Saturday's war of rallies in downtown Berkeley largely devolved into street fighting, garbage can incinerating, and a lot of angry shouting between various factions of Trump supporters and the alt-right, and factions of liberal detractors of the President. (Many of the latter argue that the so-called alt-right is largely composed of fascists and racists, and those who align with the alt-right refer to black-clad liberal protesters and anarchists as "antifa," short for anti-fascists.) The day ended with 20 arrests, as the Chronicle reports, some for assault with a deadly weapon and at least two relating to warrants dating back to the earlier, March 4 rally in Berkeley that resulted in similar mayhem.
But one video, which you can see in full below and in GIF form above, has been spreading widely on social media and apparently shows a man identified as Nathan Damigo punching a woman in the face. Damigo, 30, is an Iraq War vet with "an other than honorable discharge," a friend of noted punch target Richard Spencer, and the leader of an alt-right group called Identity Evropa. He's also a student at California State University, Stanislaus, as the Modesto Bee reports, where he's been at the center of a controversy concerning his white supremacist beliefs and posters that were put up around the campus last fall featuring photos of Michaelangelo's David and the message "Let's become great again." (The posters are available via a $30 donation to Identity Evropa.)
Below is a photo taken yesterday of Damigo with a group of his brethren, who all possibly drove in from Turlock to do battle with the antifa in Berkeley, most of whom chose to be masked. It's unclear whether this sign was their own, or taken from the "enemy." (Damigo's Twitter handle is "FashyHaircut.")
Independent journalist Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange posted the video below in which you can see some of the street fighting taking place on Saturday, and voices screaming things like "hold the line" and "kill." 30 seconds in, a man who looks like Damigo and is wearing the same blue shirt he's wearing in the photo above can be seen lurching at a young woman with dreadlocks and punching her in the face. Shortly thereafter you can see her leaning against a building column and rubbing her jaw.
The LA Times profiled Damigo in December, after he gave a presentation about white supremacist beliefs to an ethnic studies class, discussing the idea that white people like him now needed segregated reservations on which to live, not unlike those that were created for Native Americans a century ago.
In a Periscope video that you can still view here, Damigo talks shortly after Donald Trump's election about how he would welcome the Calexit movement to succeed, saying, "The remaining few of us who are white would white-flight ourselves out of here and join you guys in the rest of the country, and we could do our own thing and California could just pretty much devolve into cannibalism."
To the Modesto Bee, Damigo admitted that he had suffered from post-traumatic stress and "flipped out on this guy" at one point after he returned from Iraq. As the LA Times reports, the incident he's referring to was the assault and robbery of a cab driver in San Diego in November 2007. According to court records, Damigo, possibly under the influence of drugs and alcohol, encountered a cab driver he believed was Iraqi, put a gun to his head and stole $43 from him. He served a year in county jail and another four years in prison for armed robbery for that crime.
Damigo told the LA Times that it was in prison that he "started looking at the more intellectual roots and started researching books and literature on race and identity," and discovered the work of David Duke.
Damigo began the Identity Evropa organization in March 2016, and its website includes a video by Spencer, and a GIF of San Francisco sights with the words "No Sanction [sic]: Make San Francisco Safe Again."
In his talk at the ethnic studies class, Damigo said he identifies as an "identitarian," and he believes words like "racist" and "supremacist" have become loaded, and he considers them to be "anti-white hate speech."
But while the seemingly fresh proliferation of alt-right groups that profess white supremacist ideologies may seem frightening to those on the left, none of this is new and California has long had the largest population of racist skinheads in the nation.
As Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino told the LA Times, "These guys are like vape shops they’re starting to spring up everywhere, and there’s nothing particularly new or creative about it." The text on the Identity Evropa site, he says, reads like "a template that exists within the alt-right."
And, Levin says, "A lot of these young guys dig these Western civilization ramblings and attempt to intellectualize bigotry. It tries to put a pseudo-intellectual veneer that revolves around identity and history and the notion that the accomplishments of Western civilization are under attack by our increasingly diverse and multicultural society."
As CBS 5 reports, the Proud Boys, the alt-right faction who took responsibility for organizing Saturday's rally as well as the March 4 rally in Berkeley, declared victory after yesterday's melee on social media, with one person saying "Boston, Seattle, we're coming for you."
Today was an enormous victory! I could not be more proud or grateful for every one who attended the event! This was the turning point!— Rich Black 🇺🇸🇮🇱 (@boldandproper) April 15, 2017
We are the champions! No time for loser ANTIFA because we are the champions of the world. We won Berkeley! So tired of all this winning! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/1GjYCMle2D— Irma Hinojosa 🇺🇸 (@irmahinojosa_) April 16, 2017