A middle school teacher in Berkeley, California, accused of punching a neo-Nazi during a 2016 protest is arguing that standing up to fascism is not a crime.
Yvette Felarca, 47, was arrested last month for her involvement in a June 2016 anti-fascist demonstration held in Sacramento.
Felarca, who is a member of an activist group called By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), has been charged with felony assault, as well as two misdemeanor counts of inciting and participating in a riot, according to KPIX TV.
Footage of the demonstration appears to show Felarca repeatedly punching a member of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group described as ”a front for neo-Nazi sympathizers” by ABC 10. The taller man is holding up his hands while trying to get police officers to help. Other protesters drag the man to the ground before the police intervene.
At her arraignment last week, Felarca told the court that the charges against her are false and should be dropped.
“Standing up against fascism and the rise of Nazism and fascism in this country is not a crime,” she said. “We have the right to defend ourselves.”
Back in 2016, Felarca told reporters that the goal of the demonstration was to “shut down the Nazi scum.”
“They are organizing to attack and kill us,” she said at the time, according to Al Jazeera. “So we have a right to self-defense. ... That is why we have to shut them down by any means necessary.”
Felarca told the Los Angeles Times back then that her group’s protest was a success because it chased away the neo-Nazis and kept them from recruiting new members.
Felarca’s next scheduled court date is Oct. 4.
She is scheduled to teach at her Berkeley middle school when the students return later this month and cannot be legally fired unless she is convicted of a felony, according to KPIX TV.