No investigation underway of attacks on reporter and photographers at pro-Trump event, officials say
A California State Parks police official said that the agency was not investigating a videotaped attack on an OC Weekly reporter and two photographers at a Make America Great Again rally over the weekend in Huntington Beach.
Parks police have not received any reports seeking an arrest or investigation into the alleged assault, nor have they reviewed videos of the attack at Bolsa Chica State Beach, said Capt. Kevin Pearsall, public safety superintendent for Orange Coast District of California State Parks.
The Huntington Beach Police Department said Tuesday that it did not get involved in the violent demonstration or make any arrests.
“Everything was handled by State Parks,” said Jennifer Marlatt, a spokeswoman for the police department.
Three people were taken into custody at the event for suspected illegal use of pepper spray, Pearsall said. A fourth person was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery.
Nearly 2,000 people attended Saturday’s noontime event, which was one of dozens of similar marches held nationwide to show support for first responders, military veterans, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence .
But the beach rally turned violent when clashes erupted between marchers and anti-Trump protesters.
In the midst of the chaotic scene, Frank Tristan, a 21-year-old intern at the weekly paper, and photographers Julie Leopo and Brian Feinzimer said they were attacked.
A video of the confrontation showed a Trump supporter pushing and shoving Feinzimer. Feinzimer was taking photographs of Leopo, who was being struck with an American flag.
“I grabbed [the flag] and threw it to the ground and then she grabs my arm,” Feinzimer said in a phone interview Sunday. “It just got so chaotic. There was so much rage and anger in the air.”
When Tristan tried to defend Feinzimer, a man in a blue cap and white shirt can been seen in the video repeatedly punching Tristan in the face and head.
That’s when Jennifer Sterling, one of the event’s organizers, tried to intervene, but she and others were doused with pepper spray. The video showed Sterling staggering around and rubbing her eyes before falling to the ground.
“It was a quick reaction,” Sterling said. “There was about 12 of them.”
Leopo said she reported her attack to an officer at the scene but that the officer did not write up a report. On Sunday, she posted a photograph of the man in the blue cap and white shirt on her Facebook page and asked for help in identifying him.
Other demonstrators said they were also attacked during the rally.
According to witnesses, a group of flag-waving Trump supporters tackled a masked man who had wielded the pepper spray and started punching and kicking him.
The crowd chased the man, who jumped over a fence and started running along Pacific Coast Highway, where he was detained by California Highway Patrol officers.
About two dozen counter-protesters, some of whom dressed in black and wore face masks, said they were overwhelmed by Trump supporters and posed no threat. One insisted that the group used pepper spray only after they were attacked by their rivals.
The turmoil lasted about 10 minutes, and the marchers continued on with their rally, Pearsall said.
He said the event went “better than expected,” except for “a moment of people misbehaving.”
Staff writers Angel Jennings, Anh Do and Ruben Vives contributed to this report.
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