4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

A cop’s eye view of the January 9 encounter with Antifa

“It’s going to get pretty ugly”

The Antifa group was ordered to either disperse or face getting arrested. “There’s a certain verbiage we have to say, it’s a script that we read from,” said Captain Novak.
The Antifa group was ordered to either disperse or face getting arrested. “There’s a certain verbiage we have to say, it’s a script that we read from,” said Captain Novak.

On January 2 of 2021, a Patriot March in San Diego was announced on social media, to begin at 2 pm on January 9 at the foot of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. The flier billed it as a peaceful protest, but in the end, it was not peaceful: members of the activist group Antifa clashed violently with the Patriot March protesters before they even began marching.

In December of 2021, prosecutors in District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office charged at least seven people on the Antifa side in connection with the events of that day. And in June of this year, those charges were dropped in favor of a grand jury indictment that included 29 felony counts, including the conspiracy to commit riot. The indictment came after the grand jury heard 13 days’ worth of testimony about the events surrounding that day, including testimony from police who were on the scene.

Captain Matt Novak told the grand jury that in his 28 years as a police officer, he had never experienced that level of rioting. He said that he had responded to more than 25 protests since Febuary of 2020 in his areas of command, which included downtown San Diego. Usually, that meant shutting down streets and walking alongside the demonstrators in order to maintain public safety. His experience with counter-protestors? “Sometimes one or two people would come by to heckle the group.” He noted that when 300-400 Black Lives Matter supporters had marched down Pacific Beach’s Garnet Avenue, the event was “very peaceful, all individuals coming to peacefully protest through the area. No problems.”

This time, he said, “We did have some indication that Antifa might be coming” — vague intel about people coming down from Los Angeles. However, “I didn’t expect any more from Antifa than I had at any of the other [protests].” He put his SWAT team on standby near (but not next to) the rally’s start point, and put 20 patrol officers off to the side. In addition, he arranged for nine motor officers, eight bike officers, and an additional 22 officers in case they were needed. “We don’t want to intimidate anybody, and what we don’t want to do is deplete the entire city of officers, because we’re still responsible for the entire city.”

An Antifa Twitter account called SDAGAINSTFASH sent out messages the night before the rally, including this: “Plan to arrive an hour early to already have [Patriot] meet point occupied.” Antifa apparently wanted to assemble first on the spot, so that arriving Patriots would have to walk toward them. “The MAGATS don’t plan to be there before 2, so hopefully we’ll have a decent crowd for them to approach.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Captain Novak said he was just finishing giving a briefing to his officers at around 12:30 pm when he heard over the radio, “Hey, there’s some crowds down here.” He was at Belmont Park, a little south of the pier at that moment, still trying to stage his officers.

Then he heard, “There are people dressed in black.”

“Which immediately tells me a lot,” said Novak, “that we may have Antifa black bloc there.”

Then he heard, “There’s a fight at the pier.”

“It started earlier than we thought it would,” said Novak. Radio reports described black bloc persons moving in small groups over several blocks. Witnesses heard some of them directing their comrades, “Keep moving, keep moving.” Police had access to a helicopter, but it did not arrive until about an hour after the first radio calls about trouble, about 1:34 pm.

Sergeant Ross Bainbridge, a 17-year veteran of the SDPD, was scheduled to begin his shift that day at 2 pm, but he told the grand jury he got caught in heavy traffic trying to get to the beach. The prosecutor asked, “Why didn’t you use lights and siren to pass through traffic?”

He replied, “They hadn’t called for an emergency response at that point. So I was listening to the [radio] calls as it was transpiring and it was obvious that things weren’t going well rather quickly, as we were getting updates on the crowd being agitated, and a large crowd. And I could sense there was not enough cops where they needed them, and that things were kind of happening more quickly than they had anticipated. I think the idea was that all of this was going to happen later in the afternoon, and it happened earlier than they expected.” Sgt. Bainbridge didn’t make it to the designated staging area at Belmont Park before his order changed, “They changed it to, everybody respond Code Three, which is lights and sirens, back up to Hornblend and Mission.” When he arrived at about 2:15 pm, there was already a line of officers spanning the street. He put on his riot gear, which includes a special helmet, a riot baton, and a gas mask, and got into the line facing the Antifa group. He said they were aggressive: “They had basically formed their own spanning line in front of us and had refused to back up or move.”

Officer Jonathan Swankosky was also in the line, and he described the initial launch of projectiles. “It just started off with rocks here and there, and eggs, bottles, trash can lids, sticks, anything commonly found or seen that’s throwable and not secured.” He saw people in an alley trying to roll out a dumpster into the middle of the roadway, but added, “I don’t know if that was going to be pushed towards us.” Then he saw a glass bottle coming at him. It broke on the ground next to him; a shard of glass flew up and cut his hand. “The crowd had become hostile towards the police and were attacking us,” he said.

Captain Novak said that after Antifa had gathered, police had been able to form a line to block them. He ordered another police line to form in front of the Patriot group, thus creating a buffer zone between them. He said he was in the center, between the two police lines, and that the Patriots yelled at Antifa across the buffer zone, but did not throw anything or commit any violent acts. The Antifa group, meanwhile, used shields and skateboards and “people up front to protect themselves and to block our view. So people in the back are throwing objects and we can’t see where they come from.” At first, the captain was not wearing riot gear. “I had my officer go get it for me when I had those rocks bounce next to me,” he said. The grand jury saw bodycam footage showing police getting struck by rocks, glass bottles, eggs, and water bottles. “As soon as we stabilized in this area and we started receiving the bottles, the rocks, and the eggs had started hitting our officers, I called an unlawful assembly,” Novak testified.

The Antifa group was ordered to either disperse or face getting arrested. “There’s a certain verbiage we have to say, it’s a script that we read from,” said Novak. He directed a motor officer to use his radio so the whole crowd could hear. The official statement was read three times in both English and Spanish. Then the police helicopter repeated the order. Altogether, the official riot declaration was made more than nine times.

Officer Swankosky saw “one of the protestors with pepper spray in their hand, spraying it towards my officers.” So he called that out to the SWAT team, which then deployed pepper balls — powdered pepper spray — at 3:25 pm, roughly one hour after the first declaration of unlawful assembly. Swankosky said that when that happens, “It gets really hot.” He said Antifa are experienced with police tactics, and they wear gloves, which enables them to handle the balls. “They would typically throw it back at us.” Antifa used shields and skateboards and a trash can lid to block the pepper balls.

Popping sounds could be heard in police bodycam video. Sergeant Bainbridge said that was the sound of SWAT shooting pepper balls. Pepper balls hit the ground and break, and a dust cloud rises to drive people away, he said. Or, if a rioter is holding an object and is ready to throw it, a pepper ball could be fired to directly hit that person to prevent him from throwing it, the sergeant testified. Reviewing the video, Bainbridge noted that one rioter was “up closer to us, making that, like, punching motion or jabbing motion with his skateboard.” The rioter retreated more slowly than the rest of his group, “His gas mask is helping him defeat the pepper ball,” the sergeant noticed. Then he said, “Well, he was holding a skateboard, and it appears he dropped his skateboard and then grabbed his genitals afterwards, it looked like.” The rioter then dropped to the ground.

Sergeant Bainbridge guessed that he was there an hour before he got the order to move forward and start taking people into custody. “I know that it’s a big decision to make,” he said, “It’s going to get pretty ugly.” He said he “attempted to make two different arrests.” His attempts were not successful. The sergeant said he grabbed the Antifa member nearest him. Then, “the rioters, from behind this person, grabbed onto them by both their arms and their legs. So they had several different people pulling this person away from me, and they were able to kind of pull him down and back into the crowd rather quickly.” (He said he was unsure if the person was male or female.)

While Bainbridge was trying to make that first arrest, he saw another Antifa person rush him, “I saw him coming towards me fast.” His bodycam video was played: it showed a tall man with a stick, wearing all black and a helmet, and with a balaclava over his face. The attacker took hold of the sergeant’s riot baton.“You can see that the suspect has got a grip on it, on the forward part of it.” With his other hand, he brought his stick forward. Bainbridge said he took hold of this second person, but Antifa grabbed him away too, pulling him by his backpack. The sergeant could hear directions from the Antifa crowd: “Somebody yelling like a command for them to back up.” The attacker dropped his stick during the melee, and it disappeared under the police line. The stick was later collected by police and shown to the grand jury as evidence.

Besides the police bodycam video, there was also aerial video taken from the police helicopter, which eventually arrived. The video confirmed that the first arrest attempt was made at 3:32 pm, one hour after the first “unlawful assembly” declaration was made at 2:34 pm. The “de-arrested” persons could be seen changing clothes as they were pulled back through the Antifa crowd.

The police were there to protect the public, but several members of the public did get attacked. Later, some people complained bitterly that police officers who were on scene saw those individuals being attacked and did nothing. Captain Novak admitted that he has seen videos of his officers not responding to violence happening in front of them. “We did pull some victims out of the crowd, but we weren’t able to get to some of them,” he testified. The captain said that the police used military-style tactics, meaning, “You have to work together as one entire team. You can’t just have one officer or one team go off on their own, because what can happen is they can get drawn into something.”

The next court date for all 11 defendants named in the indictment in downtown San Diego is September 8, 2022.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Disneyland, Sibelius, and Depression

Sibelius joins the sad sack
Next Article

VA details increase in vets shooting selves

Spacecraft recovery ship Murtha makes unplanned return to San Diego
The Antifa group was ordered to either disperse or face getting arrested. “There’s a certain verbiage we have to say, it’s a script that we read from,” said Captain Novak.
The Antifa group was ordered to either disperse or face getting arrested. “There’s a certain verbiage we have to say, it’s a script that we read from,” said Captain Novak.

On January 2 of 2021, a Patriot March in San Diego was announced on social media, to begin at 2 pm on January 9 at the foot of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. The flier billed it as a peaceful protest, but in the end, it was not peaceful: members of the activist group Antifa clashed violently with the Patriot March protesters before they even began marching.

In December of 2021, prosecutors in District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office charged at least seven people on the Antifa side in connection with the events of that day. And in June of this year, those charges were dropped in favor of a grand jury indictment that included 29 felony counts, including the conspiracy to commit riot. The indictment came after the grand jury heard 13 days’ worth of testimony about the events surrounding that day, including testimony from police who were on the scene.

Captain Matt Novak told the grand jury that in his 28 years as a police officer, he had never experienced that level of rioting. He said that he had responded to more than 25 protests since Febuary of 2020 in his areas of command, which included downtown San Diego. Usually, that meant shutting down streets and walking alongside the demonstrators in order to maintain public safety. His experience with counter-protestors? “Sometimes one or two people would come by to heckle the group.” He noted that when 300-400 Black Lives Matter supporters had marched down Pacific Beach’s Garnet Avenue, the event was “very peaceful, all individuals coming to peacefully protest through the area. No problems.”

This time, he said, “We did have some indication that Antifa might be coming” — vague intel about people coming down from Los Angeles. However, “I didn’t expect any more from Antifa than I had at any of the other [protests].” He put his SWAT team on standby near (but not next to) the rally’s start point, and put 20 patrol officers off to the side. In addition, he arranged for nine motor officers, eight bike officers, and an additional 22 officers in case they were needed. “We don’t want to intimidate anybody, and what we don’t want to do is deplete the entire city of officers, because we’re still responsible for the entire city.”

An Antifa Twitter account called SDAGAINSTFASH sent out messages the night before the rally, including this: “Plan to arrive an hour early to already have [Patriot] meet point occupied.” Antifa apparently wanted to assemble first on the spot, so that arriving Patriots would have to walk toward them. “The MAGATS don’t plan to be there before 2, so hopefully we’ll have a decent crowd for them to approach.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Captain Novak said he was just finishing giving a briefing to his officers at around 12:30 pm when he heard over the radio, “Hey, there’s some crowds down here.” He was at Belmont Park, a little south of the pier at that moment, still trying to stage his officers.

Then he heard, “There are people dressed in black.”

“Which immediately tells me a lot,” said Novak, “that we may have Antifa black bloc there.”

Then he heard, “There’s a fight at the pier.”

“It started earlier than we thought it would,” said Novak. Radio reports described black bloc persons moving in small groups over several blocks. Witnesses heard some of them directing their comrades, “Keep moving, keep moving.” Police had access to a helicopter, but it did not arrive until about an hour after the first radio calls about trouble, about 1:34 pm.

Sergeant Ross Bainbridge, a 17-year veteran of the SDPD, was scheduled to begin his shift that day at 2 pm, but he told the grand jury he got caught in heavy traffic trying to get to the beach. The prosecutor asked, “Why didn’t you use lights and siren to pass through traffic?”

He replied, “They hadn’t called for an emergency response at that point. So I was listening to the [radio] calls as it was transpiring and it was obvious that things weren’t going well rather quickly, as we were getting updates on the crowd being agitated, and a large crowd. And I could sense there was not enough cops where they needed them, and that things were kind of happening more quickly than they had anticipated. I think the idea was that all of this was going to happen later in the afternoon, and it happened earlier than they expected.” Sgt. Bainbridge didn’t make it to the designated staging area at Belmont Park before his order changed, “They changed it to, everybody respond Code Three, which is lights and sirens, back up to Hornblend and Mission.” When he arrived at about 2:15 pm, there was already a line of officers spanning the street. He put on his riot gear, which includes a special helmet, a riot baton, and a gas mask, and got into the line facing the Antifa group. He said they were aggressive: “They had basically formed their own spanning line in front of us and had refused to back up or move.”

Officer Jonathan Swankosky was also in the line, and he described the initial launch of projectiles. “It just started off with rocks here and there, and eggs, bottles, trash can lids, sticks, anything commonly found or seen that’s throwable and not secured.” He saw people in an alley trying to roll out a dumpster into the middle of the roadway, but added, “I don’t know if that was going to be pushed towards us.” Then he saw a glass bottle coming at him. It broke on the ground next to him; a shard of glass flew up and cut his hand. “The crowd had become hostile towards the police and were attacking us,” he said.

Captain Novak said that after Antifa had gathered, police had been able to form a line to block them. He ordered another police line to form in front of the Patriot group, thus creating a buffer zone between them. He said he was in the center, between the two police lines, and that the Patriots yelled at Antifa across the buffer zone, but did not throw anything or commit any violent acts. The Antifa group, meanwhile, used shields and skateboards and “people up front to protect themselves and to block our view. So people in the back are throwing objects and we can’t see where they come from.” At first, the captain was not wearing riot gear. “I had my officer go get it for me when I had those rocks bounce next to me,” he said. The grand jury saw bodycam footage showing police getting struck by rocks, glass bottles, eggs, and water bottles. “As soon as we stabilized in this area and we started receiving the bottles, the rocks, and the eggs had started hitting our officers, I called an unlawful assembly,” Novak testified.

The Antifa group was ordered to either disperse or face getting arrested. “There’s a certain verbiage we have to say, it’s a script that we read from,” said Novak. He directed a motor officer to use his radio so the whole crowd could hear. The official statement was read three times in both English and Spanish. Then the police helicopter repeated the order. Altogether, the official riot declaration was made more than nine times.

Officer Swankosky saw “one of the protestors with pepper spray in their hand, spraying it towards my officers.” So he called that out to the SWAT team, which then deployed pepper balls — powdered pepper spray — at 3:25 pm, roughly one hour after the first declaration of unlawful assembly. Swankosky said that when that happens, “It gets really hot.” He said Antifa are experienced with police tactics, and they wear gloves, which enables them to handle the balls. “They would typically throw it back at us.” Antifa used shields and skateboards and a trash can lid to block the pepper balls.

Popping sounds could be heard in police bodycam video. Sergeant Bainbridge said that was the sound of SWAT shooting pepper balls. Pepper balls hit the ground and break, and a dust cloud rises to drive people away, he said. Or, if a rioter is holding an object and is ready to throw it, a pepper ball could be fired to directly hit that person to prevent him from throwing it, the sergeant testified. Reviewing the video, Bainbridge noted that one rioter was “up closer to us, making that, like, punching motion or jabbing motion with his skateboard.” The rioter retreated more slowly than the rest of his group, “His gas mask is helping him defeat the pepper ball,” the sergeant noticed. Then he said, “Well, he was holding a skateboard, and it appears he dropped his skateboard and then grabbed his genitals afterwards, it looked like.” The rioter then dropped to the ground.

Sergeant Bainbridge guessed that he was there an hour before he got the order to move forward and start taking people into custody. “I know that it’s a big decision to make,” he said, “It’s going to get pretty ugly.” He said he “attempted to make two different arrests.” His attempts were not successful. The sergeant said he grabbed the Antifa member nearest him. Then, “the rioters, from behind this person, grabbed onto them by both their arms and their legs. So they had several different people pulling this person away from me, and they were able to kind of pull him down and back into the crowd rather quickly.” (He said he was unsure if the person was male or female.)

While Bainbridge was trying to make that first arrest, he saw another Antifa person rush him, “I saw him coming towards me fast.” His bodycam video was played: it showed a tall man with a stick, wearing all black and a helmet, and with a balaclava over his face. The attacker took hold of the sergeant’s riot baton.“You can see that the suspect has got a grip on it, on the forward part of it.” With his other hand, he brought his stick forward. Bainbridge said he took hold of this second person, but Antifa grabbed him away too, pulling him by his backpack. The sergeant could hear directions from the Antifa crowd: “Somebody yelling like a command for them to back up.” The attacker dropped his stick during the melee, and it disappeared under the police line. The stick was later collected by police and shown to the grand jury as evidence.

Besides the police bodycam video, there was also aerial video taken from the police helicopter, which eventually arrived. The video confirmed that the first arrest attempt was made at 3:32 pm, one hour after the first “unlawful assembly” declaration was made at 2:34 pm. The “de-arrested” persons could be seen changing clothes as they were pulled back through the Antifa crowd.

The police were there to protect the public, but several members of the public did get attacked. Later, some people complained bitterly that police officers who were on scene saw those individuals being attacked and did nothing. Captain Novak admitted that he has seen videos of his officers not responding to violence happening in front of them. “We did pull some victims out of the crowd, but we weren’t able to get to some of them,” he testified. The captain said that the police used military-style tactics, meaning, “You have to work together as one entire team. You can’t just have one officer or one team go off on their own, because what can happen is they can get drawn into something.”

The next court date for all 11 defendants named in the indictment in downtown San Diego is September 8, 2022.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

VA details increase in vets shooting selves

Spacecraft recovery ship Murtha makes unplanned return to San Diego
Next Article

The Mira Mesa library security guard’s tale

“You are in the children’s area. I really can’t have that knife in here, sir. Please?”
Comments

San Diego County prosecutors claim it was Samuel Howard Ogden with the walking stick, who was "de-arrested" by his Antifa comrades, when police tried to arrest him as part of the riot on January 9, 2021.

Aug. 24, 2022

Here's some video of confrontation between Antifa and San Diego police. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWwyAYKkRTI

Aug. 24, 2022

The far-left and the far-right are equally pathetic. Extremists are a threat to democracy.

Aug. 25, 2022
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close