On Sunday morning, Yvette Felarca, a middle teacher from Berkeley, Calif., joined dozens of members of Antifa Sacramento, the local chapter of the Anti-Fascist Action Network, and the By Any Means Necessary coalition to stage a counter-protest against an assemblage of white supremacists at the state capitol building in Sacramento that ended with at least seven people stabbed and nine people hospitalized.
According to officials at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in north Berkeley, where Felarca teaches, after photos and video of Felarca speaking to the media about her pro-immigrant, anti-nationalist activism began to circulate online, an anonymous email was sent to the school threatening to harm students if the teacher was not fired for her activism and role in Sunday’s counter-protest.
“One anonymous email in particular threatened that if certain actions were not taken against the teacher within the week, someone would come to King with the intent to harm students,” the Berkeley Unified School District said in a statement. “The FBI has reviewed the email in question and has determined that by their criteria it should be considered a low level threat.”
Even though the threat of violence against students was deemed to be low-risk by authorities, Berkeley police still increased its patrols around King Middle School and stationed one officer on school grounds.
Felarca and her fellow activists marched down to the state’s Capitol grounds on Sunday where they clashed with rally-goers from the Traditionalist Worker’s Party and the Golden State Skinheads, who, according to their website, had gathered in protest of “globalization and in defense of the right to free expression.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Traditionalist Worker’s Party as a political organization connected to the Traditionalist Youth Network, a group focused on the indoctrination of white high school students into the world of white nationalism.
Around noon Sunday, after a reported 30-odd Neo-Nazis showed up for their event, violence broke out between the two groups, resulting in multiple stabbings and hospitalizations. No arrests have been made (the white supremacists gathered at the Capitol wore masks to the protest).
Police told the Los Angeles Times that the counter-protesters initiated the violence; Felarca was adamant that it was the Neo-Nazis who provoked the violence in the first place.
“Our method is to build a mass, militant, integrated, anti-racist, immigrant rights movement,” Felarca told ABC 10. “Everyone who came here today came here united with one goal and that’s to shut down the Nazi scum, and we did that.”
The Nazis and Fascists are dangerous. They need to be stopped and shut down by any means necessary. We can’t just ignore them because then they grow. They hold these rallies not to just talk to each other, they’re trying to recruit. But today they looked as weak as they are. They had to run hiding.
In the wake of Felarca’s statements, there have been similar calls for her firing popping up on Twitter with many pointing to a particular video in which she can be seen bumping up against and punching a much larger man armed with a metal stick.
Mark Coplan, the public information officer for Berkeley Public Schools, told me that because Felarca was not participating in the anti-protest in her capacity as a teacher, the public school system was not considering whether it should take any sort of action against her employment.
“We’re no different from any other employer,” Coplan said. “We can’t discipline anyone for what they do in their private life. If it were me or the superintendent, that’s be different because we’re spokespeople for the District.”
Coplan said that the California Education Code did include a set of rules stating that if and when a teacher became a convicted felon, actions would be taken to remove their teaching credentials. Felarca has not been charged by police.
In an interview with Berkeleyside, a local news blog, Felarca condemned the threats against children that were being made to spite her, and insisted that the nature of the threats were reflective of the character and political leanings of the people she was protesting.
“I hold Donald Trump responsible for this,” Felarca told Berkeleyside. “His politics of racist demagoguery and hate is inciting these vile threats of violence, even against children. It exposes why Trump and his racist, Nazi, and KKK supporters need to be defeated—and it shows us what Donald Trump’s vision for America really is.”