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San Diego's anti-fascists turn fascist

What really happened in Pacific Beach

Antifa was in town to thwart the “Patriot March,” a pro-Trump rally and concert on January 9.
Antifa was in town to thwart the “Patriot March,” a pro-Trump rally and concert on January 9.

Saturday, January 9th: a warm and sunny winter afternoon in Pacific Beach. The boardwalk was bustling. A man and his Rottweiler were on a routine walk when, as they passed the Baja Beach Café at Thomas Avenue, the dog let out a bark.

On January 9 Antifa militants attacked ordinary Trump supporters, mainstream conservatives, and random people.

Out in front of them, on the boardwalk and alongside the beach, was a crowd of people brandishing weapons. They were dressed in black, and their faces were covered with ski masks, balaclavas, and gas masks. The man stopped and held his dog.

A video posted to YouTube shows a black-clad man wearing a gas mask, standing several feet away, shoot bear spray at the dog and its owner, both of whom jump back in pain. The cloud of burning chemicals traveled into the nearby Café, where an eyewitness says customers fled for relief and employees had to close shop.

Antifa was in town to thwart the “Patriot March,” a pro-Trump rally and concert planned for the beach at 2 pm that day. The Facebook page San Diego Antifascists invited its followers to help “shut down” a “fascist parade” by coming to the beach at 1 pm dressed in “Black Bloc attire.”

John Cocozza arrived at the beach on Thomas Avenue to film the commotion. He’s been a professional photographer and videographer in Pacific Beach for more than 20 years. He says, “I saw 40 or 50 Antifa brandishing weapons. They were pretty hostile — screaming at people in balconies and screaming at people walking by.”

An Antifa flagbearer wearing a pink gas mask pushed Jill Barto, causing her to fall into the back of her friend, whose phone was then snatched away.

A few minutes later, two women walked west on Thomas Avenue toward the beach, one wearing a red shirt, the other, blue. An Antifa ringleader walked toward the woman in red, who was filming with her phone, and said, “You better back the f--- up. I know you.” She responded, “How are you?” He again said, “You better back the f--- up.” Then he recognized the woman in blue, pointed at her and announced, “Someone take a picture of this woman. Jill Barto works for the Cajon Valley School District! She’s on the board, f’n Jill Barto!” The school board member from El Cajon was then surrounded by an Antifa mob.

Cocozza’s video shows the ringleader grab Barto’s arm and shove it. “Hit me! Hit me!” he said (hoping to catch her fighting on camera.) She was then grabbed and pulled from behind and an Antifa flagbearer wearing a pink gas mask pushed her, causing her to fall into the back of her friend, whose phone was then snatched away. The friend tried going after it, but the mob formed a wall and wouldn’t let her pass.

Her Facebook live recording shows multiple Antifa smashing her phone with sticks and stomping on it. When she got her smashed phone back, the SIM card and memory card were missing. She told a group of videographers, “There was supposed to be a rally down here with music. And these paramilitary freaks decided to attack!”

Antifa ringleader who assaulted El Cajon school board member Jill Barto

The crowd, which had grown to about 100, then started marching north on the boardwalk chanting, “All cops are bastards.” Cocozza followed, still filming.

A few minutes later, a black-clad man with a blue bandana over his head asked Cocozza, “What are you filming for?” He responded, “I live here. I work for the community groups.” The interrogation continued and he said, “I don’t have to have a reason [to film], dude.” The Antifa guy then asked Cocozza, “You’re not like us?” When he responded, “No, I’m not like you guys,” the Antifa guy took a swing at him and shot him with pepper spray.

Several others surrounded him, and it became a group interrogation. “I’m a member of the community board,” Cocozza said. An Antifa girl knocked his phone out of his hand. He was quick to pick it up, as he had just witnessed them steal Barto’s friend’s phone.

Another Antifa attack happened on the boardwalk north of Hornblend Street. Brandishing batons, sticks, tasers, pepper spray and a baseball bat, the Antifa mob approached three men and a woman wearing American flag face coverings. Three different videos on Twitter show Antifa attacking the group without provocation, first bear-spraying them, then attacking them as they fled.

“Run, b----!” was yelled at the female victim, who the mob zeroed in on. A chair was picked up and thrown at her back. When she turned, they surrounded her, punched her, knocked her to the ground and started beating her with sticks. An African American woman wearing a blue shirt, who seemed to be demonstrating with Antifa, ran to the front line of attackers and repeated three times, “Stop that sh--!” They ignored her. When the female victim got up and continued running away with her friends, the mob chased them past a line of street vendors, throwing cans at their backs, reaching around from behind to pepper spray them in the face, pushing and kicking them. Cocozza explains what he calls a “very dangerous situation.” He says, “Antifa went up and down the boardwalk attacking anyone they thought could be a Trump supporter. But I wasn’t wearing anything related to Trump. I didn’t even see any Trump supporters. We have people come from all over the country to Pacific Beach, and it’s common for people to wear an American flag shirt or a flag face covering.”

After Cocozza was attacked, he walked to the beach, still filming, to ask a police officer why he didn’t intervene. The officer told him they were going to be “picking people out later.” He explained, “We don’t want to get in there, start stirring things up. All of a sudden, it’s a free-for-all.”

“One charged me with a four-foot-long wooden staff and swung toward my head. I turned my back to it, and it caused a massive contusion on my back. One of the attackers attempted to swing his skateboard, trucks out, at back of my skull to take me out, but missed by an inch. It could have been an instant kill shot.” John Cocozza was then able to escape.

A bystander who witnessed the attack asked, “When people are being assaulted, isn’t it your guys’ job to protect them?” Another officer said, “We have rules of engagement right now.”

Cocozza says “it makes no sense whatsoever” that police would be able to identify and pick out attackers at a later time, considering their faces weren’t visible during the attacks. “And what am I, just evidence for their case? There needs to be serious questioning of the higher ups in the police department and mayor’s office why police officers witnessing mob attacks cannot stop them. They are encouraging violence.” He says Antifa had free rein to attack people for two hours, so it was already a free-for-all.

San Diego City Council President Dr. Jennifer Campbell, who represents Pacific Beach in District 2, says, “Our constitution protects the right to free speech and peaceful demonstration. Violence by any group or individual, no matter their political affiliation, is not acceptable in the City of San Diego.”

Mayor Todd Gloria did not respond to a request for comment.

San Diego police spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi says, “We will investigate all crimes brought to our attention, but we need to hear from victims to ensure a crime was committed and prosecution is desired.” Multiple video recordings show no effort by police officers witnessing attacks on pedestrians to arrest the attackers. Takeuchi did not say whether anyone has subsequently been arrested for those attacks.

After the boardwalk attacks, Antifa moved to Mission Boulevard, where they continued attacking people. Cocozza says the street attack victims included the elderly and children. And that he became an assault victim for the second time.

He says, “I was standing near Garnet and Mission when I saw a guy on a bicycle, about fifty feet away. As I saw Antifa walking toward him I knew what they would do to him because they already did it to me.”

Some participants in the MAGA march are heard on video complaining about a lot of crude language being used by other march participants, especially one guy with a megaphone cursing out bystanders and another deriding police. During the march, police entered a comment into their event log that the MAGA march was “being hijacked by Proud Boys.”

The bicyclist sat on his bike in front of Breakfast Republic, filming with his phone. His video shows a few Antifa approach him, one of whom activated a taser. As the bicyclist told them to stay away and tried to turn his bicycle to ride away, the mob threw him to the ground and beat him. They also destroyed his bicycle. Other videos of the incident show a crowd of Antifa rush to join the attack.

Cocozza says, “There was a police officer fifty feet away watching everything. I yelled at him to do something. When he did nothing, I rushed into the mob and knocked away an attacker so the victim could get up. He had ten people attacking him with weapons, so he pulled a knife for self-defense. A police officer rolled in on motorcycle for two seconds then rode away. As soon as he rolled away, we got swarmed.

“One charged me with a four-foot-long wooden staff and swung toward my head. I turned my back to it, and it caused a massive contusion on my back. One of the attackers attempted to swing his skateboard, trucks out, at back of my skull to take me out, but missed by an inch. It could have been an instant kill shot.” He was then able to escape.

Posts on Twitter during the January 9 protest

Cocozza says he later found out Antifa has a “well-organized media propaganda machine,” including activists from L.A., which they use to “make themselves look like victims.” He says, “They took one single clip of the actual victim holding his knife and posted it all over social media, saying, ‘White terrorist attacks BLM supporter with knife.’ That is a total fabrication.”

He adds, “The media’s reporting was atrocious. Much of it blamed violence on Trump supporters, who weren’t even there the way they described it. During those two hours of Antifa attacks, there was no organized group clashing with them in street battles. Trump supporters assembled after those attacks and after police set up a riot line in front of Breakfast Republic. The media misrepresented what happened and supported Antifa’s false propaganda.”

The San Diego Union Tribune headlined their story, “Pro-Trump and anti-fascist protesters clash…” The lead photo was of a lone woman (the same woman who was knocked to the ground and beaten with sticks) surrounded by nearly a dozen people dressed in black, many holding weapons and attacking her. The caption did not describe her as an assault victim or as being under attack, but rather as being involved in a “clash” with the men who attacked her.

The same story portrayed the pedestrian walking his dog as a person whose temper “flared” and confronted “counter-protesters” with a barking dog. But according to his police report he was just trying to walk down the boardwalk when he encountered a mob obstructing his path and was attacked. Video footage confirms that. A person who works on the boardwalk says she has seen the same guy from the video walking the same dog on the boardwalk at other times. At that time of day only service animals are allowed on the boardwalk, but a redacted police report doesn’t indicate if that’s the case. The Union-Tribune did not report anything about the dog getting pepper sprayed.

A week later, the Union-Tribune published an article about a “public accounting” for Trump supporters and a group of “online sleuths” who are exposing them. These online detectives are the same people Cocozza referred to as Antifa propagandists. The article introduced Chad Loder, “A computer security specialist based in Los Angeles” who “researches and publishes the names of extremists on his Twitter account.”

After the January 9 PB riot, Loder tweeted a picture of the bicyclist whom Antifa attacked, holding his knife. He labeled it: “White supremacist pulls a knife and threatens Black Lives Matter demonstrators today.” The same tweet had a picture of the Antifa ringleader who assaulted Barto and later refused to comply when police ordered him to disperse. That one was labeled, “San Diego PD shoots a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrator with pepper balls as he gives a speech about police brutality.”

One of the primary targets of these online sleuths/Antifa propagandists is Defend East County, a group which came out of the former 22,000-member Facebook group by the same name, which was created after the La Mesa riot last year. It has since been eliminated on Facebook, reportedly because there were posts spreading Q Anon fabrications and also calls for violence.

Another online sleuth in the Union-Tribune story is the Twitter account SDAgainstFash, whose operator promoted the January 9 Antifa event in Pacific Beach and participated in it, according to one of its tweets. SDAgainstFash has promoted violence on Twitter just as San Diego Antifascists, which helped mobilize the January 9 Antifa event, has promoted violence on Facebook. Yet neither has been purged from social media.

The stated mission of the San Diego Antifascists Facebook page is to “fight the rise of right-wing extremism…We will not allow this scum to assemble without a fight.”They specify right wing extremists as their targets. But on January 9 Antifa militants attacked ordinary Trump supporters, mainstream conservatives, and random people who expressed patriotism or failed to salute them with support.

The Union-Tribune credited SDAgainstFash for exposing the “violent attitudes” of right-wing groups. But the article said nothing about the violent attitudes of left-wing activists such as SDAgainstFash, who retweeted a call to run Republicans off the beach and into the ocean. Another SDAgainstFash retweet is a photoshopped image of Brad Pitt holding a knife to a man wearing a Trump hat.

Part of Antifa’s narrative to justify shutting down the Patriot March on January 9 was to associate the march organizers with the D.C. rioters who attacked police officers and breached the Capitol on January 6 and to call them “terrorists.” They found photos of several of them posing with the Capitol in the background and reposted them on their own sites. But none of the pictures showed them on or inside the Capitol building or involved in violence against police. None of the Patriot March organizers who were in D.C. on January 6 (and whose contact information I could find) responded to a request for comment.

In contrast, right after the Capitol riot, SDAgainstFash made an explicit call for violence against Congress, retweeting, “MAGA is bad…the tactic of storming the Capitol is good and valid…,” and tweeting, “Abolish the police and burn the Capitol.”

And SDAgainstFash has tweeted a link to The Violent Minority blog, which has a “Black Bloc guide” that explains how Black Bloc attire prevents police from identifying people who commit violence. SDAgainstFash also condemns “liberalism” and liberals who show tolerance for the free speech and assembly rights of right-wing groups.

Conservative journalist Andy Ngo recently reported he fled his home in Portland because of Antifa death threats against him. (His parents found safety in Portland in 1978 as refugees from Vietnam.) Ngo complains police have done nothing to protect him. In June 2019, he was attacked by Antifa in Portland just for filming them and criticizing them in his reporting. He suffered a brain injury. His new book, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, characterizes Antifa as a “violent extremist movement.”

Cajon Valley school board trustee Jill Barto explains she heard about a patriotic concert and rally at the beach. She says, “I’m a patriot, so I went. We should feel safe going to a rally without fear of being attacked, especially two older ladies walking down the street not bothering anyone. I was wearing blue that day because it was law enforcement appreciation day. My friend was wearing a red Pray for America shirt. Does that make us evil?”

The day after Barto was attacked and prevented from going to the rally, left-wing activist Mark Lane took to social media and posted an account of the incident, stating that when Barto was pushed into the back of her friend she was actually running up behind a random woman and attacking her. Lane tagged the school district page to make them aware of his accusation.

Four days later, Cajon Valley school board president Tamara Otero, a Republican, posted a statement to the district’s Facebook page (which reportedly was distributed as a letter to the Cajon Valley community,) stating they were made aware “of board member Jill Barto’s participation in a local rally/unrest in Pacific Beach this past Saturday, three days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol… The District is committed to non-violence…[we] expect [our] members to maintain the highest ethical standards….”

AK commented on the post, “Tamara, why are you… spreading lies…? Jill has done so much for the community that no one even talks about because it’s not ‘newsworthy.’ Every birthday caravan for every child or veteran, she is there. Anyone who needs help with anything, she is there. This post is disgusting and so is everyone dumb enough to believe this BS without learning the actual facts.”

A long-running conflict within the Cajon Valley Union School District has been covered in depth by East County Magazine reporter Paul Kruze and editor Miriam Raftery. In August 2019, the magazine reported that Otero “has publicly clashed with board member Jill Barto on multiple occasions after Barto raised questions on board expenditures including the awarding of a construction contract to a company owned by Otero’s son.”

As for Otero’s letter piggybacking off Antifa’s propaganda about her, Barto says, “This is another form of retaliation against me for asking questions and holding them accountable.”

Otero did not respond to a request for comment.

Ayad Alnager is a recent high school graduate from El Cajon who says he is the one who invited East County conservatives to the Patriot March. He says the purpose of the event was to “wave our American flags and party to American music and enjoy the nice weather.” He says when Antifa found out about the “MAGA party,” they “posted our names, faces and all our information all over their Twitter accounts.” He says Barto was “ambushed just for walking to a party” and that he’s “disgusted” with the Cajon Valley school board for attacking Barto after she was attacked by Antifa, instead of “having her back.”

Alnager addresses the racist/fascist labels with which Antifa and other activists try to paint him, Barto, and Trump supporters. “It bothers me I get called ‘racist’ because I am an orthodox conservative. It’s ridiculous. They call anyone who doesn’t agree with them a racist. I am a person of color and an immigrant from the Middle East. I always feel danger to my life because ignorant people label me a neo-Nazi. It is not true. And it scares me that people may go after me because of false allegations.”

Cocozza says Antifa is what they falsely accuse others of. “They are using fascist tactics against people. You can’t call yourself an anti-fascist then show up to counter-protest armed with weapons and start attacking bystanders in a community you don’t belong to. If you’re an armed group walking the streets attacking people you think don’t agree with your ideology, that is fascism.”

By this definition, there were fascists among the MAGA supporters as well. After the Antifa assembly was dispersed — because they threw rocks, bottles, and eggs at police — a faction from the MAGA rally followed a barefoot counter-demonstrator wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt into an alley, as if they were a street gang locating a rival gang member. Several MAGA guys taunted him and he raised his hands in the air as he walked away. One yelled, “What would you do if you found one of us by ourselves?”

As one attacked, two others joined in, punching, and kicking him. Multiple videos show one of the MAGA guys try to interfere with the attack and help the victim up after he was knocked to the ground. The victim had been demonstrating with Antifa in front of the police line but didn’t participate in any of the video-recorded Antifa attacks documented in this story.

After police dispersed Antifa, the MAGA supporters were able to march up the boardwalk, hours after they planned to, about 100 of them. A video posted to YouTube shows them chanting, “USA! F--- Antifa!” and “Back the Blue!” Many marchers are heard on video thanking police officers and chanting in their favor.

A few arguments broke out along the way with bystanders and one MAGA marcher was caught on video doing a Nazi salute. As the march made its way back down the boardwalk, the man who was attacked in the alley leaned over the wall from inside the Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel courtyard, with bandages on his face, and waved at his attackers as they walked by. A MAGA guy said to him, “Hey bro, if I were there that never would have happened to you. We’re not all like that.”

Some participants in the MAGA march are heard on video complaining about a lot of crude language being used by other march participants, especially one guy with a megaphone cursing out bystanders and another deriding police. During the march, police entered a comment into their event log that the MAGA march was “being hijacked by Proud Boys.”

Alnager says, “Unfortunately, some people didn’t have good intentions.” He says the fascists don’t represent most MAGA supporters and now that he knows who they are, he “won’t associate with them any longer.” He says, “There’s good people and bad people on both sides.”

The march ended back on Mission, where an African-American man wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt engaged them and was surrounded. Led by an African-American MAGA guy named “Smooth,” the group had a civil conversation with the BLM guy for 25 minutes next to Taco Bell, as the MAGA crowd listened in. At one point the BLM guy said, “USA! But f--- Trump.” Nobody touched him.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the mob who harassed Jill Barto as being South Bay Union School District Trustee, Marco Amaral. We regret the error.

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Antifa was in town to thwart the “Patriot March,” a pro-Trump rally and concert on January 9.
Antifa was in town to thwart the “Patriot March,” a pro-Trump rally and concert on January 9.

Saturday, January 9th: a warm and sunny winter afternoon in Pacific Beach. The boardwalk was bustling. A man and his Rottweiler were on a routine walk when, as they passed the Baja Beach Café at Thomas Avenue, the dog let out a bark.

On January 9 Antifa militants attacked ordinary Trump supporters, mainstream conservatives, and random people.

Out in front of them, on the boardwalk and alongside the beach, was a crowd of people brandishing weapons. They were dressed in black, and their faces were covered with ski masks, balaclavas, and gas masks. The man stopped and held his dog.

A video posted to YouTube shows a black-clad man wearing a gas mask, standing several feet away, shoot bear spray at the dog and its owner, both of whom jump back in pain. The cloud of burning chemicals traveled into the nearby Café, where an eyewitness says customers fled for relief and employees had to close shop.

Antifa was in town to thwart the “Patriot March,” a pro-Trump rally and concert planned for the beach at 2 pm that day. The Facebook page San Diego Antifascists invited its followers to help “shut down” a “fascist parade” by coming to the beach at 1 pm dressed in “Black Bloc attire.”

John Cocozza arrived at the beach on Thomas Avenue to film the commotion. He’s been a professional photographer and videographer in Pacific Beach for more than 20 years. He says, “I saw 40 or 50 Antifa brandishing weapons. They were pretty hostile — screaming at people in balconies and screaming at people walking by.”

An Antifa flagbearer wearing a pink gas mask pushed Jill Barto, causing her to fall into the back of her friend, whose phone was then snatched away.

A few minutes later, two women walked west on Thomas Avenue toward the beach, one wearing a red shirt, the other, blue. An Antifa ringleader walked toward the woman in red, who was filming with her phone, and said, “You better back the f--- up. I know you.” She responded, “How are you?” He again said, “You better back the f--- up.” Then he recognized the woman in blue, pointed at her and announced, “Someone take a picture of this woman. Jill Barto works for the Cajon Valley School District! She’s on the board, f’n Jill Barto!” The school board member from El Cajon was then surrounded by an Antifa mob.

Cocozza’s video shows the ringleader grab Barto’s arm and shove it. “Hit me! Hit me!” he said (hoping to catch her fighting on camera.) She was then grabbed and pulled from behind and an Antifa flagbearer wearing a pink gas mask pushed her, causing her to fall into the back of her friend, whose phone was then snatched away. The friend tried going after it, but the mob formed a wall and wouldn’t let her pass.

Her Facebook live recording shows multiple Antifa smashing her phone with sticks and stomping on it. When she got her smashed phone back, the SIM card and memory card were missing. She told a group of videographers, “There was supposed to be a rally down here with music. And these paramilitary freaks decided to attack!”

Antifa ringleader who assaulted El Cajon school board member Jill Barto

The crowd, which had grown to about 100, then started marching north on the boardwalk chanting, “All cops are bastards.” Cocozza followed, still filming.

A few minutes later, a black-clad man with a blue bandana over his head asked Cocozza, “What are you filming for?” He responded, “I live here. I work for the community groups.” The interrogation continued and he said, “I don’t have to have a reason [to film], dude.” The Antifa guy then asked Cocozza, “You’re not like us?” When he responded, “No, I’m not like you guys,” the Antifa guy took a swing at him and shot him with pepper spray.

Several others surrounded him, and it became a group interrogation. “I’m a member of the community board,” Cocozza said. An Antifa girl knocked his phone out of his hand. He was quick to pick it up, as he had just witnessed them steal Barto’s friend’s phone.

Another Antifa attack happened on the boardwalk north of Hornblend Street. Brandishing batons, sticks, tasers, pepper spray and a baseball bat, the Antifa mob approached three men and a woman wearing American flag face coverings. Three different videos on Twitter show Antifa attacking the group without provocation, first bear-spraying them, then attacking them as they fled.

“Run, b----!” was yelled at the female victim, who the mob zeroed in on. A chair was picked up and thrown at her back. When she turned, they surrounded her, punched her, knocked her to the ground and started beating her with sticks. An African American woman wearing a blue shirt, who seemed to be demonstrating with Antifa, ran to the front line of attackers and repeated three times, “Stop that sh--!” They ignored her. When the female victim got up and continued running away with her friends, the mob chased them past a line of street vendors, throwing cans at their backs, reaching around from behind to pepper spray them in the face, pushing and kicking them. Cocozza explains what he calls a “very dangerous situation.” He says, “Antifa went up and down the boardwalk attacking anyone they thought could be a Trump supporter. But I wasn’t wearing anything related to Trump. I didn’t even see any Trump supporters. We have people come from all over the country to Pacific Beach, and it’s common for people to wear an American flag shirt or a flag face covering.”

After Cocozza was attacked, he walked to the beach, still filming, to ask a police officer why he didn’t intervene. The officer told him they were going to be “picking people out later.” He explained, “We don’t want to get in there, start stirring things up. All of a sudden, it’s a free-for-all.”

“One charged me with a four-foot-long wooden staff and swung toward my head. I turned my back to it, and it caused a massive contusion on my back. One of the attackers attempted to swing his skateboard, trucks out, at back of my skull to take me out, but missed by an inch. It could have been an instant kill shot.” John Cocozza was then able to escape.

A bystander who witnessed the attack asked, “When people are being assaulted, isn’t it your guys’ job to protect them?” Another officer said, “We have rules of engagement right now.”

Cocozza says “it makes no sense whatsoever” that police would be able to identify and pick out attackers at a later time, considering their faces weren’t visible during the attacks. “And what am I, just evidence for their case? There needs to be serious questioning of the higher ups in the police department and mayor’s office why police officers witnessing mob attacks cannot stop them. They are encouraging violence.” He says Antifa had free rein to attack people for two hours, so it was already a free-for-all.

San Diego City Council President Dr. Jennifer Campbell, who represents Pacific Beach in District 2, says, “Our constitution protects the right to free speech and peaceful demonstration. Violence by any group or individual, no matter their political affiliation, is not acceptable in the City of San Diego.”

Mayor Todd Gloria did not respond to a request for comment.

San Diego police spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi says, “We will investigate all crimes brought to our attention, but we need to hear from victims to ensure a crime was committed and prosecution is desired.” Multiple video recordings show no effort by police officers witnessing attacks on pedestrians to arrest the attackers. Takeuchi did not say whether anyone has subsequently been arrested for those attacks.

After the boardwalk attacks, Antifa moved to Mission Boulevard, where they continued attacking people. Cocozza says the street attack victims included the elderly and children. And that he became an assault victim for the second time.

He says, “I was standing near Garnet and Mission when I saw a guy on a bicycle, about fifty feet away. As I saw Antifa walking toward him I knew what they would do to him because they already did it to me.”

Some participants in the MAGA march are heard on video complaining about a lot of crude language being used by other march participants, especially one guy with a megaphone cursing out bystanders and another deriding police. During the march, police entered a comment into their event log that the MAGA march was “being hijacked by Proud Boys.”

The bicyclist sat on his bike in front of Breakfast Republic, filming with his phone. His video shows a few Antifa approach him, one of whom activated a taser. As the bicyclist told them to stay away and tried to turn his bicycle to ride away, the mob threw him to the ground and beat him. They also destroyed his bicycle. Other videos of the incident show a crowd of Antifa rush to join the attack.

Cocozza says, “There was a police officer fifty feet away watching everything. I yelled at him to do something. When he did nothing, I rushed into the mob and knocked away an attacker so the victim could get up. He had ten people attacking him with weapons, so he pulled a knife for self-defense. A police officer rolled in on motorcycle for two seconds then rode away. As soon as he rolled away, we got swarmed.

“One charged me with a four-foot-long wooden staff and swung toward my head. I turned my back to it, and it caused a massive contusion on my back. One of the attackers attempted to swing his skateboard, trucks out, at back of my skull to take me out, but missed by an inch. It could have been an instant kill shot.” He was then able to escape.

Posts on Twitter during the January 9 protest

Cocozza says he later found out Antifa has a “well-organized media propaganda machine,” including activists from L.A., which they use to “make themselves look like victims.” He says, “They took one single clip of the actual victim holding his knife and posted it all over social media, saying, ‘White terrorist attacks BLM supporter with knife.’ That is a total fabrication.”

He adds, “The media’s reporting was atrocious. Much of it blamed violence on Trump supporters, who weren’t even there the way they described it. During those two hours of Antifa attacks, there was no organized group clashing with them in street battles. Trump supporters assembled after those attacks and after police set up a riot line in front of Breakfast Republic. The media misrepresented what happened and supported Antifa’s false propaganda.”

The San Diego Union Tribune headlined their story, “Pro-Trump and anti-fascist protesters clash…” The lead photo was of a lone woman (the same woman who was knocked to the ground and beaten with sticks) surrounded by nearly a dozen people dressed in black, many holding weapons and attacking her. The caption did not describe her as an assault victim or as being under attack, but rather as being involved in a “clash” with the men who attacked her.

The same story portrayed the pedestrian walking his dog as a person whose temper “flared” and confronted “counter-protesters” with a barking dog. But according to his police report he was just trying to walk down the boardwalk when he encountered a mob obstructing his path and was attacked. Video footage confirms that. A person who works on the boardwalk says she has seen the same guy from the video walking the same dog on the boardwalk at other times. At that time of day only service animals are allowed on the boardwalk, but a redacted police report doesn’t indicate if that’s the case. The Union-Tribune did not report anything about the dog getting pepper sprayed.

A week later, the Union-Tribune published an article about a “public accounting” for Trump supporters and a group of “online sleuths” who are exposing them. These online detectives are the same people Cocozza referred to as Antifa propagandists. The article introduced Chad Loder, “A computer security specialist based in Los Angeles” who “researches and publishes the names of extremists on his Twitter account.”

After the January 9 PB riot, Loder tweeted a picture of the bicyclist whom Antifa attacked, holding his knife. He labeled it: “White supremacist pulls a knife and threatens Black Lives Matter demonstrators today.” The same tweet had a picture of the Antifa ringleader who assaulted Barto and later refused to comply when police ordered him to disperse. That one was labeled, “San Diego PD shoots a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrator with pepper balls as he gives a speech about police brutality.”

One of the primary targets of these online sleuths/Antifa propagandists is Defend East County, a group which came out of the former 22,000-member Facebook group by the same name, which was created after the La Mesa riot last year. It has since been eliminated on Facebook, reportedly because there were posts spreading Q Anon fabrications and also calls for violence.

Another online sleuth in the Union-Tribune story is the Twitter account SDAgainstFash, whose operator promoted the January 9 Antifa event in Pacific Beach and participated in it, according to one of its tweets. SDAgainstFash has promoted violence on Twitter just as San Diego Antifascists, which helped mobilize the January 9 Antifa event, has promoted violence on Facebook. Yet neither has been purged from social media.

The stated mission of the San Diego Antifascists Facebook page is to “fight the rise of right-wing extremism…We will not allow this scum to assemble without a fight.”They specify right wing extremists as their targets. But on January 9 Antifa militants attacked ordinary Trump supporters, mainstream conservatives, and random people who expressed patriotism or failed to salute them with support.

The Union-Tribune credited SDAgainstFash for exposing the “violent attitudes” of right-wing groups. But the article said nothing about the violent attitudes of left-wing activists such as SDAgainstFash, who retweeted a call to run Republicans off the beach and into the ocean. Another SDAgainstFash retweet is a photoshopped image of Brad Pitt holding a knife to a man wearing a Trump hat.

Part of Antifa’s narrative to justify shutting down the Patriot March on January 9 was to associate the march organizers with the D.C. rioters who attacked police officers and breached the Capitol on January 6 and to call them “terrorists.” They found photos of several of them posing with the Capitol in the background and reposted them on their own sites. But none of the pictures showed them on or inside the Capitol building or involved in violence against police. None of the Patriot March organizers who were in D.C. on January 6 (and whose contact information I could find) responded to a request for comment.

In contrast, right after the Capitol riot, SDAgainstFash made an explicit call for violence against Congress, retweeting, “MAGA is bad…the tactic of storming the Capitol is good and valid…,” and tweeting, “Abolish the police and burn the Capitol.”

And SDAgainstFash has tweeted a link to The Violent Minority blog, which has a “Black Bloc guide” that explains how Black Bloc attire prevents police from identifying people who commit violence. SDAgainstFash also condemns “liberalism” and liberals who show tolerance for the free speech and assembly rights of right-wing groups.

Conservative journalist Andy Ngo recently reported he fled his home in Portland because of Antifa death threats against him. (His parents found safety in Portland in 1978 as refugees from Vietnam.) Ngo complains police have done nothing to protect him. In June 2019, he was attacked by Antifa in Portland just for filming them and criticizing them in his reporting. He suffered a brain injury. His new book, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, characterizes Antifa as a “violent extremist movement.”

Cajon Valley school board trustee Jill Barto explains she heard about a patriotic concert and rally at the beach. She says, “I’m a patriot, so I went. We should feel safe going to a rally without fear of being attacked, especially two older ladies walking down the street not bothering anyone. I was wearing blue that day because it was law enforcement appreciation day. My friend was wearing a red Pray for America shirt. Does that make us evil?”

The day after Barto was attacked and prevented from going to the rally, left-wing activist Mark Lane took to social media and posted an account of the incident, stating that when Barto was pushed into the back of her friend she was actually running up behind a random woman and attacking her. Lane tagged the school district page to make them aware of his accusation.

Four days later, Cajon Valley school board president Tamara Otero, a Republican, posted a statement to the district’s Facebook page (which reportedly was distributed as a letter to the Cajon Valley community,) stating they were made aware “of board member Jill Barto’s participation in a local rally/unrest in Pacific Beach this past Saturday, three days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol… The District is committed to non-violence…[we] expect [our] members to maintain the highest ethical standards….”

AK commented on the post, “Tamara, why are you… spreading lies…? Jill has done so much for the community that no one even talks about because it’s not ‘newsworthy.’ Every birthday caravan for every child or veteran, she is there. Anyone who needs help with anything, she is there. This post is disgusting and so is everyone dumb enough to believe this BS without learning the actual facts.”

A long-running conflict within the Cajon Valley Union School District has been covered in depth by East County Magazine reporter Paul Kruze and editor Miriam Raftery. In August 2019, the magazine reported that Otero “has publicly clashed with board member Jill Barto on multiple occasions after Barto raised questions on board expenditures including the awarding of a construction contract to a company owned by Otero’s son.”

As for Otero’s letter piggybacking off Antifa’s propaganda about her, Barto says, “This is another form of retaliation against me for asking questions and holding them accountable.”

Otero did not respond to a request for comment.

Ayad Alnager is a recent high school graduate from El Cajon who says he is the one who invited East County conservatives to the Patriot March. He says the purpose of the event was to “wave our American flags and party to American music and enjoy the nice weather.” He says when Antifa found out about the “MAGA party,” they “posted our names, faces and all our information all over their Twitter accounts.” He says Barto was “ambushed just for walking to a party” and that he’s “disgusted” with the Cajon Valley school board for attacking Barto after she was attacked by Antifa, instead of “having her back.”

Alnager addresses the racist/fascist labels with which Antifa and other activists try to paint him, Barto, and Trump supporters. “It bothers me I get called ‘racist’ because I am an orthodox conservative. It’s ridiculous. They call anyone who doesn’t agree with them a racist. I am a person of color and an immigrant from the Middle East. I always feel danger to my life because ignorant people label me a neo-Nazi. It is not true. And it scares me that people may go after me because of false allegations.”

Cocozza says Antifa is what they falsely accuse others of. “They are using fascist tactics against people. You can’t call yourself an anti-fascist then show up to counter-protest armed with weapons and start attacking bystanders in a community you don’t belong to. If you’re an armed group walking the streets attacking people you think don’t agree with your ideology, that is fascism.”

By this definition, there were fascists among the MAGA supporters as well. After the Antifa assembly was dispersed — because they threw rocks, bottles, and eggs at police — a faction from the MAGA rally followed a barefoot counter-demonstrator wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt into an alley, as if they were a street gang locating a rival gang member. Several MAGA guys taunted him and he raised his hands in the air as he walked away. One yelled, “What would you do if you found one of us by ourselves?”

As one attacked, two others joined in, punching, and kicking him. Multiple videos show one of the MAGA guys try to interfere with the attack and help the victim up after he was knocked to the ground. The victim had been demonstrating with Antifa in front of the police line but didn’t participate in any of the video-recorded Antifa attacks documented in this story.

After police dispersed Antifa, the MAGA supporters were able to march up the boardwalk, hours after they planned to, about 100 of them. A video posted to YouTube shows them chanting, “USA! F--- Antifa!” and “Back the Blue!” Many marchers are heard on video thanking police officers and chanting in their favor.

A few arguments broke out along the way with bystanders and one MAGA marcher was caught on video doing a Nazi salute. As the march made its way back down the boardwalk, the man who was attacked in the alley leaned over the wall from inside the Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel courtyard, with bandages on his face, and waved at his attackers as they walked by. A MAGA guy said to him, “Hey bro, if I were there that never would have happened to you. We’re not all like that.”

Some participants in the MAGA march are heard on video complaining about a lot of crude language being used by other march participants, especially one guy with a megaphone cursing out bystanders and another deriding police. During the march, police entered a comment into their event log that the MAGA march was “being hijacked by Proud Boys.”

Alnager says, “Unfortunately, some people didn’t have good intentions.” He says the fascists don’t represent most MAGA supporters and now that he knows who they are, he “won’t associate with them any longer.” He says, “There’s good people and bad people on both sides.”

The march ended back on Mission, where an African-American man wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt engaged them and was surrounded. Led by an African-American MAGA guy named “Smooth,” the group had a civil conversation with the BLM guy for 25 minutes next to Taco Bell, as the MAGA crowd listened in. At one point the BLM guy said, “USA! But f--- Trump.” Nobody touched him.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the mob who harassed Jill Barto as being South Bay Union School District Trustee, Marco Amaral. We regret the error.

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Comments
6

Antifa -- get out of town. Your behavior is disgusting. You're not on Jerry Springer.

Feb. 24, 2021

Antifa lives in the town.

Feb. 24, 2021

It's interesting to see what must be done, so for the elimination of cell-phones -- from disturbance to the general public. As cell-phones are an over-addiction in San Diego.

Feb. 25, 2021

Seems to me the communists are so angry about being exposed as the violent extremists they are (and not much different than fascists) that they will say anything to attack this article, no matter how false their accusations are. I keep trying to find what these people are talking about in the article and I'm finding something completely different.

March 3, 2021

This is a great article. As always, Eric Bartl is spot on. This is "honest journalism" and some people can't handle the truth. The truth hurts.

March 3, 2021

There are false accusations. I'm as anti-fascist and anti-racist as anyone you'll ever meet. I would never give voice to Nazis. I helped expose the guy who made a Nazi salute. I didn't give him a voice. And I gave accounts of violence from both sides. I wonder why nobody from the Maga rally is raising hell about me exposing the violence some of them committed? Only Antifa is raising hell about exposing the violence they committed.

March 5, 2021

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