Los Angeles sees itself as an idyllic melting pot. Every few miles is an entirely new community. Each town has its own individual culture and history. Many residents shelter in their own neighborhood’s bubble and have an unrealistic assumption that L.A. is free of racism and bigotry. But it’s right next door.
Residents of Tujunga and neighboring La Crescenta know all too well of the city’s past as a hotbed of white supremacy within L.A. County. Others do not.
Among various white supremacist groups in the area: Knights of The Ku Klux Klan, Atomwaffen Division, skinheads, Hells Angels, Peckerwoods.
THE FASCIST PAST OF NORTH L.A.
North Los Angeles also has a history of flagrant and direct Nazism. Crescenta Valley Park was known as Hindenburg Park in the late 1930s. The German American Bund held rallies there regularly. The Bund sought to promote Nazi Germany in the United States and encouraged the boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. The park was also home to Camp Sutter, one of the organization’s nineteen Nazi youth camps, where children were taught about Aryan supremacy and loyalty to Adolf Hitler. In 1939, over 2,000 Nazis rallied at the park for a celebration of Hitler’s birthday, flying both Swastikas and American flags. The park was purchased from The German-American League in 1957 by Los Angeles County, for 91,000 dollars. A five foot bust of Paul Von Hindenburg, the President of Weimar Germany who appointed Hitler, was removed and the park was renamed Crescenta Valley Park.
In February 2016, Crescenta Valley Park once again became Hindenburg Park. A sign stood at the entrance, with the German phrase “Willkommen Zum”, followed by “Welcome To Hindenberg Park.” Below that it below read “The Historic German Section of Crescenta Valley Park.” The sign was paid for by the Tricentennial Foundation, a German-American group located in North Hills. The group’s mission statement says they aim to “restore and extend our dynamic German-American heritage.”
The renamed sign drew outrage from various human rights and faith-based groups, who demanded the county remove and replace it. The sign made no reference to the park’s connection to the Bund and Nazi history. Neighbors near the park and community members from marginalized groups were opposed as well, aware of the site’s history and shocked by the lack of community outreach prior to the resurrection of the sign. Over 200 community members attended an L.A. County Human Relations Committee public hearing in April 2016, applying pressure and demanding the replacement of the sign. L.A. County Parks and Recreation Department officials removed tit in May of 2016, vowing to accurately represent the events that took place within Hindenburg Park many years ago. In August of 2017, a committee finally followed through and replaced it with a small panel describing the past of the park. Only three of the nine photographs included depicted the Nazis who used the park to rally.
THE CHUDS IN FRONT OF THE BIG 5
Friday’s clashes between right wing extremists and Black Lives Matter protesters in Sunland-Tujunga was just a five minute drive from Crescenta Valley Park. Right-wingers have held weekly rallies for months at 6240 Foothill Blvd in front of a Big 5, saying they’re demanding support for the President, recalling Gavin Newsom, and supporting LAPD.
According to one activist who goes by @workingchris on Twitter, community members began surveying the far-right demonstration on Juneteenth. Antifascist activists witnessed members of the group display Nazi Sieg Heil salutes and racist tattoos. Multiple right-wingers, many of whom refused to wear masks despite the pandemic, pushing and assaulting community members.
In response, young BIPOC community members and antifascist allies in the Foothills organized Against Bigotry, Responding With Action (ABRA.) Protesters have stood for weeks across the street from the far-right crowd, drowning out racist opposition chants with drum circles and bearing signs with slogans like ‘respect existence or expect resistance,’ and ‘America has never truly been ‘great’ for black lives.’
On July 31st, LAPD was called following the burning of a Blue Lives Matter flag by the antifascist side. The caller reported a member of the protest had been shining a laser pointer across the street that day, eliciting an LAPD response of about a dozen officers. The officers pushed into the crowd of about thirty protesters without communication, and emerged carrying a man in black bloc attire by his hands and feet. Protesters were outraged and asked why he was arrested. Peaceful protesters were hit with batons and brutalized while independent journalists were shoved down embankments onto broken glass. Another protester, after filming and repeatedly demanding reason for the officers’ response, was thrown to the concrete sidewalk and arrested, leaving in an ambulance. In total three people were treated at the hospital including the independent journalist and an antifascist protester who suffered from broken ribs.
Protesters returned August 7th, following a week of violence at the hands ostensibly meant to protect and serve them. All of those arrested or hospitalized stood together to ‘show the [fascists] they were not scared.’ Sources stated the day remained peaceful except for a fight between two of the far-right supporters.
WHAT HAPPENED FRIDAY
Friday, August 14, the protest was different. A large group of right-wingers crossed the street towards the antifascists. Upon arrival, they repeatedly instigated violence with protesters. This included people of all ages–middle-aged right-wingers picking fights with teenagers, women, and senior citizens. Black Lives matter protesters were greatly outnumbered, at least 2:1, most individually standing their ground while multiple far-right supporters screamed threats.
“I’ll smash your face into the curb,” one of the right-wingers shouted.
“Black lives don’t matter here,” another said.
Proud Boys, along with III% Militia Movement members were identified in the crowd. Some instigators identified in attendance were “Based Spartan” John Turano, Proud Boy Brandon Recor, and David Dempsey. Turano was the subject of ‘The Rise and Fall of an Alt-Right Gladiator”, an early 2018 Vice documentary. The piece highlighted that after fighting antifascist protesters in gladiator armor he had “realized that some of the people he’d aligned himself with were neo-Nazis, homophobes, and racists…going from alt-right celebrity to pariah overnight”. His opinions seem to have changed.
Proud Boy Brandon Recor has attended LGBTQ Pride rallies and BLM protests in the past, often posing as a journalist while attempting to incite violence. Filming for the youtube account ‘That’s The Point With Brandon,’ Recor has been recorded using the N-word and striking people with weapons, fighting against antifascists. Another documented Proud Boy, David Dempsey, often joins him.
In October 2019 Dempsey was arrested for using bear repellent on multiple protesters at the Santa Monica Pier. Dempsey was arrested on scene following the incident and carries extensive criminal history dating back to 2016. Convictions include second-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit commercial burglary and fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly.
Some right-wingers claimed to not be racist–instead claiming “Black Lives Matter” itself is racist. To further this idea, the right-wing crowd tried to throw Black Lives Matter protesters’ chants of “Nazis, go home!” back at them. BLM protesters remained unphased, chanting “Nazis go home!” even louder.
White supremacists in the crowd seig-heiled and displayed other hate symbols. One lifted up his shirt to reveal a ‘White Pride’ tattoo. Others did Nazi salutes. Many also made the ‘OK/White Power’ hand sign–a gesture popularized by a 4chan troll in 2017 but with roots in Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance in the 90s. One man was caught on video calling a protestor the n-word.
This woman in LA hailing Hitler during the national anthem at an "All Lives Matter" rally is Shirley Marinaccio. It would be a shame if the world found out that #ShirleyMarinaccio was praising Nazis after millions of our bravest Americans died to defeat them. pic.twitter.com/r4KMNKSF1p— Fifty Shades of Whey (@davenewworld_2) June 21, 2020
Both sides screamed back and forth at one another for over an hour until a Three Percenter, identified as Philip V Yung maced a BLM protester in the face without provocation. Yung had brandished pepper spray in past weeks and threatened to use it in attempts at dialogue by antifascists. The maced protester turned back away from the group momentarily while another slammed Yung to the floor. The sidewalk erupted into a rapid flurry of fists, feet, and flag poles. Studded gloves swung through the air as a pink smoke bomb landed in the midst of the mayhem, thrown by someone in black bloc to defuse the situation.
One right-winger in a “Fuck Antifa” shirt swung a skateboard, striking somebody in the head. Punches were still thrown following the dispersal of the smoke. Some fights had moved off of the main sidewalk as well.
Each side had been beaten and bloodied by one another. A tattered, stained American Flag rested on the sidewalk.
Black Lives Matter supporters aided the fascists in moments of de-escalation despite being attacked. The previously-maced BLM protester exhibited extraordinary acts of empathy, as he helped pull a Proud Boy he’d previously traded punches with out of the middle of a fight, allowing medical aid. One far-right instigator had lost his glasses, and despite extreme aggression and bigotry, multiple people in black-bloc looked for them. Street medics worked bravely behind a soothing drum circle, providing gauze wraps, bandages and eye washes to those in need. LAPD arrived an estimated ten minutes following the fight. None of the estimated 15 people from either side pressed charges. Paramedics treated four people on scene, including an NLG (National Lawyers Guild) legal observer who was assaulted by a fascist.
This is ABRA. When #proudboy #brandonrecor sucker punches us, we still help them out when they are injured. Multiple ABRA members made sure Brandon got out and got treatment, even when Latinos4Trump tried to stop us. Move, b, get out the way. pic.twitter.com/8IaIv7Lrn1— abra_foothills (@AbraFoothills) August 17, 2020
The events leading up to Friday, August 14 demonstrate a continuing and predictable pattern for law enforcement. LAPD will respond swiftly to the concerns of their right-wing supporters, while refusing to protect those assaulted by instigators.
“I’ve seen ambulances drop those treated on scene at their car to make sure they get home safe since the cops won’t protect us,” Chris said.
Antifascists LCRW spoke to have infiltrated the far-right crowd and claim many of them have the personal phone numbers of specific local police officers.
“They don’t call 911 to get us busted, they call their racist cop buddies,” Chris told LCRW. “They aren’t going to help us against the Nazis, since they are on the same side.”
Many protesters have experienced police surveillance immediately following protests as well; being followed and even pulled over by officers, forced to incessantly drive in circles until their police tail gives up.
Many of these protesters live in close proximity to the right wing and white supremacist agitators. Activists told LCRW that some of the right-wingers who engage in violence at these protests are local small-business owners–the same kind of people that you would bump into shopping at the local grocery store.
“There have been many times fights have been de-escalated by a local saying ‘Hey dude, you live down the street from me, put the baseball bat away,’” Chris, an antifascist LCRW spoke to said.
In some instances, right-wingers have threatened deadly retaliation. Chris recounts fascists threatening to burn down the homes of Black Lives Matter protesters.
“It sucks (can I say fucking? cuz it fucking sucks). Nazi scum feel bold enough to attack people in a crowd on the street week after week, in the most progressive city in the world, without fear of police reprisal,” Chris said.