Putting Antifa on trial? Our investigation of a new legal case, plus more this week in extremism

A prosecution of anti-fascist activists in San Diego is being decried by some experts as biased and political. It could also have serious implications for how the movement known as Antifa is prosecuted around the country. 

Meanwhile, a new book about the Proud Boys reveals a detailed written plan for a march in New York just days after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

It’s the week in extremism.

People eating a meal at the beach take pictures as counter-protesters, some carrying Antifa flags, march in opposition to demonstrators holding a "Patriot March" in support of President Donald Trump on January 9, 2021 in the Pacific Beach neighborhood of San Diego, California.

Antifa on trial

My deep-dive investigation into the prosecution of 11 antifascist activists in San Diego published this week. In the first-of-its kind case, the defendants have been charged with multiple felonies and the San Diego County district attorney is alleging they were involved in a conspiracy to commit a riot. 

Experts said the case could serve as a template for conservative prosecutors around the country.   

  • The case centers on a confrontation on Jan. 9, 2021 – three days after the Jan. 6 insurrection – between far-right agitators and anti-fascists. The far-right group descended on San Diego’s Pacific Beach neighborhood looking for a fight. Anti-fascists from Los Angeles and San Diego were there to meet them and sporadic acts of violence broke out throughout the day.
  • Almost a year later, the local DA announced charges, but only against the anti-fascists. Not one of the pro-Trump far-right group was charged. Experts said that makes the prosecution look political.
  • The prosecution isn’t just for the fighting. The alleged Antifa activists are charged with conspiracy, based on allegations they coordinated their attacks. This could effectively double their sentences.

And there are other questions about the case: 

  • The DA, Summer Stephan, also has a history of pushing far-right conspiracy theories about Antifa. 
  • My investigation revealed that the alleged victims in the case include people identified as some of the most notorious white supremacists in Southern California, including members of a group the Anti-Defamation League calls “Hard core white supremacists”

The takeaway: The San Diego case is a test for prosecutors around the country, experts said. If the 11 defendants are convicted, it could send a message to conservative prosecutors that they can prosecute Antifa more like a gang than a loosely organized political movement. 

Extremism watchers:The extremist watchers: How a network of researchers is searching for the next hate-fueled attack

Where’s Antifa been?:Anti-fascist groups stepped away from street protests, not activism

Members of the Proud Boys march near the White House in 2020.

Proud planning Boys

The extremist far-right street gang the Proud Boys isn’t especially known for its planning. The group specializes more in showing up at right-wing events and getting into fights. But a newly revealed document shows at least some members of the group had an exhaustive, detailed plan for a Jan. 10 march in New York City, just days after the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

  • The document, published by the Guardian this week, details security planning, liaisons with the New York Police Department and communications details for the march. 

It’s not the first written protest plan connected to the group. Earlier this year, I wrote about a Proud Boys document titled “1776 Returns” that was attached as an exhibit in a filing in the federal conspiracy case against the organization. That document contained similar details to the newly unearthed one. 

  • Read more: The document was obtained from a member of the Proud Boys by extremism reporter Andy Campbell, who just released a book about the group.

‘Devastating piece of evidence’:‘Devastating piece of evidence’: Filing reveals a Proud Boys plan to storm buildings Jan. 6

Inside the Proud Boys:They joined the Wisconsin Proud Boys looking for brotherhood. They found racism, bullying and antisemitism.

Catch up from last week:A White House summit on hate-fueled violence and another QAnon murder