At least 13 arrested in Trump-related rallies in downtown Berkeley
BERKELEY — At least 13 people have been arrested as fighting broke out and scores of people supporting or opposing President Trump converged on a park in downtown Berkeley Saturday.
Police were urging people to avoid the downtown area around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, citing a “large number of fights” that have occurred and numerous fireworks thrown in the crowds at the protests. Police said also that there have been numerous reports of pepper spray being used in the crowd.
Trump backers and members of the so-called alt-right movement were holding a “free speech” rally at the park, while opponents of the movement, calling themselves anti-fascists, headed to the same spot at about 10 a.m. Later, the demonstrators moved to the streets, where they eventually ended up on Shattuck Ave., blocking it from Kittredge St. to University Ave.
It didn’t take long for hundreds people to gather in and around the park. Police in riot gear made at least 13 arrests and seized numerous prohibited items from the demonstrators by Saturday afternoon and indicated then that they anticipated more arrests would be made. Several people sustained injuries, but it was not clear how serious the injuries were.
“There continues to be a number of large fights, some property damage and numerous projectiles being thrown, including fireworks,” Berkeley police said in a statement issued at around 2 p.m. Saturday.
At several different times, loud explosions were heard in the crowd, immediately followed by fist fights in the crowd. Some people emerged holding their faces after the explosions.
BART closed its downtown station early Saturday afternoon, and did not indicate when it would reopen after
Berkeley police said Saturday afternoon they had reached out to Mutual Aid, a state program aimed to augment local resources that have become overwhelmed in emergency situations, for help.
Police had erected a light, neon-orange plastic barricade at the park between the two sides to separate the groups and were collecting sticks, flagpoles and other objects that protesters had brought, which were banned at the park in advance of the protest. The city had banned a number of weapons — or items that can be used as weapons — in the park on Saturday, including metal pipes, baseball or softball bats, lengths of lumber or wood of any size, poles, bricks, rocks, glass bottles, pepper spray and other objects.
Protesters on each side held signs in support of their cause. Anti-Trump demonstrators had signs saying “No! Pussy-Grabbing! No! Patriarchy! No! Fascist USA! Drive out Trump-Pence regime!” and “Fascisct scum your time is done.” Right-wing groups held Trump campaign signs and posters that read “Free speech,” among others. Photos circulated on social media showed some demonstrators making Nazi salutes.
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The plans for the events prompted the cancellation of this week’s farmers’ market in the park, which is held regularly on Saturdays. Market organizers said that while police had planned for extra safety measures, they could not guarantee safety at the event.
“Organizers have promoted Saturday’s gathering as a follow-up to an unpermitted March 4 demonstration, when numerous people were hurt due to violence,” the city’s announcement says. “Ten people were arrested for their roles in the events, and other arrests are being actively pursued. No one has applied for or obtained a permit for Saturday, and as a result, anyone at the park will be subject to these rules.”
The protest follows a series of demonstrations — both violent and non-violent — that have swept the country since President Trump took office in January.
A March 4 rally and counter-protest, planned by several of the same groups as those who announced this one, resulted in several injuries and arrests. In February, a scheduled appearance by former Breitbart News editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley was canceled after protesters threw rocks, broke windows and set fires outside the student union building.
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Staff photographer Anda Chu contributed to this report.
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