Their faces hidden behind black bandannas and hoodies, about a 100 anarchists and antifa — “anti-fascist” — barreled into a protest Sunday afternoon in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.
Jumping over plastic and concrete barriers, the group melted into a larger crowd of around 2,000 who had marched peacefully throughout the sunny afternoon for a “Rally Against Hate” gathering.
Shortly after, violence began to flare: a pepper-spray wielding Trump supporter was smacked to the ground with homemade shields. Another was attacked by five black-clad antifas, each windmilling kicks and punches into a man desperately trying to protect himself. A conservative group leader retreated for safety behind a line of riot police as marchers chucked water bottles, shot off pepper spray, and screamed “fascist go home!”
All told, the Associated Press reported at least five individuals were attacked. Fourteen arrests were made throughout the afternoon, when anti-hate and left-wing protesters largely drowned out the smaller clutch of far-right marchers holding a “No to Marxism in Berkeley” rally in the park. An AP reporter witnessed the assaults.
Although Berkeley police had kept a strict perimeter around the area in the beginning of the afternoon, including enforcing an emergency city rule outlawing sticks and other potential weapons from the park, the antifa protesters largely routed the security checks.
Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood told the AP the decision was strategic — a confrontation was sure to spark more violence between the protesters and police.
“No need for a confrontation over a grass patch,” Greenwood said.
Joey Gibson was among the right-wing activists assaulted on Sunday. Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer group, had canceled an event in San Francisco the day before. On Sunday, Gibson was chased from the park, eventually running behind a group of police officers. Although he was seen being taken into custody, on Sunday the Patriot Prayer Facebook account stated “Joey is NOT in jail, and has NOT been arrested. He was cuffed and released after being shoved through the police line.”