Following last June’s rally at the Sacramento Capitol by members of the Traditionalist Worker Party — which turned violent after hundreds showed up to stop the white supremacist group’s event, by any means necessary — many wondered whether those who caused violence would face criminal prosecution.
That question quickly came up in Berkeley last year after BUSD middle school teacher Yvette Felarca was caught on video hitting someone at the rally while calling him a Nazi, and punching him in the stomach repeatedly while shouting for him to “get the fuck off our streets.”
Felarca also was interviewed by the national media that day. When she was identified online as a Berkeley middle school teacher, critics of what they saw on video launched a petition to have her fired, and at least one person reportedly made threats to hurt children if she was allowed to remain at her school. In recent weeks, after Felarca again took a leadership role in a Berkeley protest against Milo Yiannopoulos, a new wave of outrage was directed at her, prompting an estimated 1,000 emails and calls to the Berkeley Unified School District and her middle school campus. Whether she will face charges tied to the Sacramento rally remains an open question, but authorities have said they are one step closer to making a determination about criminal prosecution overall.
Authorities in Sacramento have previously declined to comment on potential fallout from the rally, citing the ongoing investigation. The event resulted in 14 reported injuries as well as thousands of dollars in property damage on Capitol grounds. Now, the California Highway Patrol has announced it has finally completed a lengthy report implicating more than 100 people in a range of criminal acts. Next, the Sacramento County district attorney’s office is slated to decide who, if anyone, will face charges.
Monday, the Sacramento County district attorney’s office said it won’t make any decisions, or release any names, until it has had enough time for “careful consideration” of the CHP report. That report has not been made public.
“We are more interested in getting it right than in getting it fast,” Shelly Orio, spokeswoman for the office, told Berkeleyside. Names of those facing charges will not be released until much further on in the process, after warrants for arrest have been approved and court dates have been set for arraignment.
Last week, March 8, the Sacramento branch of the CHP announced it had concluded its investigation into the “2016 Capitol incident,” and sent its results to the DA’s office. In a prepared statement, the CHP said the “violent incident” involved more than 300 people.
In a brief overview of events, the CHP said about two dozen people from “The Traditionalist Workers Party” had secured a permit for the June 26 rally at the Capitol. But they weren’t alone.
“Other groups present that day — and numbering in the hundreds — did not have a permit and were there to prevent the permitted rally. The non-permitted groups confronted the permitted group, leading to violence, which resulted in 14 reported injuries and thousands of dollars in property damage on Capitol grounds,” the CHP said.
What followed was an eight-month investigation that resulted in a 2,000-page report based on hundreds of interviews and other evidence. The CHP turned over its report to the DA’s office, “along with hours of video footage from many sources.” The report lists 514 misdemeanor and 68 felony violations involving 106 people relating to everything from unlawful assembly to assault with a deadly weapon, according to a prepared statement.
The CHP said its investigators “faced several challenges” as they did their work. Authorities said, in particular, many people involved with the rally tried “to disguise their identities and did not cooperate with investigators.”
CHP Capt. Daniel Lamm, commander of Capitol Protection Section, said in the prepared statement that protecting free speech is critical, “but not when that speech involves violence.”
Orio, from the district attorney’s office, described the CHP report as “methodical and exhaustive.”
“The amount of data they have presented is impressive and will require adequate time to review,” she said, by email. “The decision whether to charge, or not, will be made after careful consideration of the evidence against each individual.”
Orio said the DA’s office will look at the overall circumstances of each incident, keeping in mind the public’s right to free speech. There’s no indication at this time about how long the review might take.
“We will spend the time we need to evaluate each case against each of the individuals allegedly involved in order to arrive at a reasoned decision about whether charges should be filed,” Orio said.
After deciding who to charge, the office will seek warrants to be reviewed by a judge.
“We will not announce the names of any individuals charged in connection with this protest until court dates are set for arraignment,” Orio explained. “Once arrests have been made and arraignment dates set and once any complaints have been filed and are a matter of public record, we will announce the names of those charged, what the charges are, and what the arraignment dates are.”
Monday, Berkeley middle school teacher Felarca, who is also an organizer with the group By Any Means Necessary and a self-described “anti-fascist leader,” could not be reached for comment.