“I’ve never in my life seen the cops get so scared that they turned away from protesters and were facing Nazis with their batons out,” Jen said. “Never seen that shit. That never happens. At least not down here.”
On Monday, protesters at a Black Lives Matter rally in Norco, a city in Riverside County, California was overwhelmed by violent racists. Some of the fascist mob beat BLM protesters and brandished weapons at them.
LCRW spoke to “Sam” and “Jen,” two attendees of the rally. Both gave their accounts of the ordeal using aliases out of fear of being targeted by local neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.
“We were grossly outnumbered and grossly underprepared as whole,” Jen told LCRW, laughing nervously a bit.
The Norco Press Enterprise said there were about 40-50 BLM demonstrators. Sam said it was about “80 tops.” Most of the crowd were teens and college students. There were some older people in the crowd too, along with a mom with a stroller and others with their kids.
“This was the picture of the ‘peaceful protest’ the Democrats always praise,” Jen said.
Beforehand, there was a lot of local right-wing chatter about the BLM march. The flyer was shared around some Patriot Movement/Militia-oriented groups on Facebook. Some of the most violent rhetoric LCRW reviewed came from a 5200-member private Facebook group called “Protect Riverside now. The group describes itself as “Pro-Law Enforcement Officer, Pro-Constitution.”
“When you see any of the Rioters/Looters/Vanderlizers [sic] leave their Veichles [sic] #Disable them and if possible share their Home DMV addresses. Don’t let them destroy our Cities and then be able to drive back off. Hit them where it hurts them the most Financially. Pass the Word,” Leroy Davidson wrote.
Davidson also posted a meme featuring a smiling girl in front of a house on fire. The caption read “Is it wrong to follow rioters home and burn down their property? Asking for a friend.”
“Norco is going to handle this, I can’t wait to see what happens,” Kathleen Kroll wrote, ending the post with a cowboy emoji.
“lol right!! I truly hope they do this in norco[sic] so everyone else can see how they are supposed to handle them,” Matthew Sales replied.
“They walking right by my gun shop. We ain’t playing,” Christopher Flores said.
“I’m just gonna come out and say it peaceful protest or not your [sic] goi[n]g to get fucked up if you go to norco [sic], be prepared to fight weather [sic] you say your[sic] peaceful or not,” Sales replied.
“Stop! You might get shot!” Alice Grove joked.
Sam and Jen said the fascists were there in force right from the beginning. The Press Enterprise said BLM demonstrators were “outnumbered nearly 2-to-1” by fascist counter-protestors. Jen says it was more like “five-to-one or six to one.”
The march was supposed to start at 3PM and go from Neal Snipes Park to Norco City Hall, where protesters would take a knee on the lawn and read names of black people murdered by police before heading back to the park.
“I showed up at two and they [the fascists] were already all over the fucking place. They were parked on the main street and they were getting drunk at that Slam Dunk bar,” Sam said.
“Right off the bat, as soon as the march starts moving, the streets are just full of these bigass trucks with their American flags, Confederate flags, Trump flags et cetera,” Jen recounts.
“There were a lot of kids as young as eight and young teenagers in these trucks–lot of kids in those passenger seats,” Jen said. She recalled one woman pulled up in her truck and screamed “Black Lives Matter get out! Fuck you n–words.”
Jen said the woman’s young kids were in the back seat.
Within five to ten minutes of the march starting, Jen says, one brown truck pulled over and a man got out and started shoving people. He threw one of Jen’s friends on the ground. A young woman came out of the same truck and brandished a knife at people.
‼️‼️‼️ THE NAME OF THE GUY IN THE ORANGE IS GREG MELENDEZ ‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/Zci9bEWKCb— Maria Tarin (@le_maria21) June 30, 2020
An account posted on Twitter claims the man in orange is Greg Melendez, but LCRW couldn’t confirm it was him. Along with a photo of the woman brandishing the knife, the tweet does contain an account of the incident by someone who sources confirmed was there.
The account says the truck pulled up to rev its engine “to blow exhaust on protestors.”
It goes on to say that a young man used his sign to block the tail pipe and the the woman who later brandished a knife reached out of the car and hit him with a blue lives matter flag. The fascist mob, including the man in orange, shoved people including a mother whose child started screaming. The man in orange shoved more women. At that point the woman in the truck got out and brandished the knife.
“I don’t remember what she was shouting. Probably MAGA shit. She was gesturing with the knife and saying something along the lines of ‘Fucking do it! I dare you!’” Jen recalls.
In video of the incident, a man in an red shirt gets out of a truck and into a scuffle with some of the protesters. Men in biker gear join in. The man in orange comes in after. Jen and Sam said the man in orange was also chummy with Ryan Van De Car, a man wearing a shirt with a Nazi design on it who attacked protesters in a separate incident.
Norconians for Racial Justice, who put on the march, are a new group. Sam hadn’t heard of them before the march. He said the organizers were inexperienced and unprepared for the violence.
“I don’t mean to sound too harsh, but those kids were naïve. Norco is–‘Horse Town;’ it’s like Huntington Beach. It’s full of Nazis, ‘patriots’ and otherwise people who would defend the Nazis.” Sam said.
Sam said that Norconians for Racial Justice “didn’t feel the need for legal observers or other people trained in de-escalation.”
“They didn’t call for security or come up with any sort of fuckin’ plan,” Jen said.
“Their plan was that the pigs were monitoring it,” Sam added. “So you know, that’s safe,” Sam said, laughing.
If you’re somehow not familiar, ‘pigs’ is slang for law enforcement. Cops.
“And even if the pigs were doing their god damned job there probably weren’t enough of them,” Jen said. “Let’s say they were doing their jobs and were the good pigs or whatever. They were fuckin’ outnumbered, too.”
The trucks were “taking up the entire street patrolling the march.” The fascists lined the street on one side, standing in front of all the local businesses. The trucks roved up and down on the other side.
Many in the crowd were part of motorcycle clubs with names like No Name MC and Extinct MC. Some had iron crosses–a symbol with a lot of overlap between neo-Nazis and bikers.
“I don’t know if they were all with the same crew, but they were all riding together,” Jen said.
“Yeah, those cats were there early,” Sam added.
Jen said the march was slow and that people were worried about getting split up at crosswalks. There were very few police around. The fascists heckled and followed the marchers and attempted to grab their signs.
Jen said one of the most aggressive people was a man in a white shirt with Schutzstaffel (SS) bolts on it–a symbol so commonly associated with neo-Nazis it’s kind of cliché. Jen and Sam later identified the man in the SS-bolts shirt as Ryan Van De Car of Chino. Van De Car’s Facebook shows he has an affinity for the symbol. Sam said that once Van De Car came out to the street, others started pouring out from the Slam Dunk bar.
My friend was at a PEACEFUL #BLM protest when THIS MAN decided to not only disturb the peace but also ASSAULT my friend who was recording yet NO ONE ARRESTED HIM!!!! PLEASE HELP ME SPREAD THE WORD AND MAKE @RSO FIND AND ARREST THIS MAN AND HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE!!!! #norco pic.twitter.com/mJyTi7NPlL— Maria Tarin (@le_maria21) June 30, 2020
“Keep filming. Yeah, film all day, bitch!” Van De Car said in an video posted to Instagram before slapping the phone out of the videographer’s hand. The incident happened around the time the march approached City Hall.
Im just going to add the rest of the videos to this thread!!! pic.twitter.com/j1sDaEK8AG— Maria Tarin (@le_maria21) June 30, 2020
“There was just some lady trying to fucking get to her car and [Van De Car] attacked her. And then a man jumped in front of her. [Van De Car] pushed that man and–I gotta give props to that girl–she charged like thirty guys. That’s when she got socked up by three of them,” Sam recounted. “Afterwards she was holding her face and crying because she got socked.”
Video of the incident on Instagram also shows a man in a red Trump 2020 hat grabbing a woman’s sign. A sheriff’s deputy is present but only intervenes after the scuffle.
Another video shot by the same Instagram user shows Van De Car trying unsuccessfully to slap the camera out of the videographer’s hand. A sheriff’s officer who was facing Van De Car comes into view.
“Arrest him!” the videographer shouts to a Riverside County Sheriff’s officer.
“Go! Keep going!” the officer says.
“Did you see that?” A man asks the officer. “No, I didn’t,” the officer responds.
The videographer asks about her friend whose phone Van De Car previously slapped away.
“Continue moving. You have to come back for it later. You can’t hold up the line,” another Sheriff’s officer says.
Van De Car was chummy with other aggressors in the crowd including an as-yet unidentified man in a red biker vest with the words “Christian Crusaders” on the back.
“At one point the Christian Crusader guy came up behind this one girl–I think she was a student–and fucking bear-hugged her from behind. He wrenched her up by her chest and her shoulders like he was going to yank her away or something,” Jen recounted. People intervened and pulled them apart.
“It was fucking constant harassment. Lots of slurs, lots of people getting shoved around,” Jen recounted. “Lots of screaming, lots of laying on the horn. They seemed intent on drowning out the chanting–especially when they got to city hall and started saying names.”
Much of the fascists’ shouting was along the lines of “Get out! This is our town! Get out of Norco!” But the fascists were explicitly racist and vulgar as well, calling BLM protesters the n-word, ‘bitch,’ ‘pussies,’ and using fat-phobic insults. They also accused BLM protesters of being racist–against white people.
“If there hadn’t been any protesters there, it would’ve looked like a Trump rally. It was all red, white and blue. There were a lot of Trump 2020 chants and signs, Confederate flags–some guy had a Confederate Trump flag at the back of his truck.”
Someone mounted a giant American flag with PVC pipe to a cherry-picker crane near city hall by the time the BLM protesters arrived there. Jen says it wasn’t there when she’d driven by on the way to the march earlier that day.
“There were maybe 50 CHUDs (fascists) there and about 15 riot pigs” around city hall waiting since two for the marchers to get there, Sam said.
“There were a few cops around, yeah, but they really built up towards city hall. They were lining both sides of the street and splitting traffic. There was a wall of them across from city hall just keeping back this massive crowd,” Jen recounted. She saw police badges and patches not just from Norco PD but from Chino, Jurupa Valley, Eastvale and Riverside among the officers.
The organizer had a megaphone and people gathered on the lawn. Everyone took a knee and people took turns saying the names of black people murdered by cops. The fascist crowd behind them started swelling and some of them got in through at the edges of the thinly-spread riot line.
One fascist had a PA system in the back of his truck. He used it to single out a BLM protester with a “distinctive mask,” Jen said.
“That motherfucker pushed a girl earlier! Pay attention to him! Follow him!” Jen recounted the man with the truck-mounted loudspeaker saying. Jen said she didn’t see anybody shoving any of the women on the fascist side.
“The organizer took a little long for my tastes to get the march moving back to the park,” Jen recounted. She and Sam debated telling the organizer he needed to get people out. Police had to use their cars to push a line through the fascist crowd and have a two-officer-deep escort to protect BLM protesters on the way back to the park.
One video shows the fascists following and taunting protesters as they leave. Most aren’t wearing masks despite the pandemic and those that are take them off to shout at the protesters. Some taunt them using the cliché “why don’t you take off your masks, coward?” line I’ve heard ever since “ANTIFA” became a Fox News boogeyman.
When they got back to the park, Jen was worried. There was one real exit to the park–the one leading to the parking lot–“and fash started pouring into that,” Jen said. “There was no plan to get people out.”
The BLM protester who the fascist with the PA system singled out changed clothes in the parking lot before leaving to avoid being recognized. A group of women went with him to protect him.
Anyone who tried to leave was watched by multiple trucks,” Jen recounted. She said trucks were idling and parked all around the park and patrolling the streets, poised to follow anyone who got out whether they were on foot or in their cars.
Jen and Sam and their friends were penned in by the truck patrols. The friends they called to pick them up and take them to their cars several blocks away were blocked off. They had to leave on foot. They were followed.
“One [truck] kind of pulled up slow right behind us and then we stopped and he took off,” Jen recounted.
When they were away from the park, they saw some squad cars headed towards it in a hurry. Then one of Jen and Sam’s friends who had come to pick them up crossed paths with them. Jen asked them to circle around the park and see what was happening. She said by the time this friend got there, the park was cleared out.
Both Sam and Jen left around 5:30PM. The whole thing lasted about three hours–“four if you count the fash getting drunk at the beginning,” Jen said.
Jen said that the area had always been home to more bigots than other areas, but it was never this open before. Sam reflected on the history of racism in the area.
“I’m not from Norco–I’m from a neighboring city,” Sam said. “By my parents’ house there was a tree that said ‘fuck Mexicans’ on it. When I was going to Norco College, I saw a caricature of someone wearing a Dodgers hat that said ‘stupid beaner spic’ on it.’ This was years ago. I’ve seen a van with SS bolts on it. Maybe a year or two ago, some Norco High students got in trouble for writing ‘KKK’ on a black girl’s car.” More recently, a black child in nearby Corona was emailed a slur and a picture of a noose.
A NOTE ABOUT CHOPPER KINGS
The shirt Ryan Van De Car wore was from a Huntington Beach-based biker fashion brand called Chopper Kings. While the SS bolts shirt isn’t currently for sale on their website, it’s advertised on their Instagram. Much of their SS-bolted merch is being scrubbed from the website, but LCRW obtained some screenshots of the since-deleted listings.
“This tee is representing symbols who are “biker memorabilia” there is no political meaning or propaganda. For who feel offended about this please read history before judge or comment,” the since-deleted description of the SS-bolt shirt reads.
Chopper Kings wasn’t very thorough in getting rid of their fascist merch, however. As of this writing, they still have a jacket for sale with 311–a KKK signifier–written on it. Other posts of their merch booths show them selling a wide variety of SS-blot merch.
In a since-deleted Facebook post the day after the protest, Norco City Councilman Ted Hoffman said “I am very proud of the residents of Norco and at the same time humbled by their support. I am very proud of the way you all demonstrated your patriotism and your respect to allow everyone to express the rights given to them under the First Amendment.”
A day after of Monday’s rally, the city of Norco declared a 6PM to 6AM curfew (archive) “[d]ue to civil unrest arising out of the protests and counter-protests related to the Black Lives Matter Movement.” They cancelled it on Thursday.
Norconians for Racial Justice announced on their Instagram the day after the rally that they were collecting information about the attacks during the march and posted the number of the Riverside County Sheriff, saying “The sheriff would like to collect a statement for the DA to prepare charges against the SS man who was harassing the protestors.”
There rumors some scuffles related to BLM demonstrations continued throughout the week in Norco. Activists LCRW spoke to only heard about them secondhand and cannot confirm, but the rumor’s effects are worth reporting on.
Posts in the “Protect Riverside Now” group repeat the rumor and talk about “Antifa buses” coming in to town.
In one reply to a rumor that there are “3 more protests scheduled for Norco this week,” Leroy Davidson advocated that people “Disable every single one of the Protesters Vehicles and tag BLM POS in BIG Bold letters in there paint That park in your Cities.”
It’s unclear to LCRW who’s behind it, but someone did announce a follow-up rally in Norco for July 4th. Black Lives Matter Inland Empire posted a since-deleted photo of the flyer with a big red ‘CANCELED!’ over it. They said that the protests in Norco “aren’t black lead” and they “don’t condone putting your life at risk” to attend them. BLM Inland Empire changed ‘CANCELED’ to ‘NOT SUPPORTED’ on the flyer image in their revised statement and said that the event hadn’t been called off.
“The Inland Empire has a long history of being the home to many dangerous white supremacist groups who have killed members of our community. We are here first and foremost for the black people of this community and will put the safety of black people first before anything else. We want to emphasize that we will not be purposefully working to encourage black people or any other vulnerable group to show up to have a stand-off with white supremacists. We should not have to explain to our white followers how much different the outcome of the scenarios of white people confronting white supremacists vs black people confronting white supremacists can turn out to be,” BLM Inland Empire’s statement read in part.
“The police are not on our side. Your safety is not guaranteed at this event,” they added.
Norconians for Racial Justice released a statement on Wednesday saying they “are not associated with any current or future protests that are rumored to happen.”
Whether the upcoming protest in Norco happens or not remains unclear as of this writing. A similar rally with backing from local BLM activists is planned for Riverside City Hall the same day. LCRW will continue to monitor the situation.