Crime - Sacto 911

CHP recommends charges against 106 people in melee at state Capitol

The California Highway Patrol is recommending charges against 106 people after completing an investigation into a June melee on the grounds of the state Capitol.

The CHP issued a news release Wednesday announcing that it has forwarded a 2,000-page investigative report and several hours of video footage to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors will consider 514 misdemeanor and 68 felony charges involving 106 people. The charges include unlawful assembly and assault with a deadly weapon.

The violence erupted June 26 between a small group of neo-Nazi demonstrators affiliated with the Traditionalist Workers Party, who had obtained a permit to hold a rally in the west area of Capitol Park, and members of a group called Antifa, which describes itself as anti-fascist. Antifa did not have a permit and showed up to disrupt the neo-Nazi rally.

Fourteen people were injured, some of them stabbed. The violence also resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage on Capitol grounds, according to the CHP news release.

“Our role is to protect free speech, but not when the speech involves violence,” said Capt. Daniel Lamm, commander of the CHP’s Capitol Protection Section, in a written statement.

Fran Clader, a CHP spokeswoman, said many people have asked why the investigation took so long. She noted that many of the people involved in the melee wore masks or hoodies to hide their identities and many would not cooperate with investigators.

The Sacramento Bee reported that many of the protesters carried weapons and protective devices, including sticks that had been removed from protest signs and the lids from outdoor grills. These items were used as weapons, drums and shields.

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.

Witnesses said the violence erupted at different places, hindering the initial law enforcement response.

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 that they leave. Someone knocked the microphone from Luery’s hand, and other people tried to grab the camera. Luery and the cameraman were eventually shoved out of the crowd and crossed the street away from the protesters.

The CHP, which is responsible for security on the Capitol grounds, had officers standing by along with Sacramento police in riot gear. After the violence began, the CHP said, the permit for the event was revoked.

Police fired pepper-spray balls at times as protesters hurled firecrackers at CHP horses.

By 1 p.m., the anti-fascist group – which had pledged to “shut down” the neo-Nazis – had taken over the Capitol steps and chanted against the skinheads. At one point, the anti-fascists tried marching down L Street toward 15th Street, but they turned back and ran to the steps when a handful of skinhead protesters began advancing on them.

Police closed off portions of L, N and 10th streets during the protest, which ended about 3 p.m.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

Related stories from Sacramento Bee