About 200 pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters faced off Saturday morning at a “Patriots Day” rally in Berkeley, where the two groups have violently clashed on city streets twice in the last three months.
About 10 a.m., dozens of counter-protesters dressed in black and wearing masks tore down a plastic netting that separated the two groups in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The Trump supporters moved forward with American flags and chants against “communists.”
Two counter-demonstrators were led away by police in handcuffs.
At one point, a loud explosion could be heard in the park and fist fights broke out among members of both groups. Berkeley police, wearing riot helmets, immediately moved in and the crowd moved back.
The rally, one of many being held across the country, is sponsored by the pro-Trump group Liberty Revival Alliance and was scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. A regularly scheduled farmer’s market, which is usually held adjacent to the park, was cancelled as a precaution.
A single vendor showed up Saturday to sell organic produce. “Rain or shine or fascism we will be here,” said a young woman operating the cash register.
About two dozen police officers were at the park early Saturday and set up a narrow entrance to control access. Those entering the park are prohibited from bringing the following items: metal pipes, baseball bats, poles, bricks, mace, knives, rocks, glass bottles, eggs or tasers.
Dave Gottfried, 58, a self-employed Berkeley artist, passed “empathy kisses,” chocolate candy, out to both sides. He had hoped to “show empathy is the beginning of understanding.”
“I feel we are going down the rabbit hole,” he said.
Last month, 10 people were arrested and seven others injured at what was supposed to be a pro-Trump rally in the famously liberal community. In February, a scheduled appearance by conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was cancelled amid a violent protest on the UC Berkeley campus.
The unrest underscores the heightened political tensions that have taken hold since President Trump took office in January.