Seven people were stabbed, with some injured critically, during clashes between rallying neo-Nazis and counter-protesters Sunday at the state Capitol, authorities said.
Five patients were transported to local hospitals with stab wounds, said Chris Harvey, public information officer for the Sacramento Fire Department. Several other people suffered cuts, scrapes and bruises but were not taken to the hospital, Harvey said.
“It was quite a bit of a melee,” Harvey said, adding that several different groups had descended on the Capitol, including counter-protesters.
The Traditionalist Worker Party had a permit to hold a rally at noon, said George Granada, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol’s Capitol Protection Section, which has jurisdiction over Capitol grounds. Hours before the scheduled rally, more than 400 counter-protesters began showing up, surrounding the Capitol, Granada said.
Protesters shattered a window on the Capitol’s south ground level.
Around 11:45 a.m., when word spread that about 30 people showed up for the rally, the counter-protesters swarmed towards them and a brawl immediately broke out, Granada said.
“I don’t think there was any verbal exchange, just full on fight,” he said.
One person was stabbed within minutes, and law enforcement stepped in to get the person treatment, Granada said. Other stabbings happened in different parts of the Capitol grounds shortly thereafter. Seven people total were stabbed, he said. He could not say how many of the injured were with the Traditionalist Worker Party or the counter protesters.
No arrests have been made. The Capitol was placed on lockdown, Granada said. By about midafternoon, the scene had calmed down with several dozen counter-protesters remaining outside the Capitol, he said.
A brief march around the Capitol corridor by the anti-white supremacist group ended around 2:45 p.m.
One protester, who organized a final march around the perimeter of the Capitol, yelled to his supporters, “Their permit is over! And they didn’t get to have their rally!”
Law enforcement officers with rifles peered down at the anti-protest group from the roof of the historic Capitol.
The Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group, was holding a march Sunday “to protest against globalization and in defense of the right to free expression,” according to the group’s website. The members appeared to be vastly outnumbered by counter-protesters, who held up signs that read “Nazi scum,” according to photos and videos posted on social media.
An organizer of the rally who wasn’t at the Capitol said on a web live stream that one person from his group had been stabbed and was being transported to the hospital.
“They got one of us but we got six of them,” he said.
Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a former sheriff’s captain, said that Capitol employees were being sheltered on the building’s basement level.
An email sent to legislative staffers about 3:30 said the building remained on lockdown, with some staff and tourists inside.
Some protesters came dressed for battle, several seen carrying wooden batons and some wearing plastic shields. “They came ready to fight,” said Cooper.
One local television crew was accosted by the protesters that showed up to confront the white supremacist group.
John Breedlove, a videographer for KCRA-TV, said the protester “took his skateboard and just slammed it into the reporter’s gut.” Neither journalist was seriously injured.
Frances Wang, a local ABC10 reporter at the rally, wrote on Twitter that there were “blood spatters all over the ground. Police trying to control crowds.”
Video from ABC10 in Sacramento showed portions of the clash.
Matthew Heimbach, chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party who did not attend the rally, said his group and the Golden State Skinheads had organized the Sunday rally.
Vice Chairman Matt Parrott, who was not present at the Sacramento rally, said it was a peaceful march and blamed “leftist radicals” for instigating the violence. Heimbach said that in the clash, one of their marchers had been stabbed in the artery and six of the “anti-fascists” had also been stabbed.
“We knew we were outnumbered. We stood our ground. We will be back. This is a victory for us because more of them walked away injured,” Heimbach said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, categorizes the organization as a white nationalist group. Parrott said the Traditionalist Worker Party supports ethnic nationalism, but was not violent nor “a supremacist party.”
On its website, the group describes itself as America’s first political party created by and for working families. Our mission is defending faith, family, and folk against the politicians and oligarchs who are running America into the ground. We intend to achieve that goal by building a nationwide network of grass-roots local leaders who will lead Americans toward a peaceful and prosperous future free from economic exploitation, federal tyranny, and anti-Christian degeneracy.”
The rally at the Capitol had been planned for some time.
The anti-fascist organization Antifa Sacramento, which had been promoting a “Shut Down Nazi Rally” event on its website Sunday, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The violence came several months after another violent confrontation between members of a Klu Klux Klan group and counter-protesters at an Anaheim park.