A jury found five self-described antifascist activists not guilty of two separate misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a violent attack on a Trump supporter in March 2017 at the conclusion of a contentious trial at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse in Oakland, Calif. Oakland is a short distance from Berkeley, Calif., which was the scene of multiple violent clashes involving Trump supporters, free-speech activists, and other right-leaning patriots on one side and bands of antifa, anti-Trump activists, and other radical leftwing groups on the other.
On March 4, 2017, supporters of President Donald Trump organized a “March on Berkeley,” one of a number of protests and rallies in recent years that pitted pro-Trump and anti-Trump activists against each other in the iconic college town. As is typical of pro-Trump rallies and events, violence quickly broke out between supporters and opponents of the president, despite the presence of police.
The five defendants—Taylor Fuller, Scott Hedrick, Nathan Perry, Jeff Armstrong, and Dustin Sawtelle—were accused of violently assaulting Daniel Quillinan, a local antique dealer and Trump supporter, as he sat on a concrete ledge near Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. The attack had followed other violent incidents in the park earlier that day.
Two Berkeley firefighters and one police officer testified that they witnessed the violent assault on Quillinan, who at the time was seeking medical attention for a massive cut on his head he’d sustained from a blow earlier in the day. The cut eventually required 10 staples to close.
Berkeley Police Sgt. Jesse Grant testified that he witnessed two of the defendants—Armstrong and Perry—walk up to Quillinan as he sat on the ledge and openly assault him with punches and kicks. Several other anti-Trump protesters then descended upon Quillinan in a hail of blows, with Grant and two Berkeley fire captains—David Sprague-Livingston and Jonathan Fischer—quickly confronting the mob before they ran down the street. The five defendants were arrested by other Berkeley police officers shortly after they fled from the violent, unprovoked attack on Quillinan. Fischer also testified that the group of antifa protesters walking down the street “threw the first punch,” confirming Grant’s testimony.
Despite the credible statements from first responders and local law enforcement officials, the jury still somehow managed to find the five defendants not guilty. According to local reports, dozens of supporters of the defendants were present throughout the three-day trial and made their political views and support for the defendants known to the courtroom and jury. They hissed, cheered, laughed at, and derided participants in the trial at various moments throughout, with Judge Alison Tucher reprimanding the crowd multiple times, insisting that they were present at a “courtroom, not a political rally.” Incredibly, at one point, a supporter for the defendants held up a political flier in front of the jury, demanding that they “drop the charges” against her fellow antifa activists.
Shanta Driver, the defense attorney representing all five defendants, is a national organizer for the radical leftist activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, which is known for unprovoked violence against its political opponents and has a strong presence in the San Francisco Bay area, including in Berkeley and Oakland. During the trial, Driver called all five of her defendants to testify, as well as other local Berkeley activists, including other BAMN leaders.
Jim Logan, who prosecuted the case on behalf of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, implored the jury to focus specifically on the chain of events surrounding the violent assault on Quillinan, which clearly implicated all five defendants.
“Just because the victim is dislikable doesn’t mean the rules don’t apply,” Logan told jurors in his closing argument. “The defendants don’t get to decide . . . punishment on the street. That’s what the courtroom is for.”
Notwithstanding Logan’s plea for objectivity and a fair application of the law to prevail, jurors still dismissed the charges to a frenzy of cheers and celebration in the courtroom, which was dominated by antifa sympathizers and supporters of the defendants.
The recent decision marks yet another victory for the radical left, which has a long and well-documented history of violently confronting and assaulting their political opponents, particularly since the entrance of President Donald Trump onto the political scene.
Throughout the 2016 presidential election, radical leftist groups, antifa activists, and other opponents of Trump’s America-first agenda engaged in violence, sabotage, and disruption of a variety of political events and rallies, violating the First Amendment rights of countless American citizens.
The political mayhem and criminality carried out by the radical left has been successful largely because they have carried on with their criminal campaign of political terrorism and violence with virtually no major repercussions, as demonstrated once again in the dismissal of the self-described “Berkeley Anti-Fascist 5.”
John Friend is a freelance author based in California.