Christopher Monzon, a former white nationalist with a history of virulently racist and anti-Semitic comments, was walking through a Hialeah community, canvassing for the Florida Republican Party on the evening of October 23.
The neighborhood, not far from Amelia Earhart Park, is a collection of palm-tree-lined single-story homes, many of them surrounded by white fences and finely manicured landscaping. The community is on the north side of Hialeah, one of the Miami area's most reliably Republican-leaning cities, with a strong contingent of conservative Cuban voters.
As a longtime Hialeah resident, Monzon — once known as the "Cuban Confederate" for his support for Southern states' secession — likely felt at home canvassing in the community.
While handing out political flyers promoting Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Ron DeSantis, Monzon ran into a pair of local residents with violent rap sheets, who were hanging by a new Mercedes Benz SUV with two German shepherd guard dogs in the back seat.
Police records state that Monzon got into an argument with the two men — 25-year-old Javier Jesus Lopez of Hialeah and 27-year-old Jonathan Alexander Casanova of Miami — after they told him they didn't want him in their neighborhood.
The dispute devolved into a brutal beating in which the duo fractured Monzon's eye socket and severely bruised his face, according to Hialeah police. Lopez slammed Monzon into the ground and continued punching him while he was defenseless on the pavement, police say. In the middle of the fight, Casanova allegedly opened his 2021 Mercedes sport utility vehicle and let his dogs out. According to the police records, he encouraged the two German shepherds to attack Monzon while Monzon was being assaulted by Lopez.
Lopez was arrested on scene, but police were unable to immediately locate Casanova, who fled the area in his vehicle before officers arrived.
While Monzon was being treated at HCA Florida Kendall Hospital, a politically charged firestorm erupted after Rubio publicly stated
that Monzon was assaulted because he is a Republican and was wearing garb in support of the senator. Rubio indicated on his social media that the attackers told Monzon that Republicans "aren't allowed in their neighborhood."
Lopez's arrest report made no mention of a political dispute. His mother, Diana Rosa Lopez, told the Miami Herald
that her son has never voted, and that she did not know what political motivations Rubio was referencing.
When Casanova was arrested in Miami Beach two days after the incident, Hialeah police authored a second report that detailed Monzon's sworn allegation that Casanova targeted him because he is a Republican, which was in step with what Rubio had posted earlier in the week.
As of October 27, the publicly available police records include statements from Monzon, but none from Lopez and Casanova. The alleged attackers have not commented on what sparked the confrontation, and the Miami-Dade public defenders' office has not responded to New Times'
request for comment.
The Hialeah Police Department claims that video surveillance footage corroborates Monzon's assertion that he tried to move away from Lopez and Casanova when they confronted him on the sidewalk. (New Times
has submitted a public records request for the video.)
In the days following the incident, Sen. Rubio has criticized the media for bringing up Monzon's past as a white nationalist and his thoroughly reported history of anti-Semitism and racism. Rubio specifically attacked the Miami Herald
over the article in which the paper interviewed Lopez's mother.
"When a republican volunteer is savagely beaten the traditional media treats the victim as the criminal and the criminal as a nice young man who likes fishing & just made a mistake," Rubio tweeted
The controversy comes two weeks before a midterm election in which Rubio is looking to fend off Democratic challenger Val Demings.
On his Instagram page, where he goes by Christopher Monzon Cedeno, Monzon apparently posted solidarity with and praise for the Confederate army as recently as August 2021. Despite his controversial views, he was on the Republican Party of Florida's payroll this past summer, the Huffington Post
A review of Miami-Dade County criminal court records shows that all three men involved in the October 23 altercation have a history of felony charges arising from alleged violent conduct.
In 2016, Casanova was charged with armed robbery and kidnapping; he served probation on the first charge. He was also hit with a felony count of grand theft that year, though the case was dropped by prosecutors.
According to county records, Lopez is on probation stemming from two separate burglary and theft cases dating back to 2017 and 2018. In one of the cases, he was accused of robbing a local business while armed with a knife. The other incident involved his arrest after police found him driving a stolen vehicle.
Last year, Lopez faced another criminal case in which he was charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The charges were dropped by prosecutors and closed out in April 2021.
For his part, Monzon served probation and was ordered to attend anger management classes after he was caught on video
using a Confederate flag as a spear, lunging at rival demonstrators in August 2017. He committed the assault while protesting the City of Hollywood's plans to re-label streets named after confederate generals and a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, according to police records.
Weeks earlier, Monzon had attended the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the rally, Monzon was filmed waving a confederate flag while chanting the racially charged mantra "they will not replace us
Last year, during his failed candidacy for a seat on the Hialeah City Council, Monzon said he had left his long-held post as a member of the white nationalist group Florida League of the South, and that he regretted using slurs against Black and Jewish people. (Among other past comments
, Monzon had allegedly expressed a desire to "lynch negroes," and that African Americans are "lucky to be here
A post by Christopher Monzon in August of 2021 honoring the soldiers of the Confederacy, who fought for the slave-holding southern states during the Civil War.