‘Intervention risks escalation’: Police explain approach to March 4 demo

Pro- and anti-Trump demonstrations in Civic Center Park in Berkeley on March 4 produced intermittent scuffles and fights between rival groups. Photo: Daniel McPartlan

The pro- and anti-Trump demonstrations on Saturday in Civic Center Park resulted in 10 arrests and continuing criminal investigations to identify others who were involved in the sporadic violence, according to a report to the City Manager from interim Chief of Police Andrew Greenwood.

Only one of the arrestees on Saturday was from Berkeley. The 10 arrests on Saturday connected to the demonstrations were: Dustin Sawtelle, 39, from San Francisco, on suspicion of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury; a male juvenile, 16, from Berkeley, in connection with battery; a female juvenile, 17, from Concord, on suspicion of battery; Kyle Chapman, 41, from San Francisco, in connection with assault with a deadly weapon (other than firearm), and carrying a concealed dirk or dagger; Jeremy Wilhite, 23, from Fremont, on suspicion of battery; Michael Hornsby, 27, from Riverside, in connection with rioting, battery, warrant — false identification to peace officers; Jeffrey Armstrong, 32, from Oakland, in connection with assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury; Nathan Perry, 33, from Modesto, on suspicion of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury; Rackell Anzaldua, 20, from Fremont, in connection with battery; and Nicholaas Molloy, 22, from San Bruno, on suspicion of obstructing or resisting a peace officer.

According to BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel, the three assault arrests were on felony charges. The other arrests were misdemeanors.

Greenwood’s three-page report, with an additional four pages of photographs, argues for the success of Berkeley Police’s strategy, which largely involved standing on the sidelines for much of the afternoon, closely observing events, tending to some minor injuries, making a handful of arrests, and, as crowds dwindled as dusk approached, intervening more strongly and making further arrests. The report explains BPD’s approach, which some of the pro-Trump demonstrators in particular have criticized, both on Saturday and in comments on Berkeleyside’s reports.


Robert Clawson, for example, that he thought the police should have come down more strongly on the counter-protesters who attacked Trump supporters: “Do your job Berkeley police. You cannot pick and choose who you protect,” he posted on Berkeleyside.

In the report, Greenwood defended the department’s strategy, however: “A fight within a volatile crowd is not a simple matter in which to intervene. Intervening on intermixed groups of armed participants fighting or eager to fight presents challenges. Intervention requires a major commitment of resources, a significant use of force, and carries with it the strong likelihood of harming those who are not committing a crime. Finally, intervention risks escalating an event into a full riot.”

In Greenwood’s account, the success of the approach can be judged by the fact that “no uninvolved community members were injured, and there were no reports of violence or vandalism in the downtown and surrounding areas as a result of the rally or brief march through the downtown area.”

Greenwood also details BPD’s preparation for Saturday’s demonstrations. The police contacted both pro- and anti-Trump sides with mixed results.

“Some groups did not respond at all,” he wrote (he singles out the main anti-Trump group, BAMN, as not responding). “Others gave inaccurate and inconsistent information regarding their intentions, level of preparedness, and security plans.”


The report also makes clear the dilemma BPD faced with the fluid events of the afternoon.

“Fights broke out intermittently between various protesters and counter-protesters throughout the event. These altercations usually took place in the middle of the group, and lasted a few seconds,” Greenwood wrote. “Based on the location and duration of the altercations, it was frequently difficult for officers on the ground to identify primary aggressor suspects and victims.”

Greenwood goes on to note, “When a crowd includes armed people intent on committing violence on each other, safeguarding our community becomes a particularly challenging balancing act. Our responsibility in this situation is to act with a clear and level-headed awareness of context, of what actions we’re taking and why, and of what effect or reaction our actions may generate. We are rightly expected to not get swept into the volatility of the crowd.”

Such an explanation would not likely satisfy levirizetnikof, who posted in Berkeleyside’s comments, “BPD allowed citizens to be assaulted by fascists, once again. They deserve no praise. If they had actually protected free speech and arrested fascists, this would be a better city. Instead, Berkeley will again be held up as a center of intolerance and repression.”

One of those arrested, Kyle Chapman, who was arrested on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, has set up a Twitter account to argue that he was “arrested for being a Patriot.” Another account describes itself as his “unofficial public relations agent.” The incident that led to Chapman’s arrest was captured by a tweeter, whose photo is included in Greenwood’s report to the city manager, as is an image of him being arrested. Chapman said he was due to be arraigned Tuesday at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.


According to Greenwood, “significant” criminal investigations are continuing. BPD plans to release photographs in the next few days, seeking the public’s help in identifying suspects, as it did after the riots that erupted after the slated appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley on Feb. 1. It has also established a confidential Dropbox for members of the public to upload further photos or videos.

City departments other than the police were involved in planning for contingencies on Saturday and the city’s emergency operations center was activated for the day, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, but he said Monday that BPD was wholly responsible for the tactics used on Saturday.

“This was all police — 100%,” he said.

According to Chakko, the city does not yet have a tally of the extra costs incurred on Saturday.

“We won’t have that for a while,” Chakko said. “It’s a significant cost, there’s no doubt.”