Exclusive: Yvette Felarca, who faces riot charges after participating in an anti-fascist demonstration, joins lawyers in warning over prosecutions nationwide
When Yvette Felarca exited her flight in Los Angeles, there were a dozen police officers waiting for her.
The 47-year-old teacher was handcuffed, jailed, and later, to her shock, charged with assault, inciting a riot and participating in a riot over her involvement in an anti-fascist demonstration at the California capitol more than a year ago.
The charges are obviously politically motivated. It is clearly a witch-hunt, Felarca told the Guardian in her first interview since she was released Thursday, on $25,000 bail after two nights in jail. This is in response to the fact that the movement against Donald Trump is strong and the resistance is strong.
Felarca is one of hundreds of anti-Trump activists across the US facing prosecution for protesting against the White House and white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that have increasingly organized in public. The criminal cases including many in which protesters could face decades in prison has drawn accusations that the government is trampling on the first amendment and broadly targeting critics in an aggressive effort to silence them.
Weve seen a real crackdown on protest and dissent, said Sam Menefee-Libey, a member of the Dead City Legal Posse, an activist group supporting the more than 200 protesters who were arrested and charged with serious felonies after protesting at Trumps inauguration. All branches of the criminal justice system are taking cues from the Trump administration Theyre trying to increase their power and be as punitive as they possibly can be.
Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and longtime leader with the organization By Any Means Necessary (Bamn), was part of a group of activists gathered in Sacramento, California, on 26 June 2016 to protest a white nationalist rally. The event, organized by the Traditionalist Workers party, which has ties to neo-Nazis and skinheads, quickly devolved into a violent clash between the two sides, leaving seven people stabbed. One was affiliated with the Traditionalist Workers.
Shanta Driver, Felarcas attorney and national chair of Bamn, said the white nationalists were armed aggressors and that police allowed the Nazis and pro-Trump supporters to bludgeon and stab and cause the hospitalization of unarmed peaceful opponents of Donald Trump.
Felarca, one of the most visible counter-protesters, said she was there to oppose the spread of white supremacy and hate speech.
Felarca, whose legal first name is Yvonne, has since been the subject of segments on Fox News, which has labeled her a militant left-wing leader and posted grainy footage of her clashes in Sacramento.
Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, Felarca said she was stabbed in the arm and hit in the head, requiring more than 20 stitches. It took her weeks to recover, she said.
A spokeswoman for the Sacramento prosecutor declined to comment on the cases, which were announced last week, with similar charges filed against two other counter-protesters and a man believed to be associated with the white nationalists.
Felarca said she would not be intimidated: One of the reasons I was arrested was to try to demoralize and scare me and other people from continuing to oppose Trump and his neo-Nazi supporters. Im certainly not going to stop organizing and speaking out.