Southern Californians Counter-Protest against the so-called “Alt-Right”
My name is Samuel “Shmuel” Gonzales, I am an activist historian and community organizer from Southern California; many of you might know me as the author of the Barrio Boychik blog, which is dedicated to presenting our local heritage of civil rights activism, with special focus on the historical and present inter-section of Jewish and Latino civil rights organizing. As a Mexican American of the Jewish faith, I also proudly serve as teacher of Jewish education and leader in sacred Hebrew ritual, serving Southeast Los Angeles and North Orange County.
Today I will be presenting to you some unique archival footage I took at a counter-protest of the America First Rally – an anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rally organized by the so-called “alt-Right” – at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, California on Sunday, August 20, 2017.
Where I was ultimately arrested.
On this day I was in attendance to stand with local friends and business people as they stand against hate. Among them my good friend and a father figure to me, Irv Weiser; whose family came to this country as refugees following the holocaust. I came to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he protested against this nationalist hate rhetoric.
There were just a few dozen anti-immigrant/refugee protesters that day, a mixed race group of far right extremists that noticeably even had neo-Nazis and white supremacists participating in the event; while there were several hundred counter-protesters in attendance.
After the right-wing protesters group dwindled they started making incursions into the counter-protest, to get in people’s’ face and to agitate the crowd; they caused some minor scuffles and were shooed back by the police.
While documenting the event on video, I followed the right-wing group back. By this time the right-wing protesters on the other end were encircled and engaging a crowd.
I engaged the right-wing protesters in their rhetoric angering them several times with just verbal rebuttals, while also taking video of the protest.
In this video you will see the presentation in which they call illegal immigrants and refugees drug dealers, rapists and murderers. I will be present standing with Irv Weiser behind me, and to my right shoulder would be the local news media; including Fox and Latino news outlet Estrella TV.
After the further dwindled group begins to repeat their presentation, I again begin to engage their rhetoric. Speaking truth in to hate. Engaging these extremists to the point of agitation.
As I was still documenting this event on video with the camera running, I went in for a close-up shot as we argued, and one of them quickly approached and hit my hand, sending my camera flying.
At that point I was immediately arrested by five officers in riot gear from the Laguna Beach Police department. I was arrested, instead of these nationalist extremists who wanted to assault me.
And that was just the begin of a long ordeal. I would be arrested, taken to central jail – where I would be subjected to racist and anti-semitic treatment by the jailer. We are going to talk more after presenting the video from the protest.
What is most important to note is that I have an upcoming court date set for next week: Monday, September 18, 2017 at 8:30am, at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, California.
At that time I will be arraigned for the false charges of resisting arrest.
For these reason, I am now releasing this video at this time.
First, in order to prove my innocence.
Second, to start an honest conversation about the realities being faced today by progressives in the front lines of our current anti-fascist resistance.
So without further ado…. The protest video….
So now we’re back to talk about what transpired from the moment my video footage ends.
As you can see from video and pictures presented from media sources, I was taken into custody by five Laguna Beach Police officers in riot gear. It is immediately after my camera is struck – even before I have a chance to respond or react – that I am taken into custody by these officers.
Me, the Mexican American kid in the yarmulke that got attacked, was arrested by the police and was sent to jail instead of my attacker.
Now, before we go on I want to make this point clear. These so-called “alt-right” Trump supporters are confederates of white supremacists and fascist; period.
These people’s goal is incitement, under the guise of legitimate political protest and the protection that is granted.
Oh yeah, they were there to just engage is healthy political discourse, so that why they just brought out these fine gentlemen they know from their local white supremacist prison gangs!
Look how they love to push forward their token minorities, like this wannabe white supremacist here; Colombian born fascist Juan Cadavid – who goes by the fake name Johnny Benitez, who organized these protests.
These groups scream with indignation at being equated to white supremacists while holding banners alongside people with iron cross tattoos and swastikas. Guys that you can smell the whiskey and the effects of the meth amphetamines on their breath as they spew their vitriol; these are just everyday white thugs.
Like these idiots here… who insist that they aren’t white supremacist, that the racist prison gang created tattoos they are sporting are just symbols of their individualism.
And that is what pisses them off more than anything… not just that I destroy them when it comes to policy. It’s that I destroy their claim that all the drugs, gangs and violence is brought in the neighborhood by immigrants and refugees. Instead I point the finger right back at them.
And that… that is really what set them off the most. I pointed out their dishonesty and hypocrisy, and that is what instigated them to try to shut me up and shut me down.
They hit at my camera… and I was immediately arrested.
Though it should be noted that according to observers, five police officers in riot gear, were already heading my direction in a single line when this incident took place, then extracted me, military style, from the crowd.
I’m still stunned by the pictures of my small little frame being hauled away from the crowd with such overwhelming force. Like I’m somehow such a fierce threat.
As I was being dragged from the crowd, the media began to ask me questions.
Such as Estrella TV who asked me , “We got it on camera! Why did they hit you?”
My response being: “They attacked me for speaking truth to hate. They hit me because they couldn’t handle my responses!”
The media began to ask me more questions about my motivation for counter-protesting. At which time I begin to passionately speak about the history of American Jews fighting fascism here in California; how we have historically had to fight against the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazism and all forms of nationalism… here in our very own communities.
RELATED VIDEO: “See how the rally in Laguna Beach unfolded” (Orange County Register)
Yes, I had a lot of emotions cycling through me in the moments after being arrest. Though as you see, at no time did I ever resist arrest.
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Laguna Beach protest, where I was arrested after being attacked by fascists. Here you can see a part of the address I gave the media as I was being dragged away by the police, instead of my attackers. I was there to do what I do, engaging the hate rhetoric with facts and history. After the fascist just couldn't handle my responses any more they physically attacked me. The police and sheriffs were also of the ill impression that I was somehow the leader of the protest, and so I was subjected to a lot of bullshit. No, I'm just one passionate voice, in a mass of American people in opposition to fascism. We must #resist! #Jewish #Mexican #American #activist #antifascist #antinazi
Again, I’m still stunned by the pictures of me being taken away from the protest with such display of force.
The arresting officer, officer Bammer of the Laguna Beach police department, informed me that I was being cited and released. He said I was being charged with CPC 148(a)(1) / resisting arrest – for not following police instructions. Loosely interpreted to mean that I was doing something he didn’t want me to do. I informed him that I did not hear any order to disperse or receive any verbal instructions. I also insisted that I did not in way threaten anyone but had been struck at, myself, though the officer contended that the right-wing protester had only pointed in my direction when the camera went flying
When I was taken into custody sometime around 7:30 PM I was informed I would be ticketed and released within a couple of hours. I was then taken to another site where I was held for some time.
While in custody, I was repeatedly asked throughout the night whether I was the leader of the counter-protest, to which I responded that I was not.
The police went through my wallet and identified me as a Jewish religious figure – an “assistant rabbi” for my area – and kept asking berating questions about my fitness of character as a religious leader. They also went through my professional business contacts, whose cards were found in my wallet, asking accusatory questions about them.
I was then held in an Orange County Sheriff’s bus – in a small cage and in handcuffs – for the next four to five hours, joined by only one other person after the first few hours. We were ultimately transported sometime after midnight to the Orange County Sheriff’s Central Jail in Santa Ana.
The condition of the jail cells was pretty gross. There were several people passed out on the floor, and there was even bloody gauze left on the floor. There were 8 people, including myself, being kept in the holding cell.
Though nothing that night was as grotesque as the racism and antisemitism I was subjected to while in custody at the jail.
After several hours I was taken to be fingerprinted by a middle-aged white jailer, at which time the following verbal incident took place.
OFFICER: “So you are the leader of the protest out there? You fucking minorities, all having a temper tantrum because you can’t have Hillary as president. You guys are just out there to hate at white people.”
ME: “No, I was just in attendance, to stand with some families of holocaust survivors as they protest. Why would I hate white people? Do you believe that Jews somehow hate white people?”
OFFICER: “Oh, I’m sure many do. You minorities hate America so damn much…”
ME: “Why would we hate America? This is the freest country we have ever been in.”
OFFICER: “It’s not free anymore.”
ME: “Really? I don’t know about that. Because my ancestors suffered terribly in so many other places in the world, this is the most free and safe we have ever been. That is why this country and our values are worth defending.”
OFFICER: “So that’s what it comes down to, some white people killed your Jew family members somewhere and now you hate all white people. You are the leader of a hate organization; standing with Antifa and Black Lives Matter. You’re standing and defending cop killers, you’re just as bad as them…”
I declined to engage this officer in unnecessary direct conversation after that.
Though other sheriffs in the jail continued to try to engage me in similar conversation – not always as racially charged, but still accusatory of me being the leader of the protest and of a hate organization, standing shoulder to shoulder with anarchists and “cop killers.”
The other sheriffs in the jail continued to try to engage me in such conversations up until the very last-minute that I was released, some 14 hours after being taken into custody.
After a long night, I was released around 9:30 AM from the Central Jail, without bail.
I was given my citation and a court date scheduled for arraignment at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach on Monday, September 18, 2017, at 8:30am.
I have retained an attorney who will be defending me in court on that day.
And as so many of you dear friends and allies have asked…. Yes, I would be honored for you to come out to support me on my court date!
It is our hope that the charges will not be pursued by the district attorney, and that charges for resisting arrest be completely dismissed.
Now at this time I want to thank everyone who has been supporting me through this ordeal.
First, Robert Robertson and Irv Weiser, for being there through this all.
I must especially thank my friend David Herrera, who not only was up all night drumming up the “FREE Shmuel Gonzales” campaign online while I was in jail, he has also helped me get the best legal representation in town. You’re a total mensch!
I also want to thank my amazing activist attorney Jaime Gutierrez, El Luchador del Pueblo.
And I also want to thank all of you who have been lending me your strength and inspiration.
Now I want to dedicate my resistance to the inspiration of one of my dearest friends.
As many of you know, I am not only an activist. I am a Los Angeles community historian, dedicated to preserving and maintaining our local social justice tradition and anti-fascist heritage. My inspiration has come from the oral histories of those who have come before me, from much older friends who have handed down their experiences in protest and their know-how in organizing.
Today I want to dedicate my resistance to my 87 tear old friend Don Hodes who grew up in my neighborhood of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who came to the United States as illegal immigrants, by way of Canada before the start of World War II. While much of the rest of his extended family remained stuck behind in Europe.
On November 22, 1938 – when he was just 8 years old at the time – he marched in the Anti-Nazi Parade in Boyle Heights, protesting the savage treatment of Jews by the Nazi German government, and also the threatening rise of American Nazism that was spreading hate and plotting violence from its downtown Los Angeles headquarters.
Don Hodes marched with candles and signs, demanding the admittance of Jews fleeing the Nazi savagery in Europe, which had been barred entrance to the US and every other country in the world prior to the holocaust. Under the guise of them being racially undesirable, and even dangerous and murderous villains, they were being denied entrance as refugees by our government.
As he marched with people carrying signs declaring that Nazism and fascism have no place in civilization, he also recalls singing a song: “A tisket, a tasket… we’ll bury Hitler in a basket!”
Yes. That is the type of example I am proud to take after!
I am the person I am today because I was privileged to learn about our local heritage from people like Don Hodes and Irv Weiser, people who are like this who are father figures to me. I am proud to take their charge to hold the line of our local anti-fascist heritage in my generation!
In closing, I want to give a word of warning to my fellow activists, be careful out there. It is very important that people make sure to be careful to not be targeted to become the victim of protest related violence. The sad reality is this, that when push comes to shove, the authorities are prone to seeing the liberals and the minorities as the aggressor, as my arrest so sadly demonstrates.
We will talk more about this in the near future.
For now, most of my energies are focused on my upcoming court date.
See you all on September 18.
Until then…. Shalom chaverim!
- “The Anti-Nazi Parade, Boyle Heights (1938)” – The history of anti-fascist organizing against Nazism in Los Angeles
- Jewish-Latino Relations: Rooted in a Shared Immigrant, Working-class Experience