On February 3rd, 2018 a group of white nationalist and other right wing extremists descended on Chicano Park in a second attempt to harass and intimidate the community in an event that has dubbed ‘Patriot Picnic 2.0’. Chicano Park is located in the working class community of Barrio Logan, San Diego directly under the Coronado Bridge; it’s historically been a Chicano (Mexican-American) neighborhood Southeast of downtown San Diego and for decades has been the cultural epicenter for the Chicano community locally and across the region. However, in recent years a small but vocal group of bigots and racists have attempted to warp and misconstrue the public perception around the park’s murals which feature depictions of Mexica folklore, Mexican history, contemporary Chicano Civil-Rights battles as well as various historical figures from Mexico and all across Latin America. This small group of individuals have attempted to paint the park as unpatriotic, un-american & anti-white among other numerous, slanderous accusations. Organized by a group who called themselves the ‘Bordertown Patriots’, ‘Patriot Picnic 2.0’ drew a small conglomerate of local right-wing groups, but was largely made up of loose set of out-of-towners from other cities and regions; with some coming as far as Northern California, Arizona, Portland Oregon and even Washington State in an attempt to boost the events low turnout numbers. Much like a smaller, prior unsuccessful rally from back in September 2017, this second intrusion was once again in protest of the park’s storied murals; in addition to the group’s newest faux grievance of the park’s flying of the flag of Aztlán. In fact, one of the stated goals of the group was to raise the U.S. flag in the park. Even though it was already widely known by the community and those who actually frequent the park regularly that a U.S. flag is already flown next to a Chicano veterans memorial (ironically right next to the very same space the ‘Bordertown Patriots’ had decided to occupy).
This sad group of white supremacists, bigots and right-wing fascists ultimately received a full police escort in and out of the park from the SDPD in full riot gear so that they could hold a hate rally, toss racial slurs; as well as threaten and antagonize a mostly Black & Brown community. In a peak display of white privilege, they were not only allowed to carry weapons, but were practically given a free pass to invade the community of Barrio Logan for the sole purpose to harass and antagonize the Chicano community. In the end, while no violence took place inside the park as result of the protest, a Black Man named Frederick Jefferson, unrelated to the protest was brutalized & arrested after defending himself from an assault by the SDPD who mistook him for a park protector once white nationalists began to exit the park. This confusion was quickly spun by the SDPD and local media in an attempt to not only railroad Jefferson, but paint park protectors and the surrounding neighborhood at large as hostile and purveyors of the violence. Frederick Jefferson was assaulted by a racist cop, Matthew Ruggerio and in the end was convicted of assault on a officer and sentenced to seven years in prison. He committed suicide while in custody shortly after being sentenced later that year. While local media failed Frederick Jefferson with news coverage sounding more like stylized police reports, parroting police narratives, it also failed Barrio Logan as well. Painting the community as angry and violent; while handling white nationalist with velvet gloves, serving up soft, sympathetic coverage and even giving some of its attendees free publicity in a sprawling op-ed courtesy of the Union-Tribune. However, one media outlet by far had the most principled, accurate and most importantly truthful reporting of any in the region. That unlikely outlet is none other than the Southwestern College Sun, the student newspaper of Southwestern College.
In our latest installment of Step Off Radio, we interview local student journalist Katy Stegall of the Southwestern College Sun. Stegall’s coverage of last year’s hate rally staged by white nationalists in Chicano Park has by far been most the nuanced and critical analysis of the Chicano Protests out of any news media outlet in the San Diego region. With not one news media outlet in the entire San Diego region taking the same time and dedication to accurately report the details of what transpired that day. Katy Stegall is not only an award winning student journalist, she has likewise amassed various praise and accolades stemming from her tireless coverage of the Chicano Park protests and the subsequent trial of Frederick Jefferson as well. We were fortunate enough to sit down with Katy as she recounted her experiences first covering this story nearly a year ago and its progression from covering what was initially supposed to be a one time event; to the months long process of reporting one of the most closely followed trials in the city at the time. Of course being a team effort, with handful of members at The Sun putting countless hours into their reporting, Katy details the nuances and daunting obstacles the news team at The Sun had to overcome to deliver some of the most pressing, important journalism in San Diego. It is a story of dedication and perseverance from student journalists, police brutality and intimidation from an embittered and troubled police department as well as indifference and apathy from a jaded and cynical local news media culture which all culminates into one amazing story chronicling one student newspaper’s quest to uncover the truth.
With that said, we are proud to present the fifth episode of Step Off! Radio. We hope that you all enjoy our discussion with the marvelous Katy Stegall of the Southwestern College Sun.
Featured below is our full interview with Katy Stegall. Apple users, be sure to subscribe to the Step Off! Radio podcast on the official podcast app. to get episodes directly on your Apple device.