Daniel Weznek was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for driving through an immigrant justice protest yesterday (October 26).
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Brea Police Department arrested Weznek after he drove his car into a crowd of nearly 200 activists outside Representative Ed Royce’s (R-CA) office. Andrew Cohen of Unite Here Local 11, a labor union that helped organize the action, told The Associated Press that the activists marched to demand Royce "support an existing temporary immigration program for citizens of several Central American countries." Many of the union’s recent Facebook posts advocate to protect Temporary Protected Status, which the U.S. government can grant to undocumented nationals of certain countries that the Department of Homeland Security deems "unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately." Royce frequently votes against programs like these. The congressman’s spokesperson told the Times that Royce was on a flight from Washington D.C. to California at the time of the incident.
The department described its account of the incident in a statement posted today (October 27):
Video published by The AP shows Weznek trying to drive through a crosswalk filled with protesters. One demonstrator jumped on the car’s hood as it moved, and others in the vicinity can be heard screaming. The AP says the car moved about 50 feet before stopping in the middle of a nearby intersection, at which point police cleared the intersection and brought Weznek into custody.
“My only thought is that I just want him to stop,” Claudia Aguilera, the demonstrator who jumped on the hood, told the Times. “I’m like, if I just jump on the car, he’s going to stop. He did stop, thank God, because if he didn’t stop, he would [have] run over a lot of people that [were] crossing the street. It was so quick.”
The department’s statement says that "no one was seriously hurt." David Huerta of co-organizer SEIU United Service Workers West union disputes that claim. He told The AP that six people were taken to an area hospital. He describes those people as "victims of what appears to be a deliberate and hateful crime.”
According to the aforementioned statement, the department released Weznek "pending further investigation." The department declined to release a booking photo. A woman who answered The AP’s call to a number connected to Weznek would not let the outlet speak with him.
"I condemn in the strongest possible terms any and all violence," Royce said in a statement. "There is no room for physical confrontation or actions that put lives at risk. My staff and I remain committed to meeting with all constituents who wish to voice their opinions in a civil and respectful manner.”
California law regards assault with a deadly weapon as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the weapon and victims’ injuries. Sentences for crimes like Weznek’s, which didn’t involve a firearm, range from less than a year in county jail to four years in state prison.
Weznek’s actions come just over two months after White supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. drove a Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people protesting against White hate groups’ "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fields faces charges for second-degree murder and malicious wounding for killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others during the attack.