Violence, Fighting Breaks Out Between Trump Supporters, Protesters In Berkeley
In a day when Trump supporters organized peaceful rallies across the nation in support of the president, violence broke out Saturday in the liberal, if not quite tolerant, west coast capital of Berkeley, when Trump fans were reportedly provoked by counter-protesters. At a Berkely park across the bay from San Francisco, protesters from both sides struck one another over the head with wooden sticks and Trump supporters fired pepper spray while police in riot gear stood at a distance, Reuters reports.
Some in the pro-Trump crowd, holding American flags, faced off against black-clad opponents, supposedly members of the infamous Black Bloc, who according to some reports are compensated provocateurs and mercenaries paid to incite violence at all pro-Trump events. An elderly Trump supporter was struck in the head and kicked on the ground.
The good news: the groups were small on both sides – in Berkeley, the total crowd of both supporters and detractors numbered 200 to 300 people, police spokesman Byron White said. Three people were injured in the clash, including one who had teeth knocked out, and police made five arrests. One Trump supporter who took part in the violence came equipped with a baton, a gas mask and a shield emblazoned with the American flag.
White said police did break up fights between the two sides. “We’ve made a number of arrests, it’s one of those things where we monitor the situation and take action as necessary,” he said.
The violence comes a month after mask-wearing protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, shut down a planned speech by provocative commentator Milo Yannopoulos by lighting fires and smashing windows.
Organizers of the pro-Trump Spirit of America rallies in at least 28 the country’s 50 states had said they expected smaller turn-outs than the huge crowds of anti-Trump protesters that clogged the streets of Washington and other cities the day after the Republican’s inauguration on Jan. 20. “There are a lot of angry groups protesting and we thought it was important to show our support,” said Peter Boykin, president of Gays for Trump, who helped organize Saturday’s rally in Washington. In many towns and cities, the rallies did not draw more than a few hundred people.
Berkeley wasn’t the only venue where violence between pro and anti-Trump groups broke out: smaller skirmishes broke out in other parts of the country. In Minnesota, 400 Trump supporters packed the state capitol rotunda in St. Paul and were met by a smaller group of counter-demonstrators, according to the Star Tribune. Scuffles erupted and six counter-protesters were arrested, the newspaper reported. In Nashville, Tennessee, Trump supporters and counter-protesters cursed at each other and occasionally made physical contact, but state troopers broke up the fighting, according to the city’s public radio station.
Most rallies appeared to take place without any disruption or violence, like one outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing. “How can anyone be disappointed with bringing back jobs? And he promised he would secure our borders, and that’s exactly what he’s doing,” said Meshawn Maddock, one of the organizers of the rally which drew about 200 people.
Brandon Blanchard, 24, among a small group of anti-Trump protesters, said he had come in support of immigrants, Muslims and transgender people, groups that have been negatively targeted by Trump’s rhetoric and policies. “I feel that every American that voted for Trump has been deceived,” Blanchard said.
Meanwhile, more than 200 supporters of the president rallied in downtown San Diego. “After this, I think people will take the hint,” said former U.S. Marine David Moore, 42, a participant in the rally. “It’s okay to voice support for the president and the country.”
In Palm Beach, Florida, where Trump is staying this weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort, the president’s motorcade stopped and Trump stepped outside his car to wave at a crowd of dozens of supporters. A smaller group of protesters stood across the street.
In New York, about 200 people demonstrated their support for the president in front of Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. In Washington, about 150 people marched from the Washington Monument to Lafayette Square in front of the White House to show their support for the president