Hate crime-related charges have been filed against two men who allegedly assaulted protesters and a Black journalist during a racial justice rally in Imperial Beach, the District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.
Jeffrey Brooks, 38, and Henry Brooks Jr., 32, have warrants for their arrest due to their alleged involvement in the attack at the Imperial Beach Plaza on June 7.
The men face charges of felony assault and battery with hate crime allegations. If convicted on all charges, Jeffrey Brooks faces three years in prison while Henry Brooks Jr. faces six years.
But the victims in the case said they don't agree either men should get prison time if found guilty for the assault labeled as a hate crime by the district attorney.
"It’s a good thing that he learned that it is a hate crime, but I’m not interested in people going to prison," Marcus Boyd told NBC 7. "He hurt my glasses, I got them fixed. My daughter’s really mad at him, but I’m not. I’m not hateful. Somebody like that is going to get hurt in prison."
Boyd went on to suggest that it may be better to prosecute hate crimes similar to property damage.
"When somebody punches somebody, maybe the same debilitating fines should occur, but stopping them from being a productive member of society if they are redeemable -- prison doesn’t redeem people, so until we can fix that problem, I’m not sure it’s a fix for any problem. The court system itself is a punishment, so just going through this case, he’s going to have a strong punishment. Watching how people get treated in court is very demeaning, it’s humbling, and it usually sets people straight, I think. More so, than jail itself."
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Boyd hopes the DA's prosecution helps people realize that attacks on peaceful protesters aren't OK.
Another victim who was hit by eggs agrees with Boyd's stance.
"Jail is not the answer for hate crimes. It needs to be a whole reform," Lauren Gaw of the Imperial Beach People’s Alliance said. "I’m not out for vengeance, I’m out for justice for Black lives because minorities matter and people matter."
On the day in question, what started with the verbal incitement of protesters escalated into physical attacks. According to the DA's Office, while the protesters peacefully demonstrated, Henry Brooks Jr. threw eggs at the crowd. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Brooks walked up to a journalist -- who was recording the scene at the time -- and sucker-punched him in the head.
The force of the punch caused the journalist to fall backward, landing head-first into the ground, prosecutors said.
According to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the man didn't require medical attention.
SDSO said, during their investigation into the incident, deputies had made contact with a person believed to be a suspect, but the victim and other witnesses could not identify him.
The day after the attack, which was recorded on video and shared on social media, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina called on the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to investigate "the violent assault on peaceful protestors at the Imperial Beach Pier Plaza this afternoon."
"We cannot allow the ugly legacy of violent racism and white supremacy to continue in our beach city," the mayor said in a statement posted on Twitter.
It took months for charges to be filed in the case, but District Attorney Summer Stephan said investigating the case was a "priority for my office."
"We will not tolerate the intimidation or violent interference with protesters or a journalist who are exercising their First Amendment rights,” she said in a statement.
The Imperial Beach protest was one of many demonstrations throughout San Diego County that weekend to oppose racism, inequality within the justice system and police brutality against people of color. The protests -- mirrored by hundreds occurring across the county -- followed the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed while gasping for air underneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
The District Attorney's Office has set up an online form and hotline for reporting suspected hate crimes. The tool was created to combat hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but can be used for any tips related to discrimination.
To report a hate crime, residents are advised to contact their local law enforcement agency or use the online reporting form here. Tips can also be submitted via the Hate Crimes Hotline at (619) 515-8805.
A hate crime is defined as an act against another person that is motivated by prejudice against a person’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.