Berkeley braces for more protests

Pro- and anti-Trump protesters combat one another at a March 4 rally in Civic Center Park. Photo: Daniel McPartlan

The March 4 rally that featured pro- and anti-Trump protesters ended badly, with people getting hurt and 10 arrests.

Many fear the demonstration planned for Saturday, April 15, will be worse.

That’s because it is set to feature a number of speakers who will be trumpeting views that diverge greatly from those of many Berkeley residents. Berkeley is a sanctuary city, was one of the first to affirm gay relationships by creating domestic partnerships, voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, and has dozens, if not hundreds, of residents actively working to “resist” Trump.

The speakers at the rally are those who associate with the “alt-right,” or “alt-light.” They include Lauren Southern, a Canadian who has belittled transgender people and their fight for equal treatment under the law; Brittany Pettibone, a Gilroy resident who espouses “traditional values,” promoted the fake #Pizzagate child abuse ring, and has called for the deportation of “illegal aliens,” as well as those holding H1-B visas, because she says they are “stealing” American jobs; Vaughn Neville, whose Instagram feed is full of photos of guns, weapons and American flags; and Kyle Chapman, aka “Based Stickman,” who was arrested by Berkeley police March 4 on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, as well as this week after altercations at Civic Center Park.


Chapman has termed Saturday’s rally “The Battle for Berkeley,” and made a video demonstrating how people should dress. He recommends they show up wearing a baseball helmet (which has holes where the ears are, allowing you to hear), motorcycle shinguards, and snowboard goggles (to protect from pepper spray). He suggests they carry a shield and flagpole. He also shows his viewers a spiked ring they can wear, but does not suggest what they can do with it.

(Some people on the left are also issuing instructions on how to dress. One flyer reads, “For Safety, Security, and Solidarity; wear a white, gray, or black shirt and jacket (layers is best) and blue jeans. Bring a bandana and something to cover your head.”)

The Liberty Revival Alliance, formed by Rich Black, selected to hold a rally in Berkeley because he and others believe the city is not tolerant of differing perspectives, as evidenced by the fact that black bloc and Antifa protesters forced the cancellation of Milo Yiannapolous’ speech at Cal on Feb. 1. Coming and talking here is a way to uphold free speech, a fundamental American right, they say. They also play up what they see as the irony that the Free Speech Movement happened in Berkeley.

But some on the far left who oppose the alt-right believe free speech only goes so far. Espousing racist and homophobic ideas encourages violence and should be stopped, they say.

“April 15 is the next opportunity for the anti-Trump forces to express the power and commitment of our new movement in defense of immigrant rights and against all of Donald Trump’s attacks,” emailed the group By Any Means Necessary, whose members got into various dustups March 4, and have been involved with a number of high profile Berkeley protests marked by violence or extensive property damage. “Our movement will defend ourselves, our friends, families, neighbors, classmates and coworkers from racist harassment and violence.”

Even though traditional liberal ideology holds that people with extreme views should be allowed to speak, the anti-Fascist movement does not, according to Mark Bray, a visiting historian at Dartmouth College and the author of Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street.

Its followers believe “fascist white supremacists should not be granted the right to express their views in public,” he told Brook Gladstone on WYNC’s On the Media. The fascist attitude “needs to be nipped in the bud … through a variety of tactics, one of which is through violently disrupting planned clan rallies, neo-Nazi speeches and so forth.… Anti-fascists identify as Communist, as anarchists, as socialists, and want to really organize for a revolutionary rupture.”

Fear of a more violent rally Saturday led the Ecology Center to cancel Saturday’s farmers market, by Civic Center Park, as a precaution. The cancellation means dozens of vendors will lose thousands of dollars.

“I understand their fears but at the same time we depend on the farmers market for our income,” said Carol Sartenaer, co-owner of Phoenix Pastificio in Berkeley. She estimates the closure will cost her $1,200 to $1,400. “It hurts.”

Charles Lantznester, a member of the Oath Keepers, said he will come from Stockton to Berkeley to participate in a “rally for peaceful, freedom-loving Americans.” He said he does not know any Trump supporters who are violent and, in fact, thinks the Trump supporters who turned violent March 4 may have been paid agent provocateurs. He expressed hope that Saturday’s rally will be peaceful.

“All (NON) Trump Supporters to which you refer at any publicized Trump Rally that have become violent, as you also full well know, have been outed as violent individuals paid for by Democrat Party supporters to look like Trump supporters, the likes of which include your Marxist friend George Soros and money that was obtained by the Hillary campaign,” he wrote in an email to Berkeleyside.

A fundraising effort on the website wesearchr.com has raised nearly $8,000 from 128 contributors to “fund the freedom rally” in Berkeley this weekend. Its goal is $10,550. Black, of the Liberty Revival Alliance, created the fundraiser to pay for expenses related to the event, writing, “on this day we stand united against censorship. This movement is grassroots and made possible by the people who support our rights to express ourselves.”

He continues, “This event will happen. We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied and our freedoms to be taken from us. Bring heart, support the Patriots who made their stand on March 4th, again on April 15th.”

Black’s efforts in Berkeley appear to have given him more clout in the “patriots” movement. When he organized his first event in Berkeley, in March, he tried to interest “Proud Boy” leader Gavin McInnes. But the two butted heads on Twitter and appeared to be at odds, with McInnes saying he didn’t know anything about the March 4 event, would not be there, and did not want his name being used without his permission.

This time around, McInnes is promoting Black’s plans in Berkeley. Last week, he posted a video online entitled “Why we’re having a Patriots Day rally in Berkeley.” In the video, he said the anti-fascist movement is over because there are no fascists, and advocated violence against protestors who promote an anti-fascism message.

Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for continuing coverage.