Monday morning in Redding, most citizens were blissfully unaware that their city had experienced a rare and disturbing public sighting at the Shasta County Courthouse: a group of Proud Boys had shown up for Carlos Zapata’s arraignment. Their purpose was unclear, but their presence looked ominous.
The arraignment was related to charges filed by Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett regarding Zapata’s alleged May 4 assault against Nathan Pinkney, a comic/sous chef.
The arraignment itself went largely as Pinkney’s attorney Lisa Jensen predicted: Zapata pleaded non-guilty. His trial court date was set for Aug. 17. Jensen nor Pinkney planned to attend the hearing, because their presence wasn’t necessary.
A few minutes before the proceedings began, there was a bit of jockeying for entrance into the courtroom by a few people claiming they were media, but who hadn’t filled out the requisite paperwork last week. Pretend press person Lori Bridgeford was joined in this predicament by Red White and Blueprint’s ever-present videographer. The court’s compromise was to allow Bridgeford the option to take notes only; no photos or audio.
A News Cafe was about as close to the action as one might get, which didn’t make for the best photo angle, but you get the picture.
Outside, Zapata’s attorney Joseph Tully answered questions posed by KRCR’s Mike Mangas.
Tully said he thought Zapata was innocent, and that he’d be exonerated.
Proud Boys/White Pride
As accurate as Jensen was about the outcome of Zapata’s arraignment, not even Jensen could have foreseen a half dozen or so Proud Boys converging upon the courthouse.
The men were decked out in the Proud Boys’ tell-tale black-and-yellow attire and accessories, including T-shirts adorned with a yellow rooster and the words “Proud Boys”. One man wore a black T-shirt with the initials “PB”, and a baseball cap with the black-and-yellow State of Jefferson emblem.
For some of the men, who wore black shirts adorned with yellow roosters – or maybe more aptly they’re chickens – and face coverings, it seemed the term “Proud Boys’ was a bit of an oxymoron. Their faces were covered, suggesting they may not have been so proud of being a Proud Boy that they could show their faces. One Proud Boy — wearing dark glasses, a camo bucket hat, a Proud Boys neck/face covering, a Proud Boys T-shirt and a Proud Boys/Oath Keepers plastic bracelet — looked directly at my cell phone camera and flashed the white power hand sign a few times.
Which reminds me, do you know who else is fond of that hand gesture? Jon Knight, Red White and Blueprint’s executive producer and super-funder.
If you just fell off a turnip truck and landed in Shasta County and are unaware of what the hell is going on here, Red White and Blueprint is a media company/docuseries/political campaign device/podcast/major money-maker that’s ostensibly about “taking back” Shasta County from its “tyrannical” leaders, specifically, three conservative Republican supervisors. I know. Insane, right? Even so, RW&B has attracted a motley collection of diverse characters with various axes and agendas to grind, all of whom have been careening around in Zapata’s crazy clown car for more than a year now.
Maybe you’ve noticed their vehicle seems to be running out of gas lately. Also, it’s in dire need of a sober driver, a road map and an emergency brake. Plus, some of the clowns are becoming disillusioned, or maybe the better word is enlightened as they realize that the Red White and Blueprint they fell in love with is actually an unreliable dud on a path to nowhere.
Back to Knight. You may recall Professor Shawn Schwaller’s recent reporting on Knight’s participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, including photos of Knight flashing the well-recognized white power sign. The point is, folks like Les and recall leader Elissa McEuen often blanch when they’re referred to as “extremists”. The arrival of the Proud Boys Monday eviscerated their lame assertion that Zapata and friends are not extremists. They are. And the Proud Boys are extreme. And Knight’s use of the white power sign is extreme (extremely racist, for one thing). And it’s extreme that we’ve endured an entire year of the bizarre happenings in Shasta County that have put us on the map, and not in a good way, but as an example of a backwater joke.
The Bashful Proud Boys
When the Proud Boys were asked where they were from, a blond woman stepped in and instructed the men to not answer, as A News Cafe was “fake news”.
When asked why they were at the courthouse, one man said, “You know who we are, and you know what we’re about.”
He was right.
Here’s what we know: The Proud Boys organization is a hate group. The Anti-Defamation League notes that the group promotes the use of violence as a “core tactic”. The abridged, Wikipedia explanation of the Proud Boys describes the group as a “far-right, neo-fascist, exclusively male organization that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States”. The Anti-Defamation League characterizes the Proud Boys as “extremist conservative, alt-lite, overtly Islamophobic and misogynistic, transphobic and anti-immigration; all too willing to embrace racists, antisemites and bigots of all kinds.”
Their presence begged the question: Why were the Proud Boys in Redding at Zapata’s arraignment? A show of force or intimidation? A show of affiliation with Zapata? There’s no mistaking that the Proud Boys were here for Zapata. But why?
What’s obvious is Zapata is affiliated with the Proud Boys, as evidenced by a July 13 social media post in which he responds to one of his followers who questioned Zapata for not recognizing the Proud Boys as a violent organization. Carlos replied, “I assure you that the men that were at the courthouse yesterday are good men.”
The obvious conclusion one could make to Zapata’s statement is that he knew the Proud Boys who’d shown up at the Courthouse Monday, even those disguised with face coverings, and he approves of them.
During the arraignment, a few of the Proud Boys waited outside the courtroom and stood against the wall. When the arraignment was over and the courtroom doors opened, the Zapata entourage streamed by. Then two of the Proud Boys quickly stepped into the formation at the back of the line, Secret Service-like, and followed the Zapatas outside. There, Zapata thanked everyone for coming, and his attorney Tully said a few words.
Of course, the RW&B videographer was capturing it all, no doubt for some future episode.
After the arraignment barber/Cottonwood militia leader/Zapata pal Woody Clendenen took to Facebook to discuss how the process might work in Zapata’s favor. One of Clendenen’s friends came up with something that seemed suspiciously akin to jury tampering.
I suppose we’ll have to trust the court to keep abreast of these matters.
Pity Poor Shasta County Superior Court
No doubt Shasta County Superior Court has seen its share of dramatic wackadoodle cases and met more than its fair share of charismatic law-breakers and rule benders. But Shasta County’s court system’s mettle will be tested mightily in the coming months, between Zapata’s temporary restraining order and the District Attorney’s charges, not to mention whatever legal shenanigans develops with regard to Zapata’s apparent buddies in crime, Elizabeth Bailey and Chris Meagher.
And oh yeah, now we’ve got the Proud Boys on the premises, and it looks like they may have stopped by Tehama County on their way to Shasta County. Over the weekend a small business called Wild Oak gift shop in Red Bluff was hit with a paintball. Only later did the owners notice that the Black Lives Matter sign in their window had been defaced with a Proud Boys/State of Jefferson decal.
Red Bluff is a tiny town, but Wild Oak gift shop and Zapata’s Palomino Room restaurant are not far from one another.
Here’s an interesting coincidence and connection between the Proud Boys and Zapata. The Guardian reported that millions of dollars was raised for the Proud Boys and other far-right groups via a Christian fundraising site called GiveSendGo. If that name rights a bell, it’s because a GiveSendGo site was created to benefit Zapata. The profile photo used is a stale wedding snapshot that depicts the newly blended Zapata family as a vision of American bliss way back before the kids grew into teenagers.
GiveSendGo also raised money for Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal defense.
Machiavellians, sadists and sociopaths
There’s also the matter of Zapata’s attorney, Joseph Tully, who is successful and certainly marches to the beat of his own drummer. However, he has his work cut out for him to deal with Zapata, who cannot seem to keep his memes to himself, his stories straight and his mouth shut. From the beginning of Shasta County’s relationship with Zapata last year, he was always his own worst enemy. He consistently provided his own cringe-worthy press. He still does.
But Tully can be a bit of a lightning rod, too. He expounded upon his legal viewpoints in an interview with the Modesto Bee with a frank statement regarding his opinions about California’s justice system that might not sit well with local courthouse folks: “…especially the ranks of cops, district attorneys and judges” who he characterized as ‘Machiavellians, ‘sadists’ and ‘sociopaths’.”
Zapata’s speedy arraignment
Inside the courthouse in Dept. 10, Zapata’s arraignment was over almost before it began. The courtroom was full, with not one spare seat available. Outside in the hallway many of Zapata’s fanbase stood and waited, while Zapata went inside with his teenage son and daughter, his wife, and what appeared to be other family members, including a young woman with a baby.
What a contrast Monday’s arraignment was to Wednesday’s hearing, when Zapata arrived alone.
Monday’s Zapata lovefest probably provided an endorphin rush for Zapata, but it’s anyone’s guess if the feeling was mutual for his kids, or if they were simply part of the grand façade and complete refabrication of Emiliano Carlos Zapata, to make him look good.
All along we’ve seen the two faces of Zapata.
There’s the vulgar-speaking, sexist, boastful, doxxing, exaggerating strip-club owner who talks gleefully of blood in the streets; who laughs maniacally about getting the last laugh, who claims his love of fighting is second only to his love for his wife and kids; the guy who may have enticed a female employee and her boyfriend to ambush a comic at his place of work while Carlos watched; the man who cannot keep his stories straight, and who is stymied by the task of recounting something as seemingly basic as what happened with that damn glass of water, because he cannot for the life of him recall the same version twice. Splashed. Thrown. Spilled. Provoked. What?!
Then there’s the meek and mild Zapata, the brave warrior who claims he’s a combat veteran who’s seen the ravages of war, who’s still mourning six former Marine Corp buddies who committed suicide a few months after the pandemic started; a devoted family man and faithful husband who only wants to make Shasta County its very best self; who is an accidental hero, foisted by that dang Elissa McEuen into the limelight where he spoke from his heart and never asked to lead this awesome group of dedicated, rational patriots; who truly is in financial hardship so profound because of a misunderstanding, and so here he is, humbled, hat in hand, where he must rely upon the generosity of strangers.
Ultimately it will be up to a judge and jury to decide which Zapata is which.
Supervisor Les Baugh strikes (out) again
District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh once again played the part of an ignorant, ass-kissing fool Monday when he waxed positively on Facebook about Zapata’s arraignment; an event he didn’t attend about a man who’s not exactly bent over backward for Baugh. Rather, Baugh drew his intel from “pictures” he saw online. He quoted his daddy’s words about not keeping a good man down, supposedly referring to Zapata in a woeful case of mistaken identity.
“From the pictures I’ve seen online there appears to be a lot of good men (and women) you just can’t keep down. Even when you brand them all as extremists, fanatics, fringe, they’re not going away.”
He then posted a photo on his page that showed Zapata’s adoring crowd. Front and off-center in the photo are the Proud Boys, who epitomize Baugh’s own words: extremists, fanatics, fringe.
Baugh completed his statement with a quote from George S. Patton, a renowned bigot who was especially hateful toward Blacks, Jews and Asians.
You can read Baugh’s entire Facebook post below.
“—Carlos Zapata at the Courthouse…
While I wasn’t there, I’m told the crowd packed out the courtroom and hallway. They moved Carlos up first to get everyone out. He pled not guilty and they set a court date for August 17. Here’s the reason I’m sharing this… My dad always said “You can’t keep a good man down.” From the pictures I’ve seen online there appears to be a lot of good men (and women) you just can’t keep down. Even when you brand them all as extremists, fanatics, fringe, they’re not going away. You might as well tell all of the more rural areas in Shasta County to go away. Folks, it’s not happening. Here’s my take on the eventual court date; if Carlos is found not guilty, those who support him will be validated and numbers will grow. If Carlos is found guilty, those who support him will feel violated and numbers will grow even more. It’s too late “to put the genie back in the bottle.” What’s happening cannot be undone. People will no longer be contained, limited, or repressed. So I’ll just end with my statement from last week, “I see more folks rising up every day… one, ten, 100, thousands, asking questions… getting involved… investing their own time. In my not so humble opinion, when you try to push people down, they’re even more determined to stand up… just sayin’”
“In case of doubt, push on just a little further and then keep on pushing.”
– George S. Patton”
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First things first. First order of business: Ensure the Proud Boys know they’re about as welcome here as if they wore white smocks, pointed white hoods and came bearing burning crosses.
Second order of business: compassionately convince Red White and Blueprint’s good, rational people that they were duped by Zapata. Assure them there’s no shame in admitting that they had a change of heart about him, just as anyone who’s ever divorced or changed jobs or moved to a new home can attest. Sometimes it takes a while to realize we were mistaken about someone, but when we get to that place, it’s a good time to pack up and move on out. Most of all, remind them that we’re judged by the company we keep, and anyone who attracts hate groups to our town is nobody we want any part of.