The intimidation planned for the August 1st “Justice for Womxn of Color” march in La Mesa wasn’t exactly covert. Then again, neither were the knives, bear spray cannisters, and clubs carried by the coalition of white supremacists, border militias, and assorted “patriots” who came together under the banner of Defend East County (DEC). The racists, who claimed to be there to prevent property damage, assaulted multiple people while police did nothing. Racists beat one Black child, leaving a huge bruise near her right kidney and another on her face, photos and off-the-record interviews conducted by LCRW confirm.
The march had been planned and publicized for weeks. Organizers described it as as an act of “planned civil disobedience” that would draw attention to the La Mesa PD’s failure to name or publicly discipline the officer who shot Black grandmother Leslie Furcron in the face with a less lethal shotgun round on May 30th. The attack left her blind in one eye. La Mesa PD declined Public Records requests for two months, but released their own edited video three days before the protest in an attempt to pacify protestors. In this video La Mesa PD cut together clips of rocks being thrown throughout the day over a period of 6 or more hours before cutting to a clip of Furcron being shot in the head by Detective Eric Knudson. Knudson carefully aimed at Furcron, mis-identified her as a man, and after shooting out her eye he claimed “that was the guy who was throwing things.”
LCRW has confirmed via public records that La Mesa PD has had just 44 hours of riot police training for 17 officer in the last 6 years. Knudson remains on paid leave.
While La Mesa PD’s creative editing did little to placate protesters, it did seem to strike a chord with a collection of far-right groups that have a long history in East County San Diego. The night Furcron was shot, protestors also burned two banks, looted a natural grocers, a supermarket, and a goodwill, and broke windows and tagged the police station. To prevent this happening again, Defend East County (DEC) assembled roughly 100 armed counter-protestors and security teams to “patrol” the city on the day of the rally.
Even before the rally began it became violent. DEC counter-protestors in plate carriers (albeit mostly empty ones) pursued a car whose occupant threw a water bottle at them. A Black man got out of the car and roughly a dozen of them attempted to punch him unsuccessfully, used the N-word, and eventually backed down after DEC organizers and police intervened. The driver said there was going to be a “war” in La Mesa later that night.
A war didn’t quite break out, but the police certainly came ready for one. Officers were called in from National City, Oceanside, Carlsbad, California State University, Chula Vista, El Cajon, San Diego County, San Diego Community College District, Escondido, CHP, CBP, and the Harbor police. Swat teams carried M4 Assault rifles with live ammunition and local PDs carried batons, 37mm special impact munition launchers, pepper ball guns, batons, OC gas cannisters, flashbang and gas grenades and bear spray. Escondido PD even showed up in their $250,000 Bearcat, perhaps fearing that protestors would have built IEDs in the two months since police shot Furcron. Law enforcement also had air support from helicopters and drones. Police blocked freeway exits leading to the protest and built concrete and wire fences in the area outside the La Mesa PD building. In the streets around the building officers in unmarked vehicles with assault rifles began stopping traffic and blocking intersections.
The night before the protest La Mesa Police Department attempted to reduce the risk of that Bearcat coming under fire by banning a broad range of items from the protest area including daggers, clubs, pepper spray, shields, tasers, signs, and fireworks. They also banned rocks–which make up most of the landscaping in the semi-arid foothills of La Mesa.
The rocks didn’t leave, protestors still arrived with signs and shields, and the order didn’t seem to stop DEC members arriving with machetes, hunting knives, clubs, and possibly firearms either. DEC members also took up positions on the rooves of surrounding buildings and patrolled the surrounding streets, noting protestors’ car number plates as well as using a drone to photograph protestors in the crowd. The group seemed to be a loose coalition of local Proud Boys, American Guard, border militias, Trump supporters and white nationalists.
As soon as the group was confronted with protestors they immediately broke ranks. Justin Haskins, who goes by “Justin N Bama” as the Facebook administrator of the 20,000-member DEC group was heard calling fellow counter-protestors “idiots” and lamenting the fact they were using police resources rather than helping the police as they explicitly said they would.
Haskins appears to have registered DEC as a corporation in Arizona.
After protestors marched a hilly route, followed by DEC drones and one DEC member who chanted “the only good tr-nny is a dead tr-nny.” This DEC member then fell behind the protest group on a steep hill and abandoned the pursuit. The march was largely met with support from local residents who handed out water, popsicles, and raised fist salutes. One man did come onto his lawn with a hunting knife to defend parked cars. The bigger danger was the 90 plus degree heat. One protestor fell to the ground and required medical attention because of it.
Things became more dangerous when the protesters passed the VFW building at which DEC had stationed themselves. Again, they lost their cohesion as soon as they were faced with protestors. DEC members began hurling slurs at the protest group. Quickly several conuterprotestors with Three Percent badges attacked protestors including a 17-year-old woman who was left with a black eye and bruised back. Protest security and individual protestors fought briefly with counter-protestors. In this video at 1:36 it seems that one counterprotestor racked a gun and one protestor LCRW spoke to claimed a counter-protestor “pulled a gun out on me.” In a livestream before the event Haskins had told supporters he supported their right to concealed carry without a permit saying “you don’t need [San Diego County Sherriff] Bill Gore or anyone else’s signature to do that. You have Thomas Jefferson’s.”
After the brawl, Ryan McAdams was arrested for felony assault with a deadly weapon (non firearm) , violation of probation, and vandalism over $400. McAdams—who uses the Facebook alias “Ryan Mick Adams”—is part of the Bordertown Patriots group and American Guard. McAdams has previously been convicted of beating a protester at the border and recently livestreamed the detention of an undocumented migrant. In an interview given to 10 news in San Diego he said “everybody is held up to the same laws”. He is now being held up to those laws on three felony charges.
Kris Wyrick was also seen with McAdams moments before the fight. Wyrick livestreams under the name “based Krusader” and has spoken at local school board meetings wearing an Iron Cross shirt. Wyrick has been part of armed border patrols and recently both he and his son assaulted protestors near the border where they are caretakers on a property near Campo. Wyrick was recently pictured giving the “white power” sign with Alpine’s former congressman and convicted thief Duncan Hunter. Hunter was removed from his seat after embezzling $200,000 of campaign funds for steam games, bar bills, and airline tickets for his rabbit. Hunter blames his wife, who cooperated with prosecutors. Despite all of this Hunter was re-elected before sentencing. Wyrick’s hometown of Alpine has been steadfast in its support of the criminal congressman thanks to his hard line anti-immigration policy.
McAdams and Wyrick spent much of the day with Roger Ogden who came to prominence as a “birther” conspiracy theorist during the Obama Administration. Ogden changed his “Impeach Obama Now” Facebook page to his new project Patriot Fire after the former president successfully completed two terms in office. Ogden is a COVID denier and famously the host of the Patriot Picnic which attempted to deface murals in San Diego’s Chicano Park. Ogden did not participate in the fight but spent much of the evening threating protesters with arson, saying he would “burn your house down”. Despite his public stance on COVID, he wore a mask. Ogden has been alleged to have funded Wyrick’s legal defense and that of other white nationalists for previous similar incidents.
Also pictured with protestors was local lawyer Scot McMillan. Both Ogden and McMillan have been portrayed as “concerned citizens” by the San Diego Union Tribune, whose reporters left shortly after violence began at both La Mesa protests. McMillan gained national attention with a (now deleted) tweet advocating for sacrificing the elderly to keep the economy running. After the first protests in La Mesa he formed a “civil guard” group and posted on Facebook about instances where an individual might legally use a firearm in self-defense. His Civil Guard group has patrolled La Mesa for weeks despite many residents asking them not to.
Following the fight, protestors and DEC members were separated by BLM security and SWAT team members. Protesters were then surrounded in the La Mesa PD parking lot with police on all sides preventing more interaction with counter-protestors.
After a brief discussion the San Diego Freedom Fighters, who had organized the protest alongside other groups, elected to ask the Wall of Moms and other security teams to walk people to their cars so that they could leave safely without being tailed. About half the protestors and some of the media remained for what turned into a standoff between increasing numbers of police and dwindling numbers of protestors and counter-protestors.
Given the lack of action around Eric Knudson shooting a grandmother in the face, we can expect more protests in La Mesa, where the burned-out banks still dominate the view from the front door of the Police Department. Local Police seem committed to defending both their colleague and their building. San Diego’s large and growing white nationalist community seems to have identified La Mesa as a place they can attract more support–and perhaps assault more Black minors.