Black-Clad Anarchists Storm Berkeley Rally, Assaulting 5

| Strategize!

Above Photo: majka czapski/ flickr

Note: Popular Resistance has published a series of articles on how the movement for racial, economic and environmental justice should respond to bigoted racists who chant Nazi slogans and consider themselves fascists. Below is an Associated Press article describing a right wing protest in Berkeley, CA. The right wingers were vastly outnumbered with 2,000 counter protesters showing up to their 100 protesters. It was a clear win for those opposed to racism, facism and extremism. Then 100 or so black-clad people showed up who self-identified as anarchists (of course, we do not know whether these people were right wingers, undercover police or anarchists).. They attacked four of the right wing protesters and their violence became the story of the day. We were not on the ground, and would welcome some on-the-ground descriptions of what happened. We report on this story because it may be a useful event for discussion. Were attacks on the right wing protests a smart tactic? Did they aid the movement against racism and fascism? What are the best practices when dealing with extremist protests?

Black-clad anarchists on Sunday stormed into what had been a largely peaceful Berkeley protest against hate and attacked at least five people, including the leader of a politically conservative group who canceled an event a day earlier in San Francisco amid fears of violence.

The group of more than 100 hooded protesters, with shields emblazoned with the words “no hate” and waving a flag identifying themselves as anarchists, busted through police lines, avoiding security checks by officers to take away possible weapons. Then the anarchists blended with a crowd of 2,000 largely peaceful protesters who turned up to demonstrate in a “Rally Against Hate” opposed to a much smaller gathering of right-wing protesters.

Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood defended how police handled the protest, saying they made a strategic decision to let the anarchists enter to avoid more violence.

Greenwood said “the potential use of force became very problematic” given the thousands of peaceful protesters in the park. Once anarchists arrived, it was clear there would not be dueling protests between left and right so he ordered his officers out of the park and allowed the anarchists to march in.

There was “no need for a confrontation over a grass patch,” Greenwood said.

Among those assaulted was Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer group, which canceled a Saturday rally and was then prevented from holding a news conference when authorities closed off the public square Gibson planned to use. Gibson has denounced racism and said he launched Patriot Prayer after several supporters of President Donald Trump were beaten at a Trump campaign stop in San Jose, California, last year. Authorities nonetheless feared the group’s event could attract white nationalists, as it has in the past.

After the anarchists spotted Gibson at the Berkeley park, they pepper-sprayed him and chased him out as he backed away with his hands held in the air. Gibson rushed behind a line of police wearing riot gear, who set off a smoke bomb to drive away the anarchists.

Separately, groups of hooded, black-clad protesters attacked at least four other men in or near the park, kicking and punching them until the assaults were stopped by police. The assaults were witnessed by an Associated Press reporter.

Police in the San Francisco area have been braced for violence and trying to prevent protests that draw left-wing and right-wing opponents since the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 that occurred during a rally of white supremacists.

Berkeley authorities did not issue a permit for Sunday’s gathering of right-wing protesters. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin had urged counterprotesters to stay away from Civic Center Park.

The right-wing event had been canceled by organizer Amber Cummings, who encouraged supporters to stay away but said she would attend on her own.

By mid-afternoon Cummings had not appeared and left-wing protesters far outnumbered right-wing supporters.

Earlier in the day, police had set up barricades around park and checked people who entered to make sure they did not have prohibited items like baseball bats, dogs, skateboards and scarves or bandanas they could use to cover their faces.

Officers arrested 13 people, most for having prohibited items, Greenwood said.

At one point, an anti-rally protester denounced a Latino man holding a “God Bless Donald Trump” sign.

“You are an immigrant,” Karla Fonseca said. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Several other people also yelled at the man, who said he was born in Mexico but supports Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border.

Police pulled one supporter of President Donald Trump out of the park over a wall by his shirt as a crowd of about two dozen counter-demonstrators surrounded him and chanted “Nazi go home” and pushed him toward the edge of the park. At least two people were detained by officers for wearing bandannas covering their faces.

Anti-rally protesters chanted slogans “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA” and carried signs that said: “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate.”

A separate group of counterprotesters had assembled earlier Sunday at the nearby University of California, Berkeley campus and then marched park to merge with the anti-rally protesters who had already gathered there.

Both Cummings and Gibson have disavowed racism and say they wanted to hold the rallies to bring conservative voices to the liberal San Francisco Bay Area.

Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

However, the violence in Charlottesville led San Francisco area police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.

  • DHFabian

    On a side issue, we’ve noticed since Occupy that reports about protests, etc., have excluded legitimate “economic justice” as a factor, inevitably portraying the poor as no one worse off than low wage workers. We lost over 2 million jobs just since 2000, in a country that has no real welfare aid system, yet remain silent about the conditions suffered by the jobless poor.

    We’ve seen a growth of fascism in the US since at least the 1980s. What’s happening now really isn’t “all about race,” yet race has been used to drown out any other discussion. We don’t all agree on how to respond to what is, essentially, the hard right takeover of the government. Antifa isn’t an organization, doesn’t have a platform, newsletter, and membership dues. It’s a response. Wagging your finger and scolding, “bad antifa” is utterly irrelevant.

  • Aquifer

    Well let’s see ..

    “Earlier in the day, police had set up barricades around park and checked people who entered to make sure they did not have prohibited items like baseball bats, dogs, skateboards and scarves or bandanas they could use to cover their faces.”

    But “The group of more than 100 hooded protesters, with shields emblazoned
    with the words “no hate” and waving a flag identifying themselves as
    anarchists, busted through police lines, avoiding security checks by
    officers to take away possible weapons.” and “blended into the crowd ..”

    “After the anarchists spotted Gibson at the Berkeley park, they pepper-sprayed him and chased him out as he backed away with his hands held in the air.”

    “Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood defended how police handled the protest, saying they made a strategic decision to let the anarchists enter to avoid more violence.
    Once anarchists arrived, it was clear there would not be dueling protests between left and right so he ordered his officers out of the park and allowed the anarchists to march in.”

    OK, so we have police who were checking for bandanas – but apparently not pepper spray, who allowed a bunch of black clad hooded folks to march in and “blend into the crowd”, then left – and the reason was because “it was clear there would not be dueling protests between left and right”

    What is wrong with this picture?

  • Aquifer

    You seem to have no idea at all how to respond …

  • kevinzeese

    Not sure what you are reading but I see lots of reports on economic justice. Our movement is about economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.

  • kevinzeese

    So, were they actually police? Or, were the police overwhelmed by 100 anarchists?

  • Aquifer

    You tell me …

  • mwildfire

    goddamn right! There’s a strong smell of fish here.

  • mwildfire

    next question–did the police arrest those doing the violence, and if so, do we have information about who they were? I know there are left wing people endorsing violence against Nazis. But HOW MANY OF THESE PEOPLE ARE UNDERCOVER, whether working for the police, or some private outfit–George Soros according to my libertarian neighbor, who says Soros funds extremists on bot sides to try to get a race war going to keep us divided. He may be way off in fingering Soros, but that a lot of the extremists on both sides are quietly paid seems likely to me.

  • Aquifer

    Just curious – why would “left wing” folks want to foment a race war?

  • kevinzeese

    One of the costs of the violence in Berkeley was that it overshadowed the reality that counter-protests outnumbered the right wingers by 20 to 1. http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/08/what-the-media-got-wrong-about-last-weekends-protests-in-berkeley/

  • kevinzeese

    I don’t think they are trying to start a race war, they are trying to defeat the racist-fascists.

  • mwildfire

    Yes. They just have the notion–the ones I mentioned–that punching Nazis is somehow helpful.

  • Aquifer

    I was asking wildfire in the context of his comment …

    Are you referring to the black clad hooded folks, the ones beating folks up?