Prosecutors Make First Move to Break Up Antifa Cell as 11 Activists Charged With Violence

For the first time in the U.S., prosecutors are attempting to break up a network of alleged violent antifa cells.

This week, the San Diego County District Attorney's office charged 11 alleged antifa members with felony conspiracy and felony assault charges, among other crimes, in a riot case where supporters of former President Donald Trump and random bystanders were beaten in Pacific Beach, California in January. Eight suspects were arraigned this week; they have all pleaded not guilty.

Eight suspects were issued search and arrest warrants last week in San Diego County and Los Angeles County. Police recovered three guns, ammunition, body armor and drugs. The large operation to arrest the suspects involved mutual support from multiple law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Escondido. The case is sending shockwaves through far-left networks in Southern California, who have been raising funds for their comrades.

The criminal complaint accuses Alexander Akridge-Jacobs, 31, Jesse Merel Cannon, 31, Joseph Austin Gaskins, 21, Brian Lightfoot, 25, Christian Martinez, 23, Luis Francisco Mora, 30, Bryan Rivera, 21, Faraz Martin Talab, 27, Jeremy Jonathan White, 39, Samuel Howard Ogden, 24, and Erich Louis Yach, 37, of conspiring together and with other unidentified persons to riot and commit violent criminal acts in January.

"The Defendants are alleged to be affiliated with ANTIFA and are organized into two groups, one originating from Los Angeles and the other from San Diego," reads the charging document. "ANTIFA is known to use force, fear, and violence to further their own interests and to suppress the interests of others. This tactic is referred to as 'Direct Action' and is known to mean acts of violence such as assault, battery, assault with deadly weapons, arson, and vandalism. The alleged object of this conspiracy was to incite and participate in a riot using direct action tactics."

pacific beach antifa demonstration
Eleven antifa suspects in attacks during a January 9 protest in support of former President Donald Trump were charged this week. This photo shows counter-protesters spraying pepper spray at demonstrators during the protest. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty

On January 9, around a hundred Trump supporters gathered on the Pacific Beach pier in San Diego to protest Trump's election loss. They were met with an equally sized group of masked people dressed in black uniforms and riot gear. They carried shields, banners and signs displaying the antifa logo.

The complaint's allegations of assault causing bodily injuries by the suspects match what was captured on videos at the time. Videos show bat-carrying antifa members chasing fleeing participants of the Trump rally and pepper spraying them in the face before punching and kicking them. Bystanders on the beach were also victimized. One video captured a man walking his dog on the boardwalk being assaulted with pepper spray from a person in black next to an antifa flag. Jeremy White was charged with animal cruelty over the incident.

Police eventually declared an unlawful assembly after officers were hit with rocks, bottles and pepper spray by the rioters.

San Diego Police said in a statement last week that 16 people were victimized in eight separate attacks at the riot.

The San Diego District Attorney's Office released a press statement saying that the antifa rioters also targeted minors and a journalist.

"The Antifa-affiliated group surrounded several minors who they believed to be attending the Patriot March, sprayed them with mace and chased them up the boardwalk, shoving one of the minors to the ground. The minor was surrounded and beaten resulting in the minor victim being taken to the hospital to be treated for a concussion," the statement read.

John Cocozza, a 43-year-old local photographer who was there to cover the protest, says he was assaulted multiple times at the riot by people from the antifa side.

"Police were standing 40 feet away and did nothing," Cocozza says. He suffered deep bruising on his back after a rioter from the antifa side hit him with a long wooden stick. "That guy was aiming for my head. I saw him coming and I turned at the last moment."

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Photographer John Cocozza shows bruising from an attack during a January protest. John Cocozza

According to the criminal complaint, "Antifa supporters" had posted on social media calling for a counter direct action against the Trump rally days before. During the riots in 2020 and 2021 in West Coast coast cities like Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles, violent direct actions by antifa and leftist groups were announced and promoted on Twitter.

The complaint alleges that nine out of the 10 suspects wore black clothing, with the 10th suspect wearing black and a red flannel jacket that had "pro Antifa patches." Black clothing and black masks are part of a tactic known as black bloc and is used by antifa groups to evade identification by journalists and law enforcement.

The complaint details how the suspects worked in a coordinated fashion to blind victims with pepper spray before striking them with potentially deadly weapons, punches, kicks and projectiles.

Erich Yach, of San Marcos, California, is charged with felony conspiracy, felony assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with a stun gun or less-lethal weapon and multiple felonious use of tear gas charges. He is currently wanted on an arrest warrant and his bail will be set at $250,000.

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A now-deleted photo of violent antifa suspect Erich Louis Yach. Erich Louis Yach/LinkedIn

Samuel Ogden, charged with felony conspiracy and assault, is from Touchet, Washington. His social media is filled with posts about stopping fascism and one of the groups he likes on Facebook is Antifa International.

Alexander Akridge-Jacobs was arraigned on Thursday and is charged with felony conspiracy and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Alexander Akridge-Jacobs antifa
Alexander Akridge-Jacobs was arraigned on Thursday. Alexander Akridge-Jacobs/Facebook

Jesse Cannon, a rapper who goes by "420 Noize," has been charged with felony conspiracy, felony assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. His social media features symbols of antifa. The criminal complaint alleges the San Diego resident pointed out victims for others to assault and threw a chair, bottle and large drink can at his targets. He also allegedly initiated an attack by shoving a victim to the ground.

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Suspect Jesse Merel Cannon in one of his rap videos. Screenshot/YouTube

Jonah Abraham Bigel is accused in the complaint of striking a victim with a baseball bat. He had already been charged in March with felony assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism over the January 9 riot. A search of his home in February allegedly resulted in police finding a gun and matching baseball bat.

He has other charges stemming from allegedly assaulting the owner of a Trump merchandise booth in San Diego and carrying an illegal pistol in September 2020. His $20,000 bail was covered the same day he was arrested. In November 2020, he allegedly set fire to a San Diego Police Department property using homemade firebombs.

The San Diego chapter of the Socialist Rifle Association, an organization that was linked to the leftist Dayton, Ohio mass shooter, says Bigel's home was searched again by San Diego police and that a judge authorized police to seize "any flags, decorations, or paraphernalia showing association to 'Antifa.'" The SRA also posted information for people to donate to Bigel's GoFundMe, CashApp and Venmo where he is described as a "BLM activist."

jonah bigel fundraise antifa
Jonah Bigel and his partner fundraise on GoFundMe while he is under active criminal investigation for violent crimes. Jonah Abraham Bigel/Screenshot/Twitter, Facebook

Luis Mora, of Culver City, Calif., was arraigned on Monday on charges of felony conspiracy, felony assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and three felony counts of tear gas usage. He was previously arrested at an antifa riot outside the Wi Spa in Los Angeles in July where left-wing protesters rallied to defend a trans woman accused of exposing an erect penis to women and girls. On social media, Mora self-identifies as "anti-fascist."

Luis Francisco Mora antifa
Luis Francisco Mora, of Culver City, California, was arrested over the Pacific Beach antifa riot. Luis Francisco Mora/Facebook

Bryan Rivera, charged with felony conspiracy, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and tear gas usage, was also arrested at the same Wi Spa riot with Mora.

Jeremy White, of North Hollywood, was charged with felony conspiracy, assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of use of tear gas and felony animal cruelty. He was previously arrested in Los Angeles in 2018 at a Black Lives Matter protest meant to intimidate former district attorney Jackie Lacey.

Jeremy Jonathan White antifa
Jeremy Jonathan White was charged with felony conspiracy, assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of use of tear gas and felony animal cruelty. Jeremy Jonathan White/Twitter

Joseph Austin Gaskins, charged with felony conspiracy and assault with a deadly weapon, had been arrested at a Black Lives Matter-antifa riot in August 2020 in San Diego. An officer suffered a concussion after Gaskins allegedly struck him on the head with a cane. He was charged with assault, resisting arrest and possessing a dagger. His current bail is set at $250,000 and he was bonded out on Tuesday.

Faraz Martin Talab, of La Canada Flintridge, is charged with felony conspiracy, assault with a deadly weapon, tear gas usage and vandalism. He was previously arrested for brawling against conservative attendees of an anti-Governor Gavin Newsom rally in March. A relative of Talab told Newsweek they recognize him in footage recorded at the January riot.

Brian Lightfoot, of Los Angeles, is charged with felony conspiracy, multiple counts of use of tear gas and assault with a deadly weapon. He was previously arrested at an anti-police riot in Hollywood in March where three officers were injured by rioters throwing projectiles. The criminal complaint on the January 9 riot says Lightfoot ran after fleeing victims and struck a person on the back with a wooden stick. Photographer Cocozza identifies himself to Newsweek as that victim.

"Video evidence analysis shows that overwhelmingly the violence in this incident was perpetrated by the Antifa affiliates and was not a mutual fray with both sides crossing out of lawful First Amendment expression into riot and violence," reads a press release from the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. San Diego mayor Todd Gloria originally responded to the riot by blaming racism and fascism.

Antifa groups on Twitter have been fundraising "emergency bail" for their comrades using various CashApp and Venmo accounts. The two mobile payment services have become the preferred crowdfunding applications for far-left groups due to the platforms allowing users to operate under pseudonyms and to crowdfund for violent criminal suspects. A spokesperson for Paypal, who owns Venmo, told Newsweek the service allows any legal fundraising regardless of the nature of the criminal allegations.

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A screenshot of a fundraising tweet issued by Corvalis Against Fascism. Screenshot/Twitter

Eight of the nine suspects who were arraigned this week with bail each set between $200,000–$250,000 were bonded out the same or following day.

"I think that goes to show this is an organized group," says assault victim Cocozza. "The fact that these guys are able to post bond so fast—who's paying for that?"

A readiness hearing for those arraigned this week is set for December 15 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 17.