My name is William Johnson. I’m an activist here in San Diego and have been a regular at protests since 2011. I go out to march, rally, protest, and demonstrate, because I care deeply about fighting for the civil and human rights of all people, and against institutional poverty, environmental degradation, and militarism. Nowhere in our greater San Diego/Tijuana Metropolitan area are these issues more intersectional than at our border.
This has drawn me to protest there many times, most recently to protest Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he announced his policy to separate all migrant children from their parents, to which I called him “evil”. (And he announced this policy at Friendship Park of all places… The nerve of that man! But I digress…) To many people’s amazement, I walked away from this protest like I do 99% of the protests I attend; unscathed.
This was not the case on December 9th of last year, where I, and some of my friends and allies, were attacked by a group of well-known San Diego-based white supremacists.
Assaulted at the Border Wall Prototypes
Jeff Schwilk, a famous San Diego Minuteman, was hosting a pro-wall rally with Congressman Duncan Hunter and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly at the designated “free speech” area near the Border Wall Prototypes on December 9th, 2017. Some people I knew were planning on counter-protesting, so I decided to join them.
Four East County men who I know to be associates of many local white nationalist groups confronted my group shortly after a few of us arrived. Ryan McAdams of Jamul, a member of both “Bordertown Patriots Inc.” and American Guard begins to yell at me and provoke me just inches away from my face. Some of my allies try to keep me separated from him, and the San Diego Police Department arrive and tell McAdams to stay about 4 ft away from me, which McAdams ignores. The officer didn’t make any attempt to enforce his order.
Once our larger group of allies arrive we try to walk over in front of a line of San Diego Sheriffs close to the right-wing rally, which we recognized as our protest area. They continued to harass us the entire way, taunting us and blocking us from walking straight there. Another person who I recognized, Kristopher Wyrick of Alpine (who is a former member of the Proud Boys, a former member of the United Patriot National Front, and currently an organizer with the Bordertown Patriots), walked right through the Sheriff’s line, in order to help Ryan harass and intimidate me.
I kept trying to walk away from them but they kept coming after me; at one point pinning me against a parked RV, while they yelled inches away from my face and jammed their flag poles into my side. During this time I asked the Sheriff’s Deputies twice to separate them from us, but get no response. One of them also removed my hat from my head and dropped it on the ground, and these guys began to stomp on it violently. They were clearly trying to start a fight with us and were coming after me, and the Sheriffs were doing nothing.
After about ten minutes, they graduated from threats to actual violence. Kris and his son, Nathan, began to sucker punch and attack our protesters. Nathan began to attack any of us he saw. He punched one of our people in the head, leaving him on the ground with a black eye, and then he came after me.
He hit me once in the face, and then I instinctively put my hands up. I never lost eye contact with him while blocking the second blow.
He backed up after the 2nd blow didn’t connect, and I dropped my hands to my side. I had come to participate in a non-violent protest, and I did not intend to respond to violence with violence, and I wanted him to recognize that.
Nathan turned away and ran to attack another person. I turned around to see McAdams on top of another person. McAdams had hit this person with a GoPro handle and was now punching him. I went face-to-face with him and loudly said: “Get off of him now!”.
McAdams stopped punching, and looked at me with an intense hatred, and started to get to his feet. Then point McAdams’ friend, Nicholas Sasse of Spring Valley (another former Proud Boy, and member of Bordertown Patriots), pulled McAdams back by his backpack. McAdams and Sasse turn around and continue to fight others in our group, while I assisted my ally who was just attacked by McAdams.
This was all happening only about 15-20 feet away from a line of San Diego Sheriff’s Deputies, wearing riot gear and holding wooden sticks. They could have intervened at any time but it took nearly 2 minutes from the start of the attack for a group of Sheriffs to do anything. They walked over to us, shoving all of us and pushing the attackers back to their side. They arrested none of them. This was a major failure of the Sheriff’s department.
I was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask on the of the protest because I was concerned with alt-right media outlets filming me; I know from personal experience how deceptive and conspiracy-minded they are. However, the mask somewhat backfired because when I was attacked, the mask broke and cut my face, resulting in a laceration and a scar. The fact we were attacked with American flags and flagpoles, has resulted in mental trauma that has not gone away.
The events of this day also created a chilling effect throughout the activist community. People have become concerned about any of their event or rally attendees falling victim to a white supremacist attack. This has affected turnout at marches and events, and some rallies never get past the planning stages because of safety concerns. Nothing good came out of the events of December 9th, 2017.
The DA’s Office Fails
Those of us on the receiving end of these attacks on December 9th decided to press charges against these guys. We went through the normal procedures by filing a police report and giving an interview with the investigating officer. The officer took a few weeks to go through all the video evidence and interview witnesses and in the end, the investigating officer recommended 11 felonies to the District Attorney’s office.
Then we waited for the charges.
We called up the DA’s office twice a week, but only heard they were still investigating.
A few weeks went by… and then the news. The DA was not pressing charges.
“None of them?” I asked
“No, we are not seeking any charges for this incident”
I was shocked. There was so much video evidence of the attack! And it was so clear who’d started it!
McAdams, Nathan, Kris, and Nicholas had attacked several people (and on top of that, the Sheriffs allowed it to continue, as evidenced by them standing around and watching as we were attacked.)!
How could the DA just let them get away with this? These guys are clearly dangerous!
Does justice not matter?
Post Script: A few weeks later I volunteered to help with sound at a forum between Summer Stephan and Geneviéve Jones-Wright (which can be watched here.)
At first, I was mildly impressed with what Summer Stephan was saying, and casually applauded at times, but then as the forum went on I heard claims that didn’t match her record. The comment standing out the most was a claim she “ended the school-to-prison-pipeline”. My jaw dropped.
I had to get out of my seat and walk around to try to wrap my head around how she could even think something so ridiculous! I then heard her comments about getting rid of implicit racism in the DA’s office, calling it “low-grade” racism, which was an extremely weird comparison (I guess she calls explicit racism “91-octane racism”).
That was when I realized she was flying by the seat-of-her-pants; just making it up as she goes.
Stephan talked about needing cash-bail reform, yet hasn’t implemented it. She talked about leading one of the country’s top sex crimes units, but how could they be a top sex crimes unit when there are thousands of untested rape kits in storage?
She says she makes fair and just decisions on cases with officer-involved shootings, but when the evidence pointed to Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Villanueva shooting Jonathan Colonel 16 times in the back while face down on the ground, she let the officer off scott-free, so he could kill Sergio Weick less than a year later in a similar incident!
She says she drops cases when there is evidence exonerating someone, but she didn’t in the high-profile Stephanie Crowe case. Her rhetoric simply does not match her actions.
I then looked for anything Stephan might have said about hate crimes and found her speaking out against the kind of white supremacists and nationalists in Charlottesville. She claimed to be committed to stopping these kinds of people and stopping hate crimes, and events saying: “What we saw in Charlottesville is a bunch of thugs, bullies, and criminals masquerading behind the freedom of speech.”… but this pledge clearly holds no water, because she hasn’t charged the people who attacked me and my allies.
With all of the lies and unfulfilled promises we’ve heard from Summer Stephan, and the fact there is overwhelming evidence we were physically harassed and attacked at a protest by white supremacists, I can only come to two possible conclusions about Summer Stephan’s lack of action in this case: she either agrees with their politics, and hides it publicly, or she is completely incompetent at prosecuting open-and-shut assault cases.
I have absolutely no evidence to think the former, so I assume it’s the latter. With all of the inconsistencies in what she says vs. what she does, incompetence is the only thing that makes sense. Summer Stephan needs to go.
Fortunately, we have a chance to really make a change in how our criminal justice system works. We can reform the DA’s office from the inside out and make sure justice is being served.
I’m supporting Geneviéve Jones-Wright, because she has the platform, the experience, and the willingness to stand up for the human rights of everyone in San Diego, and make sure our criminal justice system is working for everybody.