Berkeley police have stepped up patrols around a middle school after a teacher there received anonymous threats that she be fired after she protested against white supremacists - and was seen screaming and punching a neo-Nazi - at rally in Sacramento over the weekend.
If the teacher isn't fired, the threats indicated, students might be harmed.
In an interview Wednesday, the target of the threat - Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher Yvette Felarca - said she blames Donald Trump for the "vile and racist" atmosphere burgeoning in the United States. And she defended any "militant" action taken to stop it, despite concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union that all people - even Trump and white supremacists - are allowed the right to speak their minds.
Felarca was one of the 10 people injured at the rally on Sunday outside the Capitol building held by the Traditionalist Worker Party. Felarca helped organize a protest against the white supremacist group, and was attacked in the process. She suffered a bloody wound on her head, but said on Wednesday that she was OK.
After the melee, she told Sacramento sister-station KCRA with a bandage wrapped around her head, that she supported starting a "militant, integrated movement" to try to stop Nazis and the KKK."
When she's not teaching, Felarca, who works in the city that gave birth to the free speech movement, is a member of the activist group, “By Any Means Necessary,” which states on its website that fascists should not be allowed free speech.
But everyone has a right to speak their minds, according to the ACLU, which has a long history of protecting groups its members despite philisophically.
"While the ACLU denounces the message of racism and white supremacy at the rally, the state and federal constitutions protect everyone’s right to free speech, whether we agree with their opinions or not," senior San Francisco staff attorney Linda Lye said Wednesday in an email. "But the Constitution does not protect violent acts, and that’s true regardless of who commits them and what their views are."
That said, Lye added: "Unfortunately, the racist messages espoused at Sunday’s rally are a stark reminder that we still have much work to do in achieving a racially just society."
But Felarca, who teaches 7th and 8th graders English and Social Studies, defended her actions. In an interview, she said that those who bash immigrants and espouse hate must be shut down. She said that neo-Nazis aren't just speaking, they're stabbing people, bullying them and intimidating them.
But Felarca herself can also be seen getting physical at the rally.
Felarca wouldn't discuss specifically what she did, even after being sent the video, adding that she does "a lot of demonstrating and I yell a lot of things."
It's not clear at this point just exactly who threatened her.
But a group called Pioneer Little Europe USA posted a blog post about Felarca that describes her as a "left-wing terrorist cult leader," and calls for her arrest and termination. Jared Wyand, who shot video of her and lists himself as an "AmericaFirst Crusader," wrote a sympathetic tweet about the man getting punched by Felarca, describing her and her allies as the antagonists and fascists.
In a statement, Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan said that school officials learned on Monday that indeed, a King teacher was involved in the Sacramento protest, and since then, the school and principal received calls and emails from parents and community members.
“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,” Coplan said.
School is not in session, but there are two summer camps on campus, which have since been moved off-site.
Coplan added that the FBI considers the email in question a low-level threat, even though Berkeley police said they are taking this threat seriously.
Felarca said she is on summer break, and didn't ask permission on whether she could attend the rally.