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Nov 14, 19

Sacramento, CA: State’s Attempt to Railroad Antifascists Fails as Trial Ends Before it Begins

Today, Antifa Sacramento announced the end of a lengthy and arduous court battle for three antifascists of color, who were facing potential felony charges for defending themselves against armed neo-Nazis in June of 2016 at a rally on the California capitol grounds, “despite apparent lack of evidence…including…testimony by a California Highway Patrol officer – who admitted he really couldn’t see much from where he was stationed.” Charges were filed by authorities nearly a year after numerous people were stabbed by members of the neo-Nazi groups, the Golden State Skinheads (GSS) and the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP). Only one neo-Nazi was ever charged in connection to the stabbings, William Planner, who is now already out of prison. Originally, the CHP had stated that potentially upwards of 100 people could have been charged – all anti-racist protesters.

Writing on Facebook, Antifa Sacramento stated:

There will be no jury trial after all. Today (11/14) in court here in Sacramento, all 3 defendants took a non cooperation plea deal where the assault charge for each defendant was dropped and the misdemeanor riot charge was amended to misdemeanor unlawful assembly. In the end all 3 defendants plead “no contest” to misdemeanor unlawful assembly alone. Additional terms of the plea deal state that there is a sentence that is currently suspended which is 90 days in jail/3 years informal probation. That suspended sentence and the entire case will be discarded if after 18 months, all 3 defendants have completed 90 hours of community service and have stayed off capitol grounds for that period of time as well. Altogether there were 30 of us that came out to court today to show that support and solidarity! This has been a long road and the support from the community here in Sacramento and from all over has been incredible!

According to the David Vanguard:

On the day of their trial, [the three defendants] pleaded no-contest Thursday to minor misdemeanor charges of “unlawful assembly” – and that charge will be completely dismissed in 18 months or less if they simply do community work with a local non-profit group. They also can’t attend any “protest” at the State Capitol for up to 18 months.

On June 26th, over 500 people converged at the California State capitol in order to confront and shut down a neo-Nazi rally that had been promoted on Alt-Right and neo-Nazi online forums as an “Anti-Antifa” show of force. TWP leader Matthew Heimbach, who helped promote and was set to speak at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, took a direct role in pushing for the event, although he did not make an appearance at the demonstration.

Along with the “Rock Stone Mountain” mobilization in Atlanta, GA, the massive Sacramento counter-demonstration, which was successful in shutting down the neo-Nazi rally, was one of the first major antifascist actions in the Trump period and helped cement “antifa” within the popular imagination.

Following the stabbings, it was revealed that police worked directly with neo-Nazi skinheads in an attempt to identify potential anti-racist and antifascist protesters. Police also attempted to target an African-American journalist, Cedric O’Bannon, while he was in the hospital recovering for being stabbed, simply because he had a Facebook photo of himself giving a “black power” fist salute. Later, released documents and testimony from authorities in court, revealed that the FBI put protest groups under surveillance and police were solely interested in “antifa” and “Black Lives Matter,” not neo-Nazis, in the aftermath of the protest.

As Sam Levin wrote in The Guardian:

Officers also worked with TWP member Derik Punneo to try to identify anti-fascist activists, recordings revealed. Officers interviewed Punneo in jail after he was arrested for an unrelated domestic violence charge. Audio recordings captured investigators saying they brought photos to show him, hoping he could help them identify anti-fascist activists. The officers said, “We’re pretty much going after them,” and assured him: “We’re looking at you as a victim.”

Despite clear evidence that Punneo and other neo-Nazis were involved in the violent stabbings of anti-fascists, only one person from the neo-Nazi side was ever arrested: William Planer, who was picked up by police first in Colorado after he had vandalized a local synagogue. Following the June 2016 demonstration however, several members of the Golden State Skinheads were arrested on gun charges.

After getting out of prison, William Planer attempted to re-enter white nationalism, but was largely unimpressed with the state of the movement. Ranting on Facebook, Planer wrote:

Was it worth it…Sure! If there was momentum and a formidable Movement going forward but THERE’S NOT ! I’ve been able to do a few Podcasts and had some help (ironically by mostly strangers and the Alt Right) but this shit is not cool. The lack of organization in this cause or scene whatever you’d call it is a fucking disgrace!

The Sacramento community and the antifascist movement has on the other hand, stuck by their defendants, mobilizing again and again to stand with them in court, helped them fundraise to cover travel expenses, and has never ceased to stop showing support for those that put their bodies on the line against neo-Nazis.

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It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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