Bloody skirmishes broke out near California’s capitol building in Sacramento on Sunday as self-described “anti-fascists” attempted to break up a white nationalist rally. Ten people were injured, including two who were stabbed and critically injured, according to CNN.
At noon, the Traditionalist Worker Party – described as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — and the Golden State Skinheads, a local affiliate, were scheduled to hold a rally at noon outside the capitol building.
As they assembled, however, the roughly 30-strong group was met and outnumbered by a wave of several different organizations, including Antifa Sacramento and the Black Hawks, who were present with the stated purpose of preventing the white nationalists from demonstrating.
Video and still images show several instances of violence erupting and people fighting and chasing one another, with members on both sides emerging bloody, beaten and bruised, despite the presence of 100 police officers attempting to control the crowd. As of Sunday night, it was unclear how many remained hospitalized.
“They’re not welcome, and if they trip and fall in the process of that, good,” said Yvette Falarca, with the group By Any Means Necessary, of the white nationalists. She had sustained a blow that required her head to be bandaged. “They need to go, and we succeeded in driving them out.” Several protesters used sticks and their fists to inflict wounds on others. Some altercations left spatters of blood on the pavement. To quell breakouts of violence, police fired rubber pellets and pepper spray balls at the demonstrators. In response, the protesters threw firecrackers at the police and the California Highway Patrol officers and their horses.
Caught in the fighting was 17-year-old Elias Odom, who had simply come to take photos of the event. “Before you know it, people were macing each other,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “A gush of mace just got into my eyes, and I don’t know what happened after that.”
Elias Odom, 17, came to take photos as an amateur photog and witnessed the clash – “It was chaos.” pic.twitter.com/ceqHv0PIeh
— Jazmine Ulloa (@jazmineulloa) June 26, 2016
According to Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers, the white nationalist skinheads have previously held rallies at the capitol, but this was the first at which the “anarchists” took a “much more aggressive stance to wreak havoc on the city,” referring to those who tried to break up the rally. No matter the message, Somers told the Sacramento Bee, it was the skinheads’ First Amendment right to demonstrate.
The purpose of the rally was to reclaim the right to free speech for “working-class white Americans,” which has been threatened at Trump rallies, Matt Parrot, a spokesman for the Traditionalist Worker Party, told the Bee.
“Our message was very simple: that working-class white individuals will not be intimidated by threats and aggression that’s been taking place on the West Coast but also at Trump rallies and other places around the country,” Parrot told The Washington Post after the rally. “These leftist radicals have been attacking us. We will not be intimated.”
The Traditionalist Worker Party purports to defend “faith, family and folk” against “economic exploitation, federal tyranny and anti-Christian degeneracy.” In espousing pride for the white race, the party says on its website that it rejects white supremacy, instead believing that “all the world’s peoples should embrace and celebrate their sacred heritage and identities.” Nonetheless, it also discourages racial or ethnic intermarrying and mixing within communities, believing that races should inhabit separate enclaves.
Matthew Heimbach, chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party and Parrot’s son-in-law, confirmed to CNN that two “comrades” were among the injured. “One of our guys was stabbed in the artery,” he told The Post.
Though he wasn’t at the rally, Heimbach has been embroiled in controversies in the past, most recently for shoving and shouting aggressively at a black woman at a Trump rally in Louisville. While a student at Towson University, he started the White Student Union, which invited white supremacist speakers to campus and started “night patrols” to “keep students safe from black-on-white crime,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The WSU is affiliated with the Traditionalist Youth Network, which Heimbach also serves, as its chief information officer.
After Sunday’s rally, a blog post appeared on TYN’s website asking for donations to support the medical and legal costs of the “Sacramento Spartans”: “the men who risked and sacrificed so much today.”
“Our event was a victory by all metrics. We won the physical fight. We provoked the leftists into showing their true colors,” the website states.
“We are really glad to say that the people who are injured did not sustain life-threatening injuries, and we do have people who are making sure … that they have people who are taking care of them,” Falarca said. “All it did was fuel our determination to keep this movement going and fight even harder.”
The protest ended at roughly 3 p.m. local time. So far, no arrests have been reported.
Anne Hull contributed to this report.