Editor’s note: The following reports were written by the Weeklings at the scene of the March 25 Huntington Beach pro-Donald Trump rally in which one of our interns and two of our photographers were assaulted while working. (See the original post HERE).) Not only was the #MagaMarch yet another black mark on Huntington Beach (which is always fighting with Anaheim for the title of Orange County’s most riot-happy city), but also the original coverage by the mainstream media was a travesty of journalism that allowed Trump supporters to cloak themselves in a veil of victimhood, when it was their side that itched for a rumble. White supremacists worldwide are already hailing the beatdown of the press and activists of color as a victory for their cause. As of this writing, the California Department of Parks and Recreation has not bothered to contact the Weekly about what its peace officers are doing to go after those responsible for the attack on our people and others.
The Weekly will not stand idly by as racism, misogyny, homophobia and flat-out fascism try to run rampant over a free press and political opponents. As I told the Los Angeles Times when they finally corrected their fake news, “My photographers and intern were just trying to do their jobs. For that, they got harassed by Trump supporters, then shoved and punched when they tried to defend one another. . . . I’m proud of them, and we will not be silenced by biddies or bros.”
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FRANK JOHN TRISTAN, INTERN: From the outset, it appeared the Trump supporters were angry simply at the presence of the counterprotesters. As the first two protesters stepped onto the beach, a female Trump supporter reportedly pulled her car next to them and yelled, “If you touch my kids, I’ll kill you!” The counterprotesters seemed surprised to find no other counterprotesters in sight, as Trump supporters patrolled the area publicly announced as the gathering place for counterprotesters. The counterprotesters took off into the parking lot, where they found other counterprotesters unloading a car, at which point Trump Mama got in my face. The Trump supporters were angry about counterprotesters invading their march—and conservatives say liberals always want safe spaces?
As I approached the mob on the beach, I considered what had transpired with the Twins being ganged up on (see main story for details). I saw photographers Julie Leopo and Brian Feinzimer surrounded, and the only thing going through my head was what editor Gustavo Arellano had told us: “Stick together.” As I turned, I saw Trump Friend charge Feinzimer. I didn’t know what he planned on doing to my colleague, so I stuck out my arm and yelled, “Hey!” Trump Friend reeled back, then regained his balance and began to attack me. I felt a series of love-tap, tiny-handed punches and someone pulling me from the back.
As soon as the pepper-spraying counterprotester cleared the attackers, I started searching for my phone, which held my notes and photos. A Trump supporter kindly handed it back to me and gave me a hug with a look of concern.
Counterprotest organizer Jordan Hoiberg took the chants of “pussy” and “faggot” as best as he could. A cellphone-wielding Trump supporter grabbed him by the shirt and started yelling, “You’re the one who put this protest together! Why do your guys have masks on?” Meanwhile, another Trump supporter falsely accused him of beating elderly women in order to get nearby supporters to attack Hoiberg. The look on Hoiberg’s face spelled out fear, as the backlash facing him and his fellow counterprotesters surrounded him on all sides. He escaped the crowd, returning to the beach, then attempted to ask State Park peace officers how many people were arrested and what their names were, only to be told they didn’t know.
He walked away without argument. Hoiberg said he believed things were over and that he should probably leave for his safety, so he headed north on the bike trail with the defeated look of a general who led his troops into slaughter. As he was leaving, a group of white boys holding a “Defend America” sign tried to pick a fight with him, but then they faced me and Indigenous rights activist Naui Huitzilopochtli. In their group stood Gray Shirt Guy and the white Trump supporter who threw the rock at the counterprotester.
Their friend tried to calm them down as they flexed and stared at us. “We see you, dawg,” one told us, threateningly. “Fuck la raza,” another joined in. “I’m in the pit at every Observatory show,” a third Trump supporter announced, inviting anyone who has a problem with him to show up there. They dispersed at the behest of their friends, heading south on the bike trail with the rest of the MAGA marchers.
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JULIE LEOPO, PHOTOGRAPHER: One thing that was clear: there were far more Trump supporters than counter-protesters or media. This automatically made me feel uncomfortable. The fact I was a brown, 120-pound female photojournalist in a sea of angry white Trump supporters yelling to build a wall, and above all disregarding me as fake news was unsettling. The violence and hate spewing from the Trump supporters had to be documented.
Considering the normalization of Trump’s disdain for the media, the Trump supporters felt empowered to ridicule and intimidate me. I kept shooting despite the insults and just as I was about to click the shutter on my camera, I looked up and locked eyes with a white woman carrying a flag. Out of all the people in the crowed, she glared at me. Her stare was cold, angry and taunting. She smirked and walked toward me. I did not know what was to come. Should I pick up my camera and shoot? Should I shield my face?
The pro-Trump woman began to hit my camera and arm with her American flag. I yelled “STOP!” and held out my arm. I looked around and saw the yelling and confusion, and knew the spark of violence had just been ignited.
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BRIAN FEINZIMER, PHOTOGRAPHER: Although I knew there was a chance it could happen, being physically assaulted while taking pictures at a Trump rally wasn’t exactly at the top of my list of concerns.
As I walked through the group of MAGA marchers, I noticed the group was overwhelmingly Caucasian—the same color as me. Yet despite—or perhaps because of this—it felt incredibly unpleasant being among them, even before the hate speech started.
Things started happening fast when a woman armed with a flag began harassing myself and fellow photographer Julie Leopo, jabbing at us with it. Suddenly, someone outside my field of view violently pushed me. As I turned my head, I realized I had been intentionally shoved, so I raised my camera to photograph the person. At the same time, someone stepped in the middle to protect me, and as I snapped photographs, I saw that person get punched repeatedly by the person who had shoved me.
Three seconds later, I realized it was intern Frank Tristan who had stepped in and was being punched. In those seconds, my mind went from surprise to confusion, and then the adrenaline kicked in as I wrapped my arm around Frank and pulled him away from the attacker. Julie rushed forward to help me. Someone near us unleashed a cloud of pepper spray, ending the assault. Unable to collect my thoughts, I kept taking pictures, relying on my instinct to keep shooting, to keep doing my job to capture everything that was happening.
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DENISE DE LA CRUZ, REPORTER: I had a feeling the night before and the day of the MAGA march that something serious was going to happen. Around noon, I received text messages from two of my colleagues, photographer Brian Feinzimer and intern Frank Tristan, saying they and photographer Julie Leopo had just been attacked by Trump supporters. My heart immediately sank with disappointment, but I wasn’t surprised.
By the time I got to Bolsa Chica State Beach, around 1 p.m., the violence had subsided, but there was still tension in the air, as if a brawl could break out at any moment. The spectacle of hundreds of Trump supporters chanting, “USA, USA, USA!” while waving American, “Blue Lives Matter” and “Don’t Tread On Me” Tea Party flags on the sidewalk alongside the beach garnered honks from cars speeding by on PCH and perplexed looks by beachgoers who didn’t get the memo of the day’s festivities. I heard someone yell out “Fuck Trump!” from their car, but by then, the Trumpsters were already headed back to the march’s starting point near Warner Avenue, where all the violence occurred earlier.
As I walked among the Trump supporters, I chatted with some of them. Most assured me they weren’t the bigoted monsters the media perceive them as, but rather well-intentioned people with conservative views. Yet I noticed that among the marchers was a group of about five young white men, one of whom was carrying a “Da Goyim Know” sign while another held a German Imperialist flag—both symbolic of the neo-Nazi movement.
I looked around to see if any of the Trump supporters who had claimed to be intolerant of hate took offense to this obvious display of anti-Semitism. Not one seemed appalled. At least if they were, they didn’t speak out against the hate that was clearly on display. While they did not participate in the violence earlier, their sheer complicity was just another act of evil.