Street vendor activists accused of violence and assault remain in jail

A Superior Court judge on Thursday again denied bail to a group of activists dubbed the “Justice 8” who have been in jail for two weeks facing charges stemming from protests in San Bernardino County and elsewhere. .

Prosecutors allege that Edin Alex Enamorado and other street vendor advocates have carried out intimidation tactics, appearing at workplaces and homes of people targeted by their social media campaigns, which aim to publicly shame the customers they attack. to sellers or those who make racist comments.

Enamorado, 36, and seven other activists were arrested Dec. 14 amid what authorities described as a months-long assault investigation following a Sept. 3 protest in Los Angeles County and another in Victorville on September 24. Inland Empire cities, including Upland, Fontana and Pomona, who maintained that the suspects were involved in other “violent acts during protests” in those cities.

On his Instagram accounts, which have hundreds of thousands of followers, Enamorado has shared videos of street vendors being harassed, elected officials making racist comments, and police making violent arrests.

But San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said after their arrest that members of the group had manipulated videos to appear to be crusaders. And in doing so, Dicus said, they harassed the subjects of their videos to gain attention, views and financial gain.

“This group is not about substances for the human condition,” Dicus said during a press conference earlier this month, “but more about clicks for cash.”

Charges against the group include false imprisonment, kidnapping, assault, vandalism and illegal use of tear gas, according to court documents.

In addition to Enamorado, those arrested were his partner, Wendy Luján, 40, of Upland; David Chavez, 28, of Riverside; Stephanie Amesquita, 33, of San Bernardino; Gullit Eder Acevedo, 30, of San Bernardino; Edwin Pena, 26, of Los Angeles; Fernando López, 44, of Los Angeles; and Vanessa Carrasco, 40, of Ontario. They have all been accused of carrying out violent attacks against three victims, according to court documents.

Luhan was not in court Thursday; He is scheduled to appear next week.

Prosecutors have repeatedly tried to keep individuals behind bars, saying they pose a danger to the public. Last week, a judge ordered the group detained without bail. At a hearing Thursday, the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office made the same argument.

Judge Melissa Rodríguez granted bail to only one defendant: Acevedo. The schoolteacher was ordered not to have contact with anyone else involved in the case, including the alleged victims. Acevedo will have to wear an ankle monitor and stay off social media.

“No contact means no contact,” Rodriguez said.

The rest of the defendants were detained without bail as they were considered a danger to the community and to the victims of the case. Prosecutors referenced an image of a piñata with a victim’s face superimposed on the object. Another victim fears protesters will show up at her home and has gone into hiding, according to prosecutors. A new hearing was scheduled for January 3.

Enamorado’s attorney, Nicholas Rosenberg, said outside court Thursday that he disagreed with the judge’s assessment of his client and called Enamorado an important member of the community.

“Look, the fight is not over,” Rosenberg said.

Carasco’s attorney, Damon Alimouri, called the court’s no-bail decision “outrageous” and unconstitutional.

Enamorado started out as a political organizer but is known for his activism around street vendors. In June, he posted a since-deleted TikTok video showing the mess created after a pair of food carts overturned outside a concert at SoFi Stadium.

Enamorado told The Times that he did not witness the incident, but vendors told him that a stadium worker ordered them off the street and then lost his temper when they ignored his directives. The worker, who SoFi Stadium officials said was employed by a third-party vendor, was later fired.

In September, Enamorado organized a large protest on the steps of the Santa Barbara Police Department after a viral video showing a racist exchange between a white woman and a Latino man shook the city.

He and the other members of the group face 17 charges in San Bernardino County, most of which are felonies, stemming from two incidents in September. On Sept. 3, prosecutors say several members chased a security guard into a supermarket and pepper-sprayed him while he was on the ground. They then hit the guard, authorities said. On September 24, Enamorado and the others organized a protest after a viral video showed a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy throwing a girl to the ground during a fight at a high school football game.

Lawyers representing Enamorado and the other defendants say they were protesting police violence and harassment of a street vendor at the time.

Times staff writer Jeremy Childs contributed to this report.

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