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Aug 20, 20

Antifascists Are Facing Off Against the far-Right, Backed Up by Local Cops, Weekly in Sunland-Tujunga

Every Friday in Sunland-Tujunga, a small neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, just 15 minutes from Downtown LA, a group of violent far-Right Trump supporters meets under the guise of rallying in support of the police. Here’s how local antifascists have responded.

They assemble out front of a Big 5 on Foothill Blvd from around 11am to sundown every Friday and have since the start of the George Floyd uprising. Their hate has been countered by members of the local community since day one. Early demos would have 2-3 Black Lives Matter protesters standing across from a group of 10 violent fascists. A large counter-demo was called for on June 19th, with the far-Right stepping up to mobilize their forces on that day as well.

Far-Right organizers included Luke Vella, Randi Berger, Shirley Marinacco of Sunland, who gave a Nazi salute to the BLM counter protest, and Brendan Recor (who participated in the attack on a demo in Huntington Beach), as well as known members of various far-Right groups were in attendance. The fascist side had about 20-25 members; the BLM side had about 30. There was a few altercations and scuffles, Luke Vella assaulted a teenage girl and destroyed her “Fuck Trump” sign.

The next Friday, the local community and antifascists got together to organize another large counter-demonstration. We had over 80 participants mobilize while the fascists stayed in their cars – too scared to show their faces. Luke Vella drove past the BLM demo in his dark Tahoe, flying Trump flags and yelling the N word with a hard R. He was joined in this by members of the Gordt family in their older white Mercedes sedan. After a successful and peaceful march through the community behind a “Smash Fascism” banner, our group disbanded.

In response to us scaring them into their cars, the organizers of the hate rally, especially Randi Berger, got very active on Facebook; calling for violence against BLM protesters, including vehicular assault. Over the next few weeks, things seemed to be at a stalemate, the hate rally had the same 25ish people coming out, while the counter protest drew about the same. Space was made for those who wanted to dialogue with the other side, but often those who attempted to would return to our side in tears, traumatized or re-traumatized by the experience. A particularly harrowing example was when a woman in a MAGA hat said to a black woman, who had shared her assault story and how it relates to Trump’s treatment of women, “prove that you were raped.”

The fascists have been escalating recently by taking space on our side of Foothill, which led to us organizing for more support from within the local area and the wider community. On Friday 7/31, there was a large showing of antifascists, and the fascists responded by calling in a false report of someone shining a laser pointer at them, at 3pm, on a sunny day, in Los Angeles.

Then, an antifascist burned a Blue Lives Matter flag and was arrested violently by the LAPD for it. The LAPD then attacked antifascist demonstrators and journalists, sending two people to the hospital; one with broken ribs. This police violence was followed by attacks by the fascists which resulted in a few scuffles.

Fascists then spit on a community member who upon leaving the shopping center had flipped them off through the open window of her car then started attacking her vehicle; but were forced to back off by antifascists. Members of the Gordt family then started driving by the antifascists in their dark grey Dodge Charger swinging a Trump Rambo flag at them. This was countered by a splash from an open water bottle into the vehicle. In response to getting wet they got out of the vehicle and called the police, and more fascists came across the street including one armed with a baseball bat. Scuffles ensued, a chud in a MAGA hat shoved an antifascist and another chud who was decked out in American flag pants sucker punched someone. After that scuffle, the community members and antifascists when to the local jail to await the release of their comrades which happened early the next morning.

The week of 8/7 we had a strong showing and a street party/ BBQ to show the fascists in and out of uniform that they cannot scare us. Those who where injured and arrested all came out and stood together with some of their family members. We outlasted the fascists and even though there where minor scuffles, our numbers kept the chuds in check. Two chuds got in a fight with each other and at the end of the day, we got to watch Luke Vella soil himself as he tried to scoot away after his bike ran out of gas.

Which brings us to last week 8/14. We got there around 4:30pm, and already there was a group of 10-20 fash surrounding the growing BLM and antifascist demo. Most of the fash remained on the opposite side of the street, but the numbers of those trying to provoke a fight with our side grew steadily.

The fight started when Philip Young (pictured above) pepper sprayed a black community organizer. Philip was then tackled by another community organizer, who was hit over the head with a skate board by David Dempsy, one of Brando Reccors’ associates and later transported to hospital.

According to Left Coast Right Watch:

A large group of right-wingers crossed the street towards the antifascists. Upon arrival, they repeatedly instigated violence with protesters. This included people of all ages–middle-aged right-wingers picking fights with teenagers, women, and senior citizens. Black Lives matter protesters were greatly outnumbered, at least 2:1, most individually standing their ground while multiple far-right supporters screamed threats.

“I’ll smash your face into the curb,” one of the right-wingers shouted.

“Black lives don’t matter here,” another said.

Proud Boys, along with III% Militia Movement members were identified in the crowd. Some instigators identified in attendance were “Based Spartan” John Turano, Proud Boy Brandon Recor, and David Dempsey. Turano was the subject of ‘The Rise and Fall of an Alt-Right Gladiator”, an early 2018 Vice documentary. The piece highlighted that after fighting antifascist protesters in gladiator armor he had “realized that some of the people he’d aligned himself with were neo-Nazis, homophobes, and racists…going from alt-right celebrity to pariah overnight”. His opinions seem to have changed.

Proud Boy Brandon Recor has attended LGBTQ Pride rallies and BLM protests in the past, often posing as a journalist while attempting to incite violence. Filming for the youtube account ‘That’s The Point With Brandon,’ Recor has been recorded using the N-word and striking people with weapons, fighting against antifascists. Another documented Proud Boy, David Dempsey, often joins him.

There was a bit of a brawl, which was broken up when a smoke bomb was thrown. After the smoke cleared, one community leader was transported to the hospital, one refused transport, and a NLG legal observer was treated at the scene. The police made no arrests, and the day continued with tense stare downs and stand offs.

Again from LCRW:

The events leading up to Friday, August 14 demonstrate a continuing and predictable pattern for law enforcement. LAPD will respond swiftly to the concerns of their right-wing supporters, while refusing to protect those assaulted by instigators.

“I’ve seen ambulances drop those treated on scene at their car to make sure they get home safe since the cops won’t protect us,” Chris said.

Antifascists LCRW spoke to have infiltrated the far-right crowd and claim many of them have the personal phone numbers of specific local police officers.

“They don’t call 911 to get us busted, they call their racist cop buddies,” Chris told LCRW. “They aren’t going to help us against the Nazis, since they are on the same side.”

Many protesters have experienced police surveillance immediately following protests as well; being followed and even pulled over by officers, forced to incessantly drive in circles until their police tail gives up.

Many of these protesters live in close proximity to the right wing and white supremacist agitators. Activists told LCRW that some of the right-wingers who engage in violence at these protests are local small-business owners–the same kind of people that you would bump into shopping at the local grocery store.

The fash called in multiple false reports to the cops, including a false report of a gun. One BLM activist who parked behind the fascists blaring, “Fuck Donald Trump” from his car was taken into police custody, “for his own protection,” and then released without any charges. His car was damaged by the fash.

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