Thousands of people showed up in Berkeley Sunday, including UC Berkeley students and city residents, to protest a planned but ostensibly canceled rally by right-wing and conservative activists with an "anti-Marxism" theme. By all accounts Berkeley police mostly kept the peace, but left-wing "antifa" activists descended on Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson, shouting at him and pepper-spraying him until police put him and a "bodyguard" in handcuffs, in an effort to "rescue" him from the scuffle, as CBS 5 reports.
Is this black bloc's biggest ever showing in the Bay Area? pic.twitter.com/qX1Ck3j8Sh— Michael Montgomery (@MichaelMontCIR) August 27, 2017
A total of 13 arrests were made after more than 4,000 showed up in and around Civic Center Plaza, as ABC 7 reports, with the right-wing demonstrators far outnumbered by counter-protesters. They report that "dark-clothed anarchists attacked at least five people" including Gibson, and Orange County based right-wing activist Johnny Benitez also had to be escorted out of the area by police.
Berkeley police earlier warned protesters that they would not be allowed to carry sticks of any kind, and would not be allowed to cover their faces with masks.
Meanwhile, scheduled speaker at Saturday's canceled Patriot Prayer rally in San Francisco, Kyle Chapman, was under court order to stay away from the Berkeley rally after being jailed and released on bail Friday for charges related to a rally and riot in Berkeley in March. He took to Twitter to compare the police reaction to that in Charlottesville, even though it appears no one today was significantly injured.
Berekley was a set up. The police said they would protect the attendees and did nothing. Total stand down like Charlottesville.— Based Stickman (@BasedStickMan_) August 27, 2017
Stephan Golux, in an op-ed for Berkeleyside, argues that the reaction by leftist activists today was unnecessary and out of scale. "While I personally hold strictly to the principles of non-violence, I have never been able to say that antifa is necessarily wrong that Fascism may need to be confronted differently," he writes. "But I can say definitively that that was not the case today. If antifa is going to be the nuclear defense of the left against the horrors of White Supremacy, they will need to act with restraint when militant response is not called for."
Thankfully the Bay Area got through this contentious weekend, which was spurred by the two rallies planned here by right-wing activists intent on "poking the hive" and gaining more attention for themselves, without any serious violence. Let's hope that by thwarting an effort to incite chaos and violence, San Francisco and Berkeley have proved themselves to be less desirable targets for these types of events in the future.