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Protesters to face assault trial in bloody 2016 Capitol riot that left 10 hurt

‘What happened here at the Capitol was a complete scandal’

Protesters march Thursday outside the Hall of Justice to call to drop charges against anti-fascist activists arrested in the 2016 neo-Nazi Capitol melee.
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Protesters march Thursday outside the Hall of Justice to call to drop charges against anti-fascist activists arrested in the 2016 neo-Nazi Capitol melee.

The three anti-fascist protesters arrested after a bloody Capitol clash with white supremacists in June 2016 will stand trial for assault, a Sacramento judge ruled Friday at the trio’s preliminary hearing.

But in a partial victory for defense attorneys, the youngest of the group known as the “Sacramento 3” will face a misdemeanor instead of felony charge in the riot.

The June 26, 2016, rally of Traditionalist Worker Party and Golden State Skinheads on the state Capitol grounds disintegrated into violence when the groups clashed with counter-protesters, leaving at least 10 injured. Many of the victims were stabbed.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie reduced the charge against Porfirio Paz, now 21, from the bench, citing his age at the time of the incident and his lack of a criminal record.

Paz still must face trial alongside Berkeley schoolteacher and activist Yvonne Felarca and Michael Williams, who provided security for counter-protesters at the rally of white supremacist groups. The three remain free on bail pending their scheduled Feb. 13 arraignment in Sacramento Superior Court.

But Paz showed relief amid a group of supporters and attorney Mark Reichel outside Boulware’s third-floor courtroom at Sacramento County Courthouse.

“It should never be a felony to defend yourself against fascists,” Reichel said after the afternoon hearing. “It wasn’t a complete victory for white supremacists today.”

“It’s clear that we have individuals who continue in the struggle for democracy and against white nationalists,” Williams’ attorney Linda Parisi said later outside the courthouse.

Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Paris Coleman did not quarrel with the judge’s decision to decrease Paz’s charges.

“She saw the evidence and made her decision. That’s what a judge is supposed to do,” Coleman said.

Williams and Felarca met with supporters outside the courtroom and renewed claims that the case against them has been tainted with bias.

“We’ve just got to continue to fight this,” Williams said. “This has been one-sided from the beginning. They’re protecting the white supremacists. People got stabbed and nobody who stabbed people got prosecuted.”

It took a year-long investigation by California Highway Patrol to produce four arrests – Felarca, Paz, Williams and a fourth man, Colorado white supremacist and former Sacramento resident William Planer – in a probe that defense attorneys quickly dismissed as a sham that targeted counter-protesters and largely ignored the hate groups behind the rally.

Defense attorneys had long argued the approximately 130 California Highway Patrol officers stationed at the event stood idle as protesters came under attack. They later accused CHP investigators and Sacramento County District Attorney’s officials of covering for the supremacist groups.

Planer’s trial began Thursday before Boulware Eurie. Planer also faces a felony assault charge in the rioting. Testimony in his case continues Monday.

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