A day after he was seen in a video gone viral punching a woman in the face during a protest in Berkeley, a Modesto-area leader of an alt-right group wished everyone a “Happy Easter” on social media.
Nathan Damigo, a student at California State University, Stanislaus, wrote to his followers on Twitter on Sunday morning: “To all my supporters and thousands of new followers, Happy Easter!”
Damigo was seen in a YouTube video posted by WeAreChange.org on Saturday striking a woman, who immediately fell to the ground. The shot of Damigo, in a blue buttoned-down shirt with rolled up sleeves, was 31 seconds into a more than four-minute video taken from the streets of downtown Berkeley.
Seconds after the punch, Damigo and the unidentified woman go out of the frame. About 20 seconds later, she is seen in the video standing against a pillar wincing as she puts her hand to her face. It was not immediately known if there was any interaction between the two before she was struck.
The rally in Berkeley drew hundreds of pro- and anti-Donald Trump demonstrators to the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. Several fights broke out before and during the noon rally, and 20 people reportedly had been arrested by the end of the day.
Damigo did not reply Sunday to a direct message on Twitter or an email to his website, identityevropa.com, from The Bee seeking comment on the incident that has been burning up social media since Saturday night.
Sunday afternoon, Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn wrote in a statement to The Bee:
“The campus received communications last night regarding a serious incident possibly involving one of our students and very troubling actions that may have taken place at a demonstration in Berkeley on Saturday, April 15.
“The university takes these allegations seriously, and as president, I have initiated an immediate investigation both on campus and at Berkeley to verify and confirm details of this incident to determine next steps to resolve this situation. The university has zero tolerance for the use of violence and we will take all of the necessary legal and disciplinary measures to ensure that all students and everyone on campus have a safe and secure environment. While this incident understandably raises many negative emotions and calls for urgent actions, we must also hold true to our American system and principles of justice and due process.
“Please rest assured that we are in constant contact with relevant officials and will take appropriate and timely actions to address this issue. ... ”
The Bee featured Damigo in a story last fall after Stanislaus State students complained when fliers about Damigo appeared on campus using information posted on It’s Going Down, a website dedicated generally to civic rebellion.
Damigo was a junior last fall majoring in social science.
After students in Turlock and others took to social media to complain about Damigo and the fliers, Junn posted a statement on the university website saying all students are entitled to their opinions.
“It must be recognized that the university represents a microcosm of our society at large. As such, we cannot withdraw or suppress the viewpoints of others that do not violate the law or campus policy, nor is it in the best interest of the learning experience to do so,” Junn wrote.
The fliers were taken down and Damigo denied putting them up, but said he had visited other campuses to spread his message and “to make a space safe to talk about things that make people uncomfortable. We want to talk about race, too.”
There was plenty of talk Sunday from People on Twitter and on The Bee’s Facebook page comment area. Some attacked Damigo and others supported him, saying the woman was a protester looking for a fight and initiated contact by going for his throat.
One commenter wrote: “Quit making this woman out to be a victim ... She went looking for trouble and she found it.”
Another wrote: “This coward was avoiding the fight the whole time, but decided to fight a woman. Coward just like the rest of the trolls defending him.”
There have been more than 300,000 views on the YouTube video by We Are Change, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan, independent media organization comprised of individuals and groups working to expose corruption worldwide.” On its YouTube page, it says it covers “everything from global protests, riots and civil unrest, to confrontations with politicians and injustices ...”
The comments and Tweets mirror the discourse and political climate seen and heard across the country during the run-up to last year’s presidential election and what has followed since President Donald Trump has taken office.
Damigo created Identity Evropa, which gives an Oakdale post office box as its headquarters. The site uses Greek and Renaissance male statues as its imagery and includes links to materials touting the superiority of whites and genetic inferiority of other races.
He told The Bee that he was a former Marine released with an other than honorable discharge, served two tours in Iraq and said he suffered a flashback after returning stateside. “I flipped out on this guy. Certainly not my finest hour,” he said. He spent around two years incarcerated for assault and emerged with a new perspective.
“I took the time to reflect, educate myself,” Damigo said in October. “What I want to do is something working on the culture, changing the way people see the world.”