Superior Court. According to a criminal complaint, the defendants are accused of being “self-identified as being affiliated with Antifascists/Antifa” and organized themselves – with one group coming from San Diego and the second in Los Angeles – a week prior to the pro-Trump rally at Pacific Beach.
This case is thought to be the first to use conspiracy accusations — in this instance conspiracy to commit riot — against people who have ties to “antifa,” which is a term used often to describe anti-fascist movements.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies defines antifa to be a “decentralized network, far-left militants that oppose what they consider fascist or racist extremists”, and whose adherents often blend anarchist and communist’s views. Instead, they use what they call “direct action” in order to confront the individuals, groups, and systems they see as their political enemies.
A criminal complaint alleges that Monday’s defendants began their criminal conspiracy by liking and sharing a Jan. 2 post on social media calling for a counter-protest to the pro-Trump rally. Others then agreed to show up in Pacific Beach on the 9th of 2021 to participate in the violence.
They are accused of using pepper spray, small flagpoles and sticks to attack the pro-Trump crowd at the streets and boardwalk close to Crystal Pier. The protestors at the rally carried signs and flags with similar messages, including “Stop the Steal,” and “Trump 2020”, just days following the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Many of the incidents detailed in the complaint seem to be similar to those that were recorded and shared online. For example, a clip of an anti-fascist counter protester pepper-spraying his dog with his owner. Prosecutors claim that the act was committed in lieu of $200,000 bail by Jeremy Jonathan White (39). White is facing charges of conspiracy and assault with a deadly instrument, use of teargas not in self defense, animal cruelty, and conspiracy.
A Los Angeles-based videographer captured nearly two minutes of an attack by counter-protesters. It involved pepper spray, a wooden folding chairs, sticks, punches, and kicks. The complaint contained a similar attack by the prosecution.
According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, White, Luis Francisco Mora was 30; Joseph Austin Gaskins was 21; Faraz Mart Talab, 27, Bryan Rivera, 21 and Bryan Rivera were 21; Bryan Rivera was 21; Brian Lightfoot was 25; and Jesse Merel Cannon was 31.
According to a spokesperson for office, Alexander Akridge-Jacobs (31), Christian Martinez (23), and Samuel Howard Ogden (24) are also facing charges.
According to records from the county Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office, Erich Louis Yach (37) was issued an arrest warrant for $250,000.
Information about the defense attorneys of the defendants was not readily available on Monday. One of the defense attorneys representing one of the defendants in two criminal cases did not return telephone and email messages seeking comment.
Although reporters and others also witnessed violence by the pro-Trump rallygoers, one video showed a group beating a barefoot man wearing a George Floyd T shirt. One man spit on the man and sucker-punched the other — but the district attorney’s office claimed that most of the violence was perpetrated by counter-protesters.
“Video evidence analysis shows that overwhelmingly the violence in this incident was perpetrated by the Antifa affiliates and was not a mutual fray with both sides crossing out of lawful First Amendment expression into riot and violence,” Dist. Atty. Summer Stephan’s office stated in a news release.
Stephan’s office stated in the release, “The right to peaceful protest must be protected” that they would file charges if there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations beyond reasonable doubt.
Steve Walker, Stephan’s spokesperson, noted that two men were arrested last August in connection to an attack on Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Imperial Beach. A Black man recording the event in June 2020 was punched and insulted by protesters.
The first defendant pleaded guilty for felony assault, while the second guilty for felony battery. Both men pleaded guilty to hate crime allegations . They were sentenced in April to probation.