UPDATED: Feb. 2, 1:30 p.m.
A petition calling for the Marin County district attorney to reverse her decision and prosecute a young man who posted swastika stickers in Fairfax has garnered close to 1,000 signatures.
The petition grew out of an incident in November when a 19-year-old from Livermore was caught on camera posting swastika stickers in the downtown area with the words “We are everywhere.” The incident was recorded and posted to social media by 21-year-old Noah Mohan. During a verbal confrontation, the Livermore man said he didn’t believe in the existence of the Holocaust.
On Jan. 6, Marin DA Lori Frugoli announced that there was “insufficient evidence” of a criminal act and her office would not be prosecuting.
“In order to file criminal charges, our office is ethically obligated to ensure that the conduct meets the elements of a criminal offense,” Frugoli’s statement read.
Fairfax resident Mark Solomons, who created the petition, said he strongly disagrees with Frugoli’s conclusion that there wasn’t enough evidence. He believes that the nearly 10-minute video posted on Instagram serves as more than enough proof.
“We can see who the person is,” Solomons said. “It is clear that he has been identified as the person who placed these stickers. This is an individual spreading hate.” He said he wants Frugoli to further explain how her office came to the determination not to prosecute.
Solomons also said recent events — such as the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, as well as the fear of widespread violence from right-wing and antisemitic groups — also were drivers for creating the petition.
“Witnessing this attack on our federal government made me angry and powerless, but I decided there was something I could do here locally that would make a difference,” said Solomons. “If we can’t use a circumstance of someone placing a Nazi symbol as a catalyst to attempt to change someone’s mind through the court system, how can we expect to influence people with these ideologies?”
The petition calls for the Livermore man to be charged with “vandalism, trespassing and hate crimes.”
Solomons, who works at Community Action Marin, a nonprofit that serves low-income families, said he found out about the incident through Mohan’s mother, with whom he had worked on Bernie Sanders’ two presidential bids. He is also a member of Rodef Sholom in San Rafael.
A hate crime, according to the state attorney general’s website, is perpetrated “against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group.” That differs from a “hate incident,” which includes “distributing hate material in public places” and is considered protected speech under the First Amendment.
However, the state says a hate incident may be classified as a crime if it “starts to threaten a person or property.”
In response to a query from J., the Marin DA’s office on Feb. 2 said it was “not providing a statement at this time.” It referred to an anti-hate forum scheduled on Feb. 4 where the DA’s office would be “addressing concerns and questions submitted at [or before] the forum… in determining whether or not to file a hate crime/incident.”
The virtual event will feature Seth Brysk, the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Pacific regional director, Senior Rabbi Susan Leider of Congregation Kol Shofar of Tiburon and Morgan Blum Schneider, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ Holocaust Center, among other panelists.