USA First Look

Violence at Berkeley rally, but most pro-Trump protests are peaceful

This weekend saw mostly peaceful gatherings in support of President Trump, except in Berkeley, Calif., where Trump supporters clashed with counter-protesters.

A demonstrator supporting US President Trump holds a shield as a group of men punch a counter demonstrator during a 'People 4 Trump' rally in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday.
Stephen Lam/Reuters/File | Caption

Violence that erupted at a pro-Trump rally in the famously liberal city of Berkeley, Calif., was the exception, not the norm for the so-called Spirit of America demonstrations in 28 of the nation’s 50 states on Saturday.

In downtown Berkeley, Trump supporters clashed with counter-protesters in several fights, a video filmed by Reuters shows. Ten in all were arrested and seven injured in scuffles in the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, less than a mile from the University of California, Berkeley campus.

Scattered arrests were made at other rallies on Saturday including in Minnesota and Tennessee. But the general flavor of the day was one of support for President Trump and, to some, reconciliation, reported The Christian Science Monitor. 

Just as those who felt anxiety or dread following Trump’s unexpected election victory took comfort in rallying alongside those of a similar mindset, the president’s supporters used the day as a chance to come together around their shared morals and values.

Some hoped a day of peaceful gathering could heal the increasing partisan divide that has sorted liberals and conservatives into opposing camps that interact with one another less and less. 

In Berkeley, however, the rally quickly turned violent, as protesters from both sides struck one another with wooden sticks and Trump supporters fired pepper spray. Masked counter-protesters were seen in a video exchanging punches with Trump supporters, including one equipped with a baton, a gas mask, and a shield emblazoned with the American flag. Also shown in the video were paramedics tending to man bleeding from the head and another with cuts on his face.

“This is the most immature and disgusting display of human interaction,” David Tomes, a pro-Trump marcher wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Tomes, who owns a yoga studio in nearby Petaluma, said he has been targeted for his political beliefs.

At the Berkeley rally, five people were arrested for battery, four for assault with a deadly weapon, and one for resisting arrest, according to the Berkeley Police Department. Police also confiscated a dagger, metal pipes, bats, pieces of lumber and bricks, it said.

The violence came less than a month after masked protesters at the nearby University of California, Berkeley, campus forced the university to cancel a planned speech by white nationalist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Those demonstrators destroyed property and ignited explosives, prompting a campus lockdown.

But other demonstrations on Saturday in state capitols and public squares remained largely civil, even as many of them were met by counter-protesters.

In San Diego, Calif., more than 200 supporters of Mr. Trump gathered downtown.

"After this, I think people will take the hint," former US Marine David Moore told Reuters as he participated in the rally. "It’s OK to voice support for the president and the country."

Elsewhere, supporters repeated the president’s promises to bring back jobs and crack down on illegal immigration.

“We’re gonna take our country back and we’re gonna establish borders and have legal immigration and law and order,” Cherie Francis, of Cary, N.C., told the Associated Press at a rally. “And if you’re against all that, then you should be afraid.” 

The protests were smaller in size than the unprecedented anti-Trump protests in Washington and other cities following the president’s inauguration on Jan. 20. But organizers of the so-called Spirit of America rallies on Saturday expected as much.

“There were a lot of angry groups protesting and we thought it was important to show our support,” Peter Boykin, president of Gays for Trump, and who helped organize Saturday’s rally in Washington, told Reuters. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.