Thousands assembled in Berkeley, California on Sunday for a massive “Rally Against Hate” intended to counter an ultimately meek far-right protest, with clashes among the two groups leading to the arrests of at least ten people.
A number of confrontations broke out at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park starting around noon. Counter-demonstrators dramatically outnumbered Trump supporters, engulfing their rivals and shouting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.” According to the Los Angeles Times:
Police in riot gear fired a rubber bullet at one demonstrator who attempted to cross a barricade into the park, which was closed to the public. Some protesters set off purple smoke bombs.
Dozens of anti-facists protesters, known as antifa, pounced when Joey Gibson, founder of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, showed up with his crew. Antifa protesters beat one man with a shield and another person wearing an American flag.
Some of the antifa protesters threatened to break the cameras of anyone who filmed them, including journalists. One reporter tweeted that he had been pepper sprayed in one scuffle.
The rally happened a day after a much-hyped event called Patriot Prayer—to be attended by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and right-wing extremists—failed to coalesce across the bay in San Francisco, leaving instead the streets filled with counter-protesters. Sunday’s rally was to be the provocatively titled “No to Marxism in America,” seemingly designed to needle Berkeley’s famously liberal populace. Concerns about violence were not unwarranted, since chaos erupted following the ultimately canceled visit of right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos back in February.
As was the case on Saturday, Sunday’s rally turned out to be minimally attended. According to Newsweek, the lack of far-right adversaries prompted many of the Antifa attendees to transfer their ire to the heavy police presence in the area:
Speaking from the back of a flatbed truck, one AntiFa speaker urged those gathered to “fight the white supremacists who wear the uniform.” Those uniformed officers did not respond to those provocations, retreating back from Civic Center Park after it became clear that the right’s anti-Marxist brigades would be a no-show. AntiFa took this as a victory. “Fuck the police,” some chanted. Others unfurled a banner: “Fuck this shit,” it said. Eventually, the AntiFa legions marched to nearby Ohlone Park, for a sort of victory celebration.
The violence that did occur was in the realm of tense shoving-matches, surrounding such figures as far-right wingers Johnny Benitez and Joey Gibson, who provoked outbursts when they arrived. According to the Times, Antifa protesters beat one man with a shield and another person wearing an American flag.
City officials denied at least three requests for permits from demonstrators from both political sides, which led organizers of both far right-wing rallies to ask supporters not to show up out of concern for their safety.