Violent clashes erupt between pro-Trump rally and counter-protesters

A woman with injuries to her head approach Berkeley Police during a rally at MLK Park in Berkeley, Calif. on Saturday, Mar. 4, 2017. "March 4 Trump" rallies took place across the nation Saturday. (Aaron Levy-Wolins/Xpress)

Violence broke out as an event promoted as a march for Trump and alt-right rally clashed against counter-protesters with fists and pepper spray in Berkeley Saturday afternoon.

The March 4 Trump ralliers arrived at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park around 12:30 p.m., joining the ranks of 49 other pro-Trump rallies that took place across the country Saturday. Counter-protesters gathered early in the day.

Yelling immediately started between the two groups, but the situation became physical around 2 p.m. with scattered fistfights.

As fights continued to break out in the middle of the plaza, Trump supporters pleaded with police, “Do your job.” Berkeley police officers in riot gear remained stationed around the perimeter of the plaza.

The first arrest was a Trump supporter who brandished a knife and wore a jacket that read “Basket of Deplorables.” According to NBC Bay Area, at least 10 people were eventually arrested.

Trump supporters and counter-protesters were concentrated in the middle of the park where violent interactions took place. Trump supports sang the national anthem as counter-protesters yelled “Fuck Trump” over them.

Bloody faces emerged from both sides of the fight throughout the afternoon, with people running to the police for assistance.

Several smoke bombs were released when clashes became tense — an anonymous source affiliated with Black Bloc said they were meant to create confusion in the crowd. Black Bloc members were dressed in all black with bandanas covering their faces to protect their identity.

Sporadic fighting continued between Black Bloc, Antifa, the general public and Trump supporters.

An older man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat struck one woman in the face.

After hitting a counter-protester repeatedly with his cane, Tom Condon was knocked unconscious by several people. Condon stood with the pro-Trump group prior to the physical altercation.

Others attended to speak out against the violence and did not support either side.

“We are all people — stop fighting with each other,” said Little Larry, a local artist. “Be mad at your senators, at politicians, at the police, but not at each other.”

Counter-protesters taking Trump hats and grabbing posters from Trump supporters’ hands started several altercations.

March 4 Trump ralliers began heading toward UC Berkeley at 3:30 p.m., but counter-protesters blocked their initial route. The rally’s leader, Rich Black, attempted to redirect the march toward the campus but counter-protesters followed suit and again blocked the group.

As the march turned back to the park, both crowds reduced in numbers. Around 4 p.m., police began arresting individuals from both sides of the protest but declined to give further information when asked about the charges.

Black said he was not in attendance as a Trump supporter, but rather to defend free speech. Before the violence began, he said he hoped it would be a peaceful event.

“I love the Bay — it’s a beautiful place that’s been a beacon of hope for liberalism and those who aim to express themselves freely,” Black said around noon. “And it’s turning into something awful, and I think it’s important that people address the issue and not run away from this intimidation factor.”

Around 5 p.m., Black encouraged his Twitter followers to leave. “To those still in attendance at the march please disperse and leave,” he said. “The police betrayed us.”

Five Black Bloc members were detained while leaving the rally.

“We were leaving the demonstration; it looked like their fellow officers were getting ready to shut it down. We were walking down the street leaving, and (the police) came out and told us to get on the ground,” said Sam, a Black Bloc member who spoke to Xpress while on the ground in handcuffs. He said he did not know why they were being detained and that they had complied with all requests from police. An anonymous witness confirmed this statement.

The five Black Bloc members said police confiscated two of their black flags and two knives, but gave the knives back once they were released.

“The middle of the park is filled with extremism,” said Matt Reid, an observer of the protest who voted for Clinton but now supports Trump. “But what’s encouraging is that if you walk around the perimeter, there are meaningful conversations happening.”

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