A notorious Southern California street vendor activist, Edin Alex Enamorado, and seven others were arraigned on several felony charges during a Victorville courtroom hearing on Monday as part of a months-long, multiagency investigation known as “Operation Accountability.”
All eight pleaded not guilty to the charges and are being held without bail until their next hearing on Dec. 26.
Authorities in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office began investigating on Sept. 24 after an assault that took place at a protest in Victorville. The investigation sprawled into other nearby cities in the Inland Empire, resulting in the eight individuals being investigated for other acts of violence in several other cities.
“This investigation began in late September when we investigated a brutal assault that occurred at a protest in the city of Victorville,” Sgt. Tony Romero of the Victorville sheriff’s station said. “The investigation quickly became a multiagency investigation when we discovered our group of suspects were responsible for violent acts during other protests in both San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties.”
The other activists are David Chavez, 28, of Riverside; Edwin Pena, 26, of Los Angeles; Fernando Lopez, 44, of Los Angeles; Gullit Eder Acevedo, 30, of San Bernardino; Stephanie Amesquita, 33, of San Bernardino; Vanessa Carrasco, 40, of Ontario and Wendy Lujan, 40, of Upland.
Last Thursday, several search warrants were issued before the San Bernardino County sheriffs arrested the eight on a range of felony charges, which showed a conspiracy to commit a crime, false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon, according to jail records.
Enamorado, one of the more notorious activists with thousands of social media followers, is known for posting videos on social media condemning what he deems as attacks on minorities, particularly street vendors. He racked up a total of 16 charges, including assault with a deadly weapon.
But according to authorities, most, if not all, of his advocacy is a farce.
“This group manipulates videos and photos on social media in an attempt to make them look like they’re protectors of underrepresented people,” San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus told reporters last week. “However, they use racism to threaten and intimidate their victims, causing them to get on their knees to beg for forgiveness while still assaulting them.”
“What this group does is not protected by the First Amendment. It’s illegal,” he said. “This group is not about substance for the human condition but rather clickbait for cash.”
In a news conference outside the courthouse on Monday, Enamorado’s attorney, Christian Contreras, said law enforcement was “criminalizing First Amendment activity” after he previously dubbed the group the “Victorville Eight.”
“They are criminalizing the right to protest, they are criminalizing the right to call out elected officials, and they are criminalizing their critics,” Contreras told reporters. “This is a playbook straight out of a third-world country. You do not see this in the United States of America.”
As shown in videos on TikTok, supporters of the eight activists called to free the suspects, whom they called the “Justice Eight.” Supporters argued the arrests were part of an effort to “silence” protesters.
Fox News Digital reached out to Contreras for comment but did not hear back by time of publication.