Story and photos by Kris Hooks
Hundreds of anti-fascist protesters from all over California, many dressed in all black and wearing masks and bandannas to cover their faces, lined the sidewalks of L Street just in front of the Capitol Sunday morning chanting, “Nazi scum, off our streets.”
As the chants grew louder, dozens of Sacramento police officers decked out in riot gear marched across the street in front of the demonstrators. To the left of them, more officers on horseback followed.
The scene was just the precursor to the gruesome one that would follow: Bloodstained concrete on Capitol grounds following a brawl between members of various anti-fascist groups and the neo-Nazi organization Golden State Skinheads and white nationalist group Traditionalist Worker Party.
By end of the rally, for which organizers had been issued permits by the California Highway Patrol despite the potential for unrest, officials reported that 10 people were injured, including five who were stabbed.
After, some witnesses complained of law enforcement’s response to the events, but the CHP says the injuries happened despite efforts to not allow contact between the factions.
“Typically we’d try to keep the two parties separate,” CHP officer George Grenada told SN&R, “but when the [TWP and GSS] showed up, the huge fight broke out.”
In anticipation, with the help of the Sacramento Police Department, more than 100 officers were ready on scene before the scheduled noontime rally. Officers in riot gear blocked of several streets surrounding the Capitol. Others on bikes, which were used as blockades during the riot, stood on the Capitol lawn.
Despite the heavy police presence however, some protesters, like Chadwick Anderson from Sacramento, said they noticed what appeared to be officers’ delayed response.
“It got chaotic, and the cops were right there letting it naturally happen,” Anderson said.
But Grenada said officers followed protocol and expects little to no change in allowing permits for similar events in the future, because the massive brawl was “inevitable,” given the two groups.
“Typically on a Sunday, we wouldn’t have that many officers in one place, so our officers acted accordingly,” he said.
The first incident of major violence erupted a little after 11:15 a.m. when a neo-Nazi walked into the crowd yelling, “white power.” Anderson said that man was attacked by protesters almost immediately.
“It was like, 30 or 40 vs. one,” Anderson told SN&R. “The cops just let it happen for a second, then they stepped in, the mace went off and everything just kind of dissipated.”
Less than 20 minutes later, all hell broke loose, Anderson said. The group of neo-Nazis came in from the east side of the Capitol bearing weapons and yelling. Then, more than 400 protesters quickly approached the small group of white supremacists. That’s when the stabbings began.
Shortly after, Anderson said two neo-Nazis stood on top of the Capitol steps with their arms in the air doing the “Sieg Heil” salute in front of the protesters. Demonstrators threw rocks, sticks and pieces of cement from a broken ashtray at the men.
“The only two Nazi guys that I saw get hurt were the two [on the steps],” Anderson said. “They got booted a few times, then [the cops] took them into the glass entrance on the side of the building and held the two guys in there.”
As of press time, all injured people were reported to be in fair condition and expected to survive.
After all of the pandemonium settled down, TWP founding member Matthew Heimbach, who wasn’t at the rally, posted on the party’s website claiming victory.
“Our Golden State comrades in the Traditionalist Worker Party went up against over ten-to-one odds and won,” Parrott wrote.
He added, “We delivered the message we intended to deliver today … Our event was a victory by all metrics. We won the physical fight. We provoked the leftists into showing their true colors.”
Some of the anti-fascist protesters disagreed. Yvette Felarca, an organizer with the Oakland chapter of By Any Means Necessary who was on-site and was also injured in the brawl, said that violence is necessary in stopping white supremacist organizations. Despite the injuries, most of which were from the anti-fascists side, Felarca called the protest a success.
“We shut down the Nazis,” Felarca said, standing with gauze covering her head wound, “and in the end, [GSS] came out of this in worst shape than us. Not just physically, but politically. They lost.”
Meanwhile, mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg voiced dismay over the brawl on Twitter, stating, “Today our great & diverse city saw a melee of hatred that is antithetical to everything Sacramento stands for. #Sacramento”
City Councilman Steve Hansen mirrored those sentiments, adding, “The violence at the Capitol today is appalling. Appreciate @SacPolice & @SacFirePIO for trying to stop it. Violence isn’t the answer.”