Three people were stabbed after a pro-Armenian rally blocked street traffic for a short time in Fresno, police said.
Fresno police arrested Jaime Fonseca, 41, late Wednesday on suspicion of committing the non-fatal stabbings. Police said multiple witnesses took photos and videos of Fonseca’s vehicle license plate, which led to his quick apprehension.
The incident took place at the busy intersection of East Nees Avenue and North Blackstone Avenue in east Fresno near two large shopping malls about 6:40 p.m. Wednesday.
About 150 protesters, carrying Armenian flags and two large anti-Turkish banners, spread across half the intersection and stopped traffic.
As car horns blared, a man exited his vehicle with a knife and what police described as a “wooden baton” resembling a broomstick without a handle, and he headed toward the front of the blockade.
Video shows the man attempting to destroy the signs with both weapons as protesters try to stop him. Police said that as the man slashed at the banner, he stabbed one person in the right hand and another on the outer right forearm.
It’s unclear when and how the third person was stabbed, but all three victims were taken to a hospital with injuries and expected to survive.
“There were no statements made regarding race or indicating this is a hate crime,” Fresno police said in a statement. Authorities did not confirm Thursday whether Fonseca had been criminally charged.
It appears the attacker took umbrage with the blocking of traffic and repeatedly told protesters to move “out of the way,” according to a video posted to Twitter. "The suspect walked back to his vehicle visibly upset, yelling at the protesters," police said.
"I was shocked to hear what happened," said Fresno-based lawyer Marshall D. Moushigian, who describes himself as an active member of the Armenian American community in Central California. "We've faced discrimination here for over 100 years. This person did seem to be unhinged."
According to the Armenian Museum of Fresno, the community numbers about 45,000 in Fresno County and about 100,000 in the Central Valley with roots dating to 1878.
"The reason we are out there protesting is because we are fearful of a second genocide," said Moushigian, who wrote an op-ed this month for the Fresno Bee warning of the dangers of appeasing Turkey. "We're screaming as loudly as we can so we can be heard, and it's hurtful that something like this would happen."
Those protests have also blocked roadways, including the 101 Freeway.
Armenian Americans have been protesting a deadly conflict taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus region known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a small area recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan but governed and populated mostly by ethnic Armenians, who refer to it as the Republic of Artsakh.
Tens of thousands of Armenian Americans and supporters, if not more, held one of their largest protests Oct. 11, marching from Pan Pacific Park to the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills.
None of those protests resulted in violence.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.