The California Highway Patrol is recommending scores of criminal charges following a lengthy investigation into last June’s violent melee that broke out at a state capitol rally sponsored by the white nationalist Traditionalist Workers Party
Matthew Heimbach, the self-described chairman of the white nationalist group, and its vice chair, Matt Parrott, avoided attending the June 26 rally in Sacramento and, therefore, likely won’t face charges. However, the event was attended by other TWP members with support from neo-Nazi members of the Golden State Skins.
The TWP had secured a permit for the rally, ostensibly to protest “against globalization and in defense of the right of free expression.”
Things turned ugly and violent when the white nationalists and neo-Nazis were confronted by hundreds of antifascist activists who did not have a demonstration permit, authorities said.
The violence “resulted in 14 reported injuries and thousands of dollars in property damage on Capitol grounds,” the Highway Patrol said Wednesday in announcing the conclusion of its eight-month investigation.
A 2,000-page investigative report, along with hours of video footage from many sources, has been delivered to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office for consideration of 514 misdemeanors and 68 felony charges involving 106 individuals, the Highway Patrol said.
The recommended criminal charges range from unlawful assembly to assault with a deadly weapon, the Patrol said.
It’s not clear how long it will take prosecutors to review the voluminous investigative file and decide which individuals will face an array of potential criminal charges.
There was no immediate public response from Heimbach or his white nationalist organization.
“As a result of our investigation, which included conducting hundreds of interviews and reviewing many hours of video evidence, we are asking the Sacramento County District Attorney to bring [these] charges,” said CHP Captain Daniel Lamm, commander of the Patrol’s Capitol Protection Section.
“Our role is to protect free speech, but not when that speech involves violence,” Lamm said in a statement.
State investigators faced several challenges during the investigation, including identifying individuals who wore masks and hoodies in attempts to disguise their identities and did not cooperate with investigators, Lamm said.
The Sacramento Bee reported that many of the protesters armed themselves with makeshift weapons and protective devices, including protest-sign sticks and lids from outdoor grills.
“Even before the permitted demonstration began, clashes broke out around the Capitol grounds among the roughly 400 people gathered for and against the rally, which had been heavily promoted and denounced on websites leading up to the event,” the Bee reported.
The violence erupted at different locations, complicating the law enforcement response as the melee grew out of control, the newspaper said.