A rally by a small group of neo-Nazi demonstrators at the state Capitol on Sunday erupted into a violent clash with protesters that left at least 10 people injured – five of them stabbed – and closed down streets as more than 100 police in riot gear and on horseback intervened to halt the mayhem.
Demonstrators battled with sticks, protest signs and other weapons as the Traditionalist Worker Party group – which said it wanted to assist supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump – began setting up for a scheduled noon rally on the west steps of the Capitol.
Even before the event began, clashes broke out at numerous locations around the Capitol grounds among the 400 people gathered for and against the rally, which had been heavily promoted – and denounced – in recent days on various websites. Injuries were reported on both sides of the altercation.
“We had some pretty dynamic and chaotic situations,” said Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Chris Harvey, who arrived as a public information officer and quickly found himself working as a paramedic.
“We had a number of times where we had a patient on the ground and crews were trying to do triage and take care of them and the chaos was enveloping them. They were surrounded by the CHP and police officers just trying to keep the general surge of people away.”
Witnesses said the violence erupted at different locations around the Capitol grounds, hindering the initial law enforcement response as confrontations began before the event was scheduled to start.
The first sign of violence came just before 11 a.m., when KCRA reporter Mike Luery and his cameraman were caught in an altercation with anti-fascist protesters shouting “no cameras” and demanding they leave.
“We’re not causing the problem; your belligerent people are causing the problem,” Luery told the crowd before someone knocked his mike from his hand and others tried to grab the camera. The pair were eventually shoved out of the crowd and crossed the street away from the protesters.
Damion Osborne, a Sacramento community activist who came out to join the anti-Nazi protesters Sunday, said more trouble erupted about 11:20 a.m. when a neo-Nazi with a stick, a sign and shirt with a swastika and the words “White Power” approached the crowd.
“He dodged a bottle and then a rock, then someone broke a rock over his back,” said Osborne, 26. “The organizer said, ‘Stop, let him speak.’
“Then some folks came up to take his sign away and he wouldn’t let go, so a girl from the anti-racist side punched him. As soon as he was getting beat down, the cops came and grabbed him and started shooting rubber pellets.”
By 11:40, an African American man had been stabbed in the left arm, and police formed a circle around him as he lay on the ground being attended to by Andrea Combs, a medical assistant from Sacramento who was part of the protests.
“He’s 25, he’s from Carson City, his name is Nate,” said Combs, 43. “The Nazis are after the black people. I saw the second stabbing victim drop, too.”
Sean Moore, 23, of Sacramento was bleeding heavily from his right side just above his thigh, and bystanders said he was part of the anti-Nazi protest.
By 3 p.m., officials said the total number of injured was at eight, including five people who had been stabbed. Three of them were considered in serious condition and officials said one victim left the scene in his car, then called for an ambulance from his home near 65th Street and Fruitridge Road.
“It’s a highly volatile situation,” Sacramento police Chief Sam Somers said in the midafternoon, before the Capitol grounds on the west side were cleared.
Somers said there have been other skinhead rallies at the Capitol, but “this time the anarchists have taken a much more aggressive stance to wreak havoc on the city.”
“Regardless of the message, it’s the skinheads’ First Amendment right to free speech,” he added.
The CHP, which is responsible for security on Capitol grounds and had officers standing by along with Sacramento police in riot gear, said it was ready for the event.
“We were prepared for an encounter between these two groups not getting along,” CHP Capitol spokesman George Granada said. “We do the best we can with the situation that’s handed to us.
“It’s very fluid, moving from the west side to south to the north side. Now everything is calm. After the first violent event, we revoked the permit for the event.”
Police fired pepper spray balls at times as protesters hurled some large firecrackers at each other and at the CHP horses, but no arrests were reported as of 5 p.m. Sunday.
Many of the protesters were dressed all in black, some wearing face masks and hoodies zipped up to their chins, and it was difficult to tell at times who was on which side as they waved sticks, chanted and occasionally set off large fireworks.
SOURCE: STEPHEN MAGAGNINI, ELLEN GARRISON AND SAM STANTON