A right-wing effort to oust several county supervisors in Shasta County, California has devolved into threats, fist fights, and… overly sentimental documentary filmmaking?
The Los Angeles Times had the story Wednesday of the tumultuous scene in Redding, California, the largest city in Shasta County and the scene of months of simmering tensions over state public health orders.
The angst has taken the form of an effort to recall three county supervisors who supported COVID-19 restrictions. But it has taken more violent forms as well.
Most recently, supporters of the recall effort are accused of accosting one a local gadfly — a comic who’s skewered the recall online.
“They’re all just bullies, you know,” the comic, Nathan Pinkney, told the Times of his aggressors. “They’re all so sensitive and volatile.”
Pinkney’s main foe, and the focus of the Times’ report, is a local man and militia group member named Carlos Zapata. Zapata (pictured above) is accused of throwing a drink at Pinkney on May 5 after spotting him at a restaurant where Pinkney worked in Redding. Later that night, police say, an acquaintance of Zapata’s punched Pinkney and held a large CO2 bottle at him in a “threatening manner” before leaving the area.
Zapata denied to the Times that he personally laid a hand on Pinkney, and said that as a bar owner, he saw fights “eight times a night” that didn’t make the news.
Redding Police Capt. Jon Poletski acknowledged to TPM that “this is a politically charged event,” but said police wanted to stay out of the fray. “Reports have been turned over to the district attorney’s office, and we’re waiting for their review, if they recommend charges on anyone involved,” he added.
Pinkney has attempted to have Zapata served a restraining order, so far without luck, the Times noted.
But the tensions in Redding go back months — to at least August, when, at a board of supervisors meeting, Zapata raged at COVID-19 restrictions, saying that “right now, we’re being peaceful, and you better be happy that we’re good citizens, that we’re peaceful citizens. But it’s not going to be peaceful much longer.”
Zapata said he wasn’t making a threat, but then added: “Good citizens are going to turn to real concerned and revolutionary citizens real soon.”
That rant was featured in the opening minutes of “Red, White and Blueprint,” a red-blooded documentary series for which Zapata serves as a producer. He also acknowledged fundraising and selling merch for his work: “These documentaries are not cheap to produce,” he told the Times.
Pinkney, who also goes by Nathan Blaze, has skewered the documentary project relentlessly.
“We’re going to do what we got to do,” he said in one video, seemingly mocking the gritty start of Zapata’s work. “We’re going to strap up our dang ol’ boots, ride our horses across an empty field in slow motion.”
Off-screen, Shasta County’s politics have seen a mounting series of confrontations: At a Black Lives Matter rally last year, the “Cottonwood militia,” of which Zapata is a member, showed up armed. “Several came across the street, getting in our face,” activist Keito Obadiah told the Times.
Then, in December, Zapata made another comment — he now says it was totally not a threat — directed at people who informed authorities of businesses violating COVID-19 health orders.
“We know where you live. We know who your family is. We know your dog’s name,” he said.
The following month, in January, two county supervisors — the two who are not the targets of the right-wing recall effort — opened the doors to the county chambers for an in-person meeting audience, earning them a censure from the board for violating the board’s decision to keep the meeting online-only.
The three supervisors who voted for that censure are now the subject of the recall effort.
“Their agenda is, ‘If you don’t agree with us then we have to get rid of you,” one of the targeted supervisors, Leonard Moty, told the Times. “I am concerned for individuals in our community.”
On Sunday, Pinkney released another of his “Red, White and Boomhauer” parodies — this time, focused on “How to threaten people and get away with it.”
“Instead of saying to somebody, ‘I’m going to come down to your workplace and I’m going to assault you in the parking lot outside of your workplace while you’re on the clock — you don’t say that,” Pinkney said, affecting a rural twang and winking at the camera. “What you say is, ‘Well hey, maybe I’ll see you at your workplace later. Maybe we’ll have a conversation about it then.'”