A campaign dotting a Sacramento suburb with blue ribbons tied to trees and posts in support of area law enforcement is distancing itself from two supporters who have neo-Nazi ties.
Two Sacramento television stations aired stories about the blue ribbon campaign earlier this week. Some viewers recognized self-described white supremacist Derik Punneo acting as the group’s spokesman on the air. Many took to social media, accusing the outlets of promoting Nazis. Punneo participated in the June 26 clash between neo-Nazis and counterprotesters at the state Capitol.
Jamie Lopez, the Folsom woman who started the blue ribbon campaign, called the turn of events a “nasty, icky turn” to a sincere effort to support law enforcement in the wake of a rash of shooting of officers around the country.
“I said we should do this all over Folsom. It just picked up like wildfire. It just moved along and become a movement,” Lopez said.
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As more people offered to help, she said she gladly accepted. Lopez didn’t think much of it when Manda Boone offered to do an interview. But it was Boone’s boyfriend, Punneo, who ended up on the broadcasts.
“We’re out here just trying to show support for those who risk life and limb for our safety and our security,” Punneo told ABC10, his neck tattoos peeking from under his white T-shirt during the interview.
The response from social media was quick and vocal.
“Nazis are showing support for the police, after the nazis stabbed people in Sacramento. And @Fox40 is promoting them,” wrote @MaryMad on Twitter. Others joined in with a user calling himself Colin O’Neill creating an online petition seeking an apology from ABC10.
James “Fago” Clark said it’s ironic that Punneo is voicing support for law enforcement when just weeks earlier, he could have been a suspect in the police investigation into the knife-wielding melee.
Punneo did not return Bee phone calls Wednesday. After the brawl at the Capitol, Punneo said that he defended himself with his fists, but a photograph shows him with a knife in his hand during the faceoff. Five people were stabbed in the incident. He told The Bee in an earlier interview that he had been a white supremacist since 2010.
Punneo has a string of criminal complaints in San Joaquin County and convictions for participating in a criminal street gang and obstruction of justice.
ABC10 issued the following statement: “ABC10 learned of residents in our area showing support for law enforcement, along with other media crews we covered the event. During our coverage of this community event we asked several people to comment. One of the people we interviewed was Derik Punneo. At the time of our interview, we did not know Punneo’s background and we were talking to him only about the event taking place at that moment.”
Nearly in tears during a telephone interview, Lopez said she hoped her effort would not be marred by the controversy. Lopez said she has asked the couple to step away from the campaign.
“There are no officers. There are no websites. It’s just a bunch of people hanging up ribbons,” she said of the Blue Crew.
Folsom officials are standing by the campaign.
“The city supports the message of support for law enforcement conveyed by local residents, and their efforts placing blue ribbons throughout the city,” city officials said in an emailed statement. “Accordingly, the City does not have any plan to remove them.”