Yvette Felarca, the controversial Berkeley middle school teacher who frequently marches and protests against groups she considers to be fascistic, was arrested Tuesday night in connection with a violent neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento in June 2016.
Police took Felarca, 47, into custody in Southern California on charges of assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury, a felony, and participating in a riot, and inciting a riot, both misdemeanors, according to information provided by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office.
Felarca was captured on video hitting a member of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, a white nationalist group that had taken out permits for a rally on the west steps of the state capitol. Felarca, a member of the group By Any Means Necessary, and other counter-protesters blocked the rally by chasing and hitting members of the Traditional Worker’s Party. At least 10 people suffered stab wounds and lacerations in the melee.
Felarca was filmed calling a man a Nazi, and punching him in the stomach repeatedly while shouting for him to “get the fuck off our streets.”
The brawl between the protesters and counter protesters resulted in 14 reported injuries as well as thousands of dollars in property damage on Capitol grounds. The California Highway Patrol spent eight months investigating the rally and its aftermath and turned in a 2,000-page report based on hundreds of interviews to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office in March. The report, which included hours of video footage from many sources, listed 514 misdemeanor and 68 felony violations involving 101 people relating to everything from unlawful assembly to assault with a deadly weapon, according to a prepared statement.
In the end, the DA’s office did not go forward with charging all those people.
“Many of the charges submitted did not meet the District Attorney’s filing guidelines including 85 counts of Unlawful Assembly, 55 counts of Conspiracy to Unlawfully Assemble and 32 counts related to the possession of illegal signs and banners,” the DA’s office said in a statement. “In several other cases, there was clear evidence of felonious conduct but the identity of the perpetrators could not be established. Unfortunately, included in this category were all of the stabbings and the attack on a local television reporter.”
The DA did announce the arrest of four individuals: Felarca, and William Planer and Porfirio Paz, who were arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon or by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury and participating in a riot, and Michael Williams, who was arrested today in Yolo County on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and participating in a riot. There are no other outstanding warrants in connection with the rally, according to the DA’s office.
The District Attorney’s office did not announce when Felarca would be arraigned.
BUSD, which employess Felarca, had no substantive comment on her arrest.
“We are still gathering information and have no comment at this time,” said BUSD spokesman Charles Burress.
Felarca’s political activities have brought her both support from some families in the Berkeley Unified School District, as well as criticism and calls for her ouster.
A day after the Sacramento rally, someone sent an anonymous threat to BUSD saying that harm would come to young people enrolled in MLK’s summer program unless Felarca was fired. As a precaution, the school was vacated.
Felarca, who had been very involved in the 2014 Black Lives Matter protests, also participated in a number of rallies this year that turned violent. Felarca protested Milo Yiannopolous’ appearance at UC Berkeley on Feb. 1 and directly confronted pro-Trump protesters on March 4 and April 15 in rallies in Civic Center Park that turned violent.
Felarca gained even more notoriety after she appeared on Fox News after the Yiannopolous riots to say she was obligated to shut down his “racist, misogynistic and homophobic” messages. BUSD received more than 1,000 emails about Felarca’s continued employment at MLK middle school after that, said Burress. A petition calling for her to be fired garnered 10,635 signers.
In September, BUSD put Felarca on administrative leave. The district declined to specify why she was put on leave, citing personnel reasons. In October, a roomful of her supporters testified to her teaching abilities and insisted BUSD reinstate her. Their comments got so heated that the board shut down the meeting for a short period. Felarca returned to her classroom six weeks after being placed on leave.
Felarca then filed a civil rights lawsuit against BUSD for suspending her. Court documents revealed that BUSD had placed her on administrative leave her because the district thought she was soliciting students to participate in protests and had used personal time off inappropriately. Felarca dropped the lawsuit in May.