A San Diego police cruiser
A San Diego police cruiser. Photo by Chris Stone

A man accused of verbally and physically harassing participants at a Black Lives Matter protest in Imperial Beach and punching a Black journalist covering the event is facing felony charges and hate crime allegations, as is a second defendant, the District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Jeffrey Brooks, 38, and Henry Brooks Jr., 32, for the alleged attacks on Marcus Boyd and a group of protesters on June 7.

The defendants — prosecutors declined to comment on whether they are related — are both accused of “verbally and physically antagonizing” protesters marching at the Imperial Beach Pier Plaza.

Henry Brooks Jr. allegedly threw eggs at the demonstrators and the older defendant allegedly sucker-punched Boyd in the head as he was recording the protest, causing him to fall backward and hit his head on the ground.

Both men are charged with misdemeanor counts of interfering with a person’s civil rights via force and/or threats. Henry Brooks is additionally charged with felony assault with a hate crime allegation, while Jeffrey Brooks is charged with felony battery and a hate crime allegation, according to the criminal complaint.

If convicted of all charges, Henry Brooks Jr. faces six years in custody and Jeffrey Brooks faces three years, according to prosecutors.

“Protecting our community from hate crimes is a priority for my office because hate erodes our right to equality and fairness, and it leaves an impact on the victim and everyone who shares the victim’s race,”  District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “We will not tolerate the intimidation or violent interference with protesters or a journalist who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Video footage of the attack was disseminated over social media, and drew the attention of Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, who issued a statement on Twitter, in which he requested that law enforcement “investigate the violent assault on peaceful protesters 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.”

One week later, he issued a more lengthy statement, in which he called on the District Attorney’s Office to file charges, and noted “a long and ugly history of racism” in the city.

Dedina wrote, “For too long, members of our community have remained silent and attempted to silence any discussion of this issue. We must once and for all end racism, racist violence and white supremacy in Imperial Beach and reject the culture of harassment, bullying and violence that continues to permeate civic life and is especially targeted at people of color and the Black residents of Imperial Beach.”

–City News Service