At Least 5 Capitol Rally Participants Were In A Violent ‘Patriot March’ In San Diego
Right-wingers and ultranationalists convened in the city days after the Washington insurrection, but the police crackdown that day fell on counterprotesters.
At least five people involved in the Capitol rally on Jan. 6 attended a violent pro-Trump “Patriot March” in San Diego just three days after the democracy-shaking event. But police declared an unlawful assembly that only applied to anti-fascist counterprotesters.
Among the right-wing crowd was Alberto Nunez, a member of the Proud Boys, who posted on his Instagram account on Jan. 8 that he filmed during the Capitol insurrection and would soon upload footage to Parler. (Nunez never posted the footage because Amazon Web Services suspended hosting the social network soon after the insurrection.) And before that he posted photos of himself at Proud Boys events in Washington, D.C., including one with the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, who was recently exposed as an informant for federal and local law enforcement. In December, the Proud Boys burned a Black Lives Matter banner in D.C. Tarrio was later arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of destruction of property related to the incident.
David Ramses, Kick Cunningham, Tony Be, and a far-right influencer known as MagaPit also attended the Patriot March after participating in the Capitol rally. And they’re visible in an Instagram video of Proud Boys burning the Black Lives Matter banner. The men are part of the ultra-nationalist group New Patriot Wave; the group rebranded from its previous iteration, the American Coalition Party, because of social media bans. Ramses, Be, Cunningham and MagaPit posted a selfie at the Capitol during the rally. To date, none of the people identified by The Appeal who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then attended the San Diego march have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice in its scores of insurrection-related prosecutions.
The Jan. 9 march was organized by the New Patriot Wave group, which posted a video of one of their members defacing a George Floyd memorial last summer on Instagram. San Diego has an active anti-fascist community, and a similar march, scheduled for September, was canceled because organizers feared they would be outnumbered by counterprotesters. But emboldened by the Capitol insurrection, a sizable crowd turned out for the Patriot March, and some brought weapons including knives, smoke grenades, and replica handguns.
Last summer, San Diego police sent a bike squad to follow Black Lives Matter protests. But on Jan. 9, only four officers looked on as a large anti-fascist group dressed all in black confronted small groups of right-wing protesters. An anti-fascist protester who goes by the alias Coyote told The Appeal that right-wing protesters verbally abused the crowd: “It was just motherfucker this and that.” Then, at around 1 p.m. scuffles broke out between the opposing groups and anti-fascists used bear spray on right-wing protesters, causing several bystanders to call 911. Coyote said that participants in the Patriot March “were really shocked that the police didn’t do anything [to defend them]. I thought they were sick of protecting them, especially after what happened at the Capitol.”
The San Diego police dispatched a bicycle team. Then, from behind a line of officers, Patriot March participants shouted “fuck Antifa” and gave stiff-armed Nazi salutes. One officer put his arm on the shoulder of marcher Francesco DeMeo ,who openly bragged online about his participation in the Capitol rally after his presence there was revealed by his mother. DeMeo has also posted threats to antifascists online. DeMeo did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Appeal.
When asked why the San Diego police were unaware of DeMeo’s participation in the Capitol rally, spokesperson Shawn Takeuchi told The Appeal that the department “would not know this information.” Another person in the Patriot March was wanted by the Los Angeles Police Department for allegedly committing a hate crime in front of City Hall on Jan. 6, the same day as the insurrection. Takeuchi told The Appeal that “we would not necessarily be told by LAPD they were seeking this individual.”
But the presence of several people involved in the Capitol rally and a man who allegedly committed a hate crime—as well as the fact that three of the four arrests made on Jan. 9 were of counterprotesters—has led activists to ask if they were the subject of disparate treatment by the San Diego police during the Patriot March.
Indeed, police attempted to disperse counterprotesters by firing impact munitions at them as well as at members of the press. Protesters were shot in the face, and this reporter was hit with four pepper balls. The officer who shot the pepper balls was not wearing a name tape or badge, and his colleagues refused to identify him.
Participants in the Patriot March, conversely, engaged in violent acts, seemingly without consequence. One marcher, who identified himself as Chad Alvarez, walked past officers and threw a smoke grenade, which burned this reporter’s skin. The San Diego Police Department’s event log from that day, obtained via a public records request, does not include a mention of the grenade being thrown.
One Patriot March participant produced a long knife, but was disarmed by counterprotesters with skateboards. The police department’s event log includes multiple mentions of a man in possession of a knife fitting the man’s description. The log notes “male w/knife. WML [white male] Black hoodie, brown pants” and “poss male w/large knife in sheath.” The timing of the note about the knife in the event log (2:27 p.m.) and description of the man both fit with what The Appeal saw and photographed of him. California law allows for the open carry of fixed-blade knives. However, it defines “open carry” as a “knife carried in a sheath that is worn openly suspended from the waist of the wearer.” Takeuchi said the department has not taken any action against the man because “I do not believe any victims of this threat have contacted us.”
Another person in the Patriot March wielded a BB gun. The police event log shows that the department received reports of a young man stating that he had a gun in his waistband that afternoon. He was later detained but his name was not included in police reports because he is under 18.
San Diego mayor Todd Gloria refused multiple requests for comment from The Appeal about the Patriot March.
When the police department declared an unlawful assembly that afternoon, it did so for only the anti-fascists assembled at Hornblend and Mission streets, not the march participants gathered about one block south, near Grand and Mission.
After counter-protesters dispersed, the police department noted in its event log that the protest had been “hijacked by Proud Boys. Very anti police and refusing to comply.” Later that evening, participants in the Patriot March attacked young people, San Diegans walking in the street, and at least two counterprotesters who live in the area.