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Peaceful Protests in Berkeley Turned Violent

By Kelson Howerton
On September 15, 2017

Thousands gaghered in Berkeley for the "Rally Against Hate."
Photo by Los Angeles Times

Berkeley, California, became the site of yet another violent protest between leftists and right-wingers on August 27, 2017, as a group of masked anarchists and anti-fascists descended upon an anti-hate protest.

    As thousands of people gathered in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park for a “Rally Against Hate,” a group of more than 100 masked and hooded anarchists and Antifa members hopped over concrete barricades and evaded police lines to mix into the crowds of peaceful protestors. The situation soon devolved into a violent skirmish of hooded figures shouting at and attacking right-wing protestors.

    According to the Associated Press, at least five individuals were attacked by anarchists. Additionally, police made a total of 14 arrests throughout protests in Berkeley. Berkeley Police Lt. Joe Okies told the Washington Post these arrests were made for “a range of charges including assault with a deadly weapon, obstructing a police officer, and various Berkeley municipal code violations.”

    One target of the anarchists’ attack was Joey Gibson, the leader of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, who had scheduled and subsequently canceled a free speech rally in San Francisco, California, the day prior. Gibson was singled out by anarchists, who pushed him out of the area with pepper-spray and sticks. Gibson was later escorted to safety by police.

    The “Rally Against Hate” was originally organized in protest of an anti-Marxist rally that was scheduled for August 27, but was similarly canceled due to safety concerns.

    “I applaud the more than 7,000 people who came out today to peacefully oppose bigotry, hatred and racism that we saw on display in Charlottesville,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said in a statement on Facebook. “However, the violence that a small group of protesters engaged in against residents and the police, including throwing smoke bombs, is unacceptable. Fighting hate with hate does not work and only makes each side more entrenched in their ideological camps.”

    Due to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Berkeley officials and police made efforts to further increase town security in preparation for the protests on Saturday, August 26,  and Sunday, August 27. Despite the many barricades and 500 police officers on scene, the situation quickly got out of control as anarchist groups were able to break into the protests without being searched for weapons. However, Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood commended his officers for their handling of the situation, telling the Associated Press that letting the masked protestors through the barricades prevented more violence from occurring.

     The city of Berkeley is no stranger to violent protests egged on by anarchists and anti-fascists, as it has been the location of several politically-charged clashes this year. In February, protests at The University of California, Berkeley because of the scheduled appearance of well self-declared right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos (who is set to return to Berkeley in late September) cost the school more than $100,000 in property damage. Once again, this violent outbreak was stirred on by a band of 150 masked anarchists and anti-fascists. Since the protest at UC Berkeley, several other violent clashes occurred, including a fight between Trump supporters and counter-protestors that resulted in 21 arrests.

    As this trend of violently opposing free speech during protests and rallies continues to become more prevalent, it begs the question of just how many of these protests-gone-wrong it will take for police forces to take these situations more seriously, and meet these black-clad protestors with increased force. With college campuses often becoming the locations of these violent protests over free-speech in America, it is more important than ever for us to remain inclusive to all viewpoints and be open to discussion and debate.

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