BERKELEY, Calif. - Young men and women clad in black bandanas overtook Berkeley for several hours, creating a menacing atmosphere and yielding 13 arrests amidst a crowd of at least 2,000. The self-described anti-fascists far outnumbered the “patriots” -- or Trump supporters -- prompting the counter protesters to declare themselves the winners.
“We won a victory against the forces of white supremacy,” said Felicia Gustin, a spokeswoman for Showing up for Racial Justice, or SURJ. “We turned out united communities to directly confront hate speech and hate action, and to keep our streets free of fascists. The white supremacists’ Berkeley rally, like their San Francisco rally, was canceled due to communities coming together to make fascism untenable.”
The counter protest took place at Berkeley’s Civic Center Park and was in response to a canceled “No to Marxism in America” rally, organized by Amber Cummings, a transgender patriot, who showed up later in the afternoon dressed as a man, alleging she was sucker punched by two men because of the American flags on her vehicle.
Police on Sunday said the charges against the 13 include assault with a deadly weapon, felony assault and violations of city code. Of the 13, seven people were from Oakland and Berkeley. The remaining arrestees came from Santa Rosa, Portland, Alpine, Sparks, Nevada and Jamul. The youngest person is 22 and the oldest is 47. Also, one officer was injured during an arrest and six people were treated by paramedics at the scene, police said. Two of those people were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Patriot Prayer rally organizer Joey Gibson of Oregon was one of those assaulted.
He was pepper-sprayed and chased; police protected Gibson with their bodies after a purple smoke bomb was thrown, presumably by the anarchists. Video shot by a Mother Jones reporter showed a beat-down by people in black of a Donald Trump supporter. A KTVU reporter had her camera shoved out of her hand by people dressed in black. The few Trump supporters who came to Berkeley were chased off the streets, including a Latino man holding a "God Bless Donald Trump" sign. 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.
A woman in the crowd, who defines herself as a progressive, said she was shocked and disgusted by how the anti-fascists were behaving; that even Trump supporters should be allowed to walk and speak freely in Berkeley. Another, older woman, told KTVU, that she was "freaked out. There are a lot more 'antifa' people than I expected."
Though the mayors of Berkeley and San Francisco criticized past patriot events for attracting white nationalists, Gibson has publicly 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, last year. On Sunday, there were only a handful of “patriots” seen at the rally and no evidence of neo-Nazis, as were apparent in Charlottesville, Virginia on April 12.
Cummings, the transgender patriot and organizer of the original Berkeley anti-Marxist rally, told KTVU on Monday that she was at the protest - dressed as a man, and she only really appeared after police had dispersed the crowd from the park.
She told KTVU that she tried to get a police escort into the park about 1 p.m., but couldn't get one, despite a Berkeley police spokeswoman saying that the department cared about everyone's safety.
So Cummings said she drove home to Antioch and changed into male clothing and came back about 3:30 p.m. in "stealth mode." She created a YouTube video to prove she was there titled "America Wins. Amber Cummings indeed attend her rally." By that time, the police had cleared the park. In her video, she flips the camera around to show herself dressed as a man. She also said she was "sucker punched" by two men as she got out of her car, which was adorned with American flags.
On Friday, she emailed a long statement asking people not to show up at Civic Center Park on Martin Luther King Way because she didn’t want anyone be hurt. She said she would show up alone.
However, despite her protests about not aligning herself with the "alt-right," Cummings wrote on her Facebook page on July 17 that she was advertising shields and sticks that she was selling with Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman, whom she called a "legend," the Daily Californian first reported.
Chapman, who was arraigned Friday for his felony charge, was filmed hitting the heads of "antifa" members and protesters at the “March 4 Trump” rally in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. In her post, Cummings listed “signed sticks” for $50 and said Chapman was dropping the price of shields “for (a) limited time” to $250. She added in the post that all of the proceeds will go to Chapman — she will not receive “a penny.”
The mood of Sunday’s protest was mostly angry – not at all like the peaceful Women’s Marches across the country after Trump was elected. The people in black created a tense mood and they were the aggressors, yelling at the media not to take their pictures and knocking cameras out of their hands. Antifascists shouted about hating Nazis but also about a host of other issues, too, including blaming Zionists for many of the world’s evils.
Still, the overall scene of the rally was not marked with violence seen at past Berkeley rallies. There were older women singing folk songs and Jewish tunes. There was a marching band, which made the event seem like a parade, as people chanted "No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA" and carried signs that said: "Berkeley Stands United Against Hate." Queer socialists showed up, smiling and carrying red flags.
And one woman, who covered her face with a bandana, told KTVU she wasn’t masking her identity to create havoc. She said she was covering up so that she wouldn’t be identified and “doxed” by the right wing.