After Minuteman Melee, Protesters Have New Beef

Jennifer Delson and Mai Tran, Los Angeles Times, May 27

An activist opposing illegal immigration who drove his van into a crowd of protesters in Garden Grove will not be charged, police said Thursday, prompting anger from detractors.

A van driven by Hal Netkin hit several people protesting an appearance Wednesday night by James Gilchrist, whose Minuteman citizen patrol last month monitored the Mexican border in Arizona for illegal crossers.

Netkin, 69, is a former secession candidate for City Council in the San Fernando Valley whose websites oppose illegal immigration and the proliferation of Mexican government-issued identification cards.

Netkin was released after police watched a videotape that showed protesters surrounding the vehicle, banging on it and refusing to move, said Garden Grove Police Lt. Mike Handfield. About 300 protesters at the scene were “trying to intimidate him and refused to let him pass,” Handfield said. By night’s end, five demonstrators had been arrested.

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The protesters blocked the entrance and tossed soda cans and cans packed with marbles at police and attendees, Handfield said. They kicked, banged and threw rocks at cars; some wore latex gloves and hoods so they wouldn’t be identified by police, Handfield said. Some attendees decided not to enter the building because they feared violence.

Some of the protesters paid $5 for admission to the event and alerted protesters outside when attendees were leaving the building.

Arrested were Fernando Chirino, 23, of Irvine; Kurt Isobe, 18, of Laguna Beach; Juan Obed Silva, 26, of Buena Park; Shane Sparks, 21, of Altadena; and Sarmiento Valid, 24, of Los Angeles. They face various charges, including assault with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, Handfield said.

Lafferty said the arrests were unfair.

“What’s sticking in the craw of the protesters is that they would quickly let a man go without even charging him, whereas the students and protesters for much less serious matters were charged and there is no proof, as far as I can tell, that they did anything anyway,” Lafferty said.

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