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This is an updated version of a story that ran yesterday. It includes an interview with the activist at the center of the incident and information from police documents.
“The pride festival was over, and initially we were just trying to walk from it to other local festivities. We hear the religious protesters,” Marcello recounts, “So Angie asks me if I’m uncomfortable hearing them and if we should leave or do something.”
“I stand up and I’m thinking I’m not really bothered,” he continues, “but they shouldn’t be allowed to be doing that.”
In his friend Angie’s video, Marcello, a queer activist in a tie-dye shirt, holds a trans pride flag and dances around in front of a bearded street preacher with a red tie and a suit vest.
“It all seemed very innocent to me. I wasn’t thinking it’d escalate. At one point there were other queer people joining me and dancing onstage even,” Marcello says.
“Repent! God will judge you if you do not repent and you will end up in hell! We love you but God is just!” the preacher booms through a PA system.
“It wasn’t until the guy took my flag when things started to be more confrontational,” Marcello says.
Anti-LGBTQ+ protesters push Marcello. A man with a mustache, white shirt and blue baseball cap shouts in Marcello’s face. He grabs Marcello’s flag and balls it up in his hands.
“May God have mercy on America! May God have mercy on this land! May God have mercy on Sacramento,” the preacher continues behind them.
“Give him his flag back,” Angie shouts at the man in the blue hat as she continues to film. The man shoves Marcello, who tries to snatch the flag back. The man pitches the balled-up flag on the ground about fifteen feet away. Marcello goes to pick it up.
“Fuck you! Old ugly-ass toothless-ass man!” Angie shouts at him before the video cuts out.
The video, posted to Twitter on Saturday at 8:22PM, has over 10,000 views as of this writing.
“After that I admit my memory is a bit hazy,” Marcello says. He was in shock after the event. For more on how memory of traumatic events works, see this NPR article. “
I had so many things going on at once, and people screaming at me, and Angie was telling me the guy pulled a switchblade on me,” he recounts.
“Right after the video cuts he pulled out a knife on us,” Angie said in the description of the video on Twitter. “He only backs away when I start yelling out “He has a knife!” repeatedly,” she told LCRW.
Angie said none of the others with the anti-LGBTQ+ group did anything about him.
“I was shocked and after I picked my flag up, I felt it even more so my duty to be there and wave it around proudly than before,” Marcello says.
“Then the man with the blue shirt comes up and his friend a little after,” she recounted. Angie provided a second video to LCRW showing a confrontation between several men and Marcello and herself.
Angie’s second video starts with a man with a buzzcut and blue t-shirt yelling at Marcello. Marcello says this man was “in my face screaming at me to get out of his.”
“This whole time I never approached these people, they would come up to me. All I was doing was waving my flag and defending myself,” Marcello told LCRW.
Someone tries to grab Angie’s phone. Video is shaky. There seems to be a scuffle.
“I can have my phone out!” she says. Two other men push the man with the buzzcut and Marcello away from each other and get in between them.
“After the guy pushed me away from his friend with the buzz cut was the only time I put my hands on someone, I was obviously angry that I was the one being gained up on,” Marcello said.
“This guy tried to take my phone!” Angie shouts. The video ends with the camera flipped around on her face.
“Next thing I know the guy in the video with the buzz cut was threatening me,” Marcello says.
“I remember him saying “this is America so I have a right to say whatever it is I want, I have a right to be here (as in the capital grounds) and I was saying back to him “Well, don’t come here to our event, (pointing at the Pride Festival) and say disrespectful things to my community,” Marcello recounts. “And he then started saying “that’s not okay, what you’re doing is not okay. If this was Russia things would be different””
LGBTQ+ people face widespread persecution in Russia, often with state permission.
“He was also saying things like “come to Russia then. Come to Russia and see what happens,” Marcello recounts. He says he took the man’s statements, as well as “his gestures and tone as a threat.”
Angie says the man with the buzz cut told Marcello “if we were in Russia, he would kill him.” She said that “this man and two others got in my friend’s face and even shoved him at one point.”
“Since things were getting violent, we tried to leave the area. And that’s when we were stopped by Sac PD,” Angie recounted.
“I was very shocked because I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, I was already flustered and feeling defensive,” Marcello says.
Angie said an officer stopped Marcello and herself and demanded identification. They asked to leave and the officer said no. They asked if they were being detained. The officer said yes. He wouldn’t tell them what crime they were being stopped for.
“I keep repeating that there is a man still at the steps of the Capitol who has a knife but he doesn’t seem to care. He ignored me and keeps asking my friend why he was pushing people,” Angie recounted.
“The cop that approached me was being unempathetic towards my side of the story the entire time,” Marcello recounts. “He was asking me why I was pushing people, was asking me why I approached them.”
“I felt really attacked, I felt like I was being framed. I felt like he was trying to guilt me into admitting I did something wrong,” Marcello says.
Eventually, Marcello says, “the officer told me that I was under suspicion of assault, and told me they were reviewing tapes.”
Marcello and Angie both say he only pushed one person in self-defense. Angie’s video shows one instance of a man wearing glasses being shoved. This man stepped in between Marcello and the man with the buzzcut. It isn’t clear if Angie, Marcello or someone else was shoving him. While video shows Marcello made gestures with his hands while shouting, it’s clear in the video LCRW reviewed that, for the most part, he wasn’t trying to touch the anti-LGBTQ+ activists. The only other time he makes a motion towards one of them on camera is when he’s trying to get his flag back.
They were separated for questioning after fifteen minutes of being detained, Angie recounts.
“At one point [the officer] was even answering my questions and statements with “oh really? Okay cool” sarcastically, being overall very unprofessional and disrespectful. I decided it was best to just stop speaking all together to him,” Marcello says. “I felt like the police were not there for me, they didn’t take my allegation against these homophobic and actually violent people seriously.”
Marcello also said he was misgendered and repeatedly deadnamed by the police, despite changing the gender marker on his ID at the start of the year. Deadnaming is refusing to use a person’s chosen name and instead using the name assigned to them at birth. ProPublica found in 2018 that in 74 of 85 cases they studied of trans people being murdered, police used the victim’s deadname. Activists ProPublica interviewed said it was incredibly difficult to get government agencies to acknowledge trans peoples’ chosen names.
“Five or so cops were surrounding me at one point,” Marcello recounts, continuing, “they could’ve been trying to find the actual perpetrators instead of standing there chatting it up with each other, waiting for some footage, only to find out I never actually put my hands on anyone.”
Marcello eventually gave his statement to a female officer who he says treated him with more empathy.
“They gave me a ticket with my possible charges and said that for future reference, I shouldn’t be the one going and instigating things by waving my flag in peoples faces,” Marcello says.
Officers cite Marcello for three misdemeanors: demonstrating without a permit, battery, and a hate crime. He’s set to appear in court in August.
Meanwhile, Angie also had little success getting the officers to take her side of the story seriously. An officer asks her to point out the man who threatened them, but she says by that point he’d left. “I tell [the officer] I have a picture but he just asks for a description which he repeats back to me wrong, so I show him a photo,” Angie recounts.
An hour and 40 minutes pass while they’re detained, Angie says. Then, four other officers speak to them separately and dismiss them. Angie sends her footage to one of the officers.
“They told us it was the church that called the police on us for being aggressive and that we aren’t allowed to be that close to counter protests,” Angie said, adding that police told her “that we should have been on the sidewalk and that we were in the wrong.”
LCRW is filing a PRA for information about the incident and will update the story when we receive new information.
Neither the man who drew a knife nor the has not yet been identified. LCRW has not yet identified the anti-LGBTQ+ group at the Capitol Building.
“Literally all the people who were threatening and even shoving my friend got away because they [the police] were too busy trying to prove/get my friend to confess he was the aggressor,” Angie wrote on Twitter.
“I just feel wronged. Like I was the wrong person to call the cops on. The homophobic protesters should’ve called the police on their own supporters instead of me. They were the ones being aggressive and violent,” Marcello says.
“This was supposed to be a day where I can be authentically me, and I was harassed and wrongfully detained for celebrating myself,” Marcello said. “And to end all that with being charged for possible hate crime, and assault charges? It just seem extremely unfair and unjust. I feel failed by the law.”
Pride Month was marked this year by high-profile provocations against LGBTQ+ people by right-wing extremists. The National Socialist Movement, a direct descendent of George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party, disrupted Detriot’s Motor City Pride Parade last weekend, flying flags with swastikas. They had full protection from police officers wearing rainbow flag badges. Right-wing provocateur Steven Crowder is currently intensifying his years-long homophobic harassment campaign against journalist Carlos Maza, emboldened by Youtube’s failure to address the situation. One of the most viral stories has to do with Resist Marxism’s plans for a “Straight Pride Parade.” Resist Marxism is a Boston-based neo-Nazi-adjacent protest group founded by Kyle Chapman, the far-right e-celebrity famously nicknamed “Based Stickman” after he broke a closet pole over an antifascist brawler’s head during a riot in Berkeley. The “Straight Pride” event is set to go forward August 31st.
The incident over the weekend hearkens back to the rally held by neo-Nazis from the Traditionalist Workers’ Party and the Golden State Skinheads in 2016. Neo-Nazis stabbed several antifascists counter-protesting that ensuing brawl. Police then chose to go after the antifascists instead of the neo-Nazis.
LCRW is seeking other witnesses’ accounts and any additional information about this case and will update this story with new information as it comes in. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any tips.