For months, observers have noted the violence behind Donald Trump’s message and the bigotry and xenophobia it has stirred up. As the grassroots opposition to Trump and Trumpism has grown, the call for nonviolent resistance to the politics of hate has grown as well. But a violent melee at California’s Capitol Building in Sacramento on Sunday between neo-Nazis and sectarian leftists demonstrates how difficult it may be to contain the extremist tendencies now stalking the land.
For the past month, the Ku Klux Klan, various neo-Nazi groups, and the Traditionalist Worker Party, a far-right nationalist party established last year to promote the values of “faith, family, and folk,” have been preparing for a demonstration on the steps of Sacramento’s capitol. In response, an array of ad-hoc anti-fascist and anti-racist groups announced they would blockade the capitol to prevent the Nazis from gathering.
From 9am this Sunday, anti-fascist groups began gathering on the streets surrounding the capitol. There were people flying banners with traditional civil rights and anti-hate messages; individuals flying gay-pride banners; representatives from immigrant-rights organizations; and student activists from the local community colleges and California State University campus. But there were also an array of sectarian groups—masked anarchists, waving their black-and-red flag, many carrying sticks and makeshift Plexiglas shields—through to revolutionary organizations like the Marxist-Leninist Progressive Labor Party. These groups had come from as far afield as San Diego and Portland—and they weren’t aiming for a simple statement of disgust at the Nazis; rather, they were pledged to shut them down.
At 9:55, the PLP adherents, marching behind a red flag, came north up 9th Street, on the west side of the capitol, chanting “Death! Death! Death to the Fascists! Power! Power! Power to the Workers!”
By mid-morning, as the temperature soared past 100 degrees, each entrance to the capitol was covered by large throngs of anti-Nazis. Roving groups, many of them masked, patrolled the park trying to spot incoming fascists. In clusters around the statehouse and in the streets surrounding it, the police stood by, in heavy riot gear, some on foot and others on horseback.
The neo-Nazis started making their way into the capitol grounds at about 11:30. Within minutes, the beautiful park surrounding the soaring, domed capitol was a bloodbath.
Every time the crowd spotted a skinhead or other white nationalist trying to move toward the steps, they surged forward, north, south, east, west, chasing down and beating the skinhead. But the Nazis had also come armed and prepared. Wielding knives and sticks, they hurled themselves into the enraged crowd. A 46-year-old anti-Nazi, Yvette Felarea, was wounded, her left arm and head streaming with blood. As she was being attended by fellow demonstrators, she was defiant and somewhat jubilant. “Let them know they got worse,” she said of the Nazis, who had been run off somewhere to the south of the capitol. “I’m proud we made this happen. And I’d do it again. The Nazis were scared, and they needed to be. They stabbed someone.”