A group of about 200 protesters from the far left of the political spectrum marched through Berkeley on Saturday, determined to stamp out the hate and right-wing ideas that have taken a firmer hold since the election of President Donald Trump.
Chelsea Manning, the former intelligence analyst who was convicted of espionage and sentenced to prison for 35 years after disclosing sensitive documents to Wikileaks, was a surprise speaker at the event. Manning, whose sentence President Barack Obama commuted at the conclusion of his presidency, was met with loud cheers when she commended marchers for their efforts to hold the government accountable.
“We got this,” said Manning.
Members of Anti-Police Terror Group, the Catalyst Project, Anti-Fascist (or “antifa”) and Refuse Fascism organized Saturday’s “March Against White Supremacy.” Even though it happened a day before right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’s “Free Speech Week” was set to begin, organizers said it was not a “counter-protest.”
This march was “a celebration of a united Bay Area against white supremacy,” said Cat Brooks, one of the organizers. “This is not a response to (Free Speech Week) but a condemnation of fascism, African-American men dying under the police’s use of force and persecution of immigrants.”
Still, there was an awareness, and condemnation, of the plan to bring in numerous right-wing speakers to UC Berkeley this week. That plan has now changed since the Berkeley Patriot, the student group that invited Yiannopoulos, withdrew its support. Yiannopoulos is now planning to hold a march on Sproul Plaza at noon Sunday instead of hosting four days of events.
“We are going to make a mockery of his [expletive],” yelled Jackson, referring to Yiannopoulos. The crowd greeted her remarks with cheers and chants.
The march started around noon at 63rd and Adeline streets. Organizers had arranged for a flatbed truck to come, and it held various speakers as it made its way slowly through Berkeley. The sister of Kayla Moore, who died while being arrested by Berkeley police, spoke before Manning. Berkeley City Councilwoman Cheryl Davila appeared on the truck, as well.
Following closely behind was an energized crowd, carrying banners of all shapes and sizes. One read: “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” Raised at least 10 feet high were tall red banners with “Stand Against Hate” embroidered on them.
While police followed the marchers, the protesters provided their own security. Some individuals affiliated with the group “Showing Up for Racial Justice” (or SURJ) wore yellow vests, serving as “chaperones” while also blocking every intersection the march crossed.
But even though people walked under blue skies on a warm day, the mood was somber and intense. A number of the marchers were antifa and had their faces covered with bandanas. Some marchers objected to the news photographers who had shown up to document the protest. They passed out flyers asking that no one take photos. Those on the left have said right-wingers have used photos to identify them and spread personal information on the Internet, which has led to harassment.
Kevin Kunze, a local documentarian and instructor at the Academy of Art, was asked by Antifa to shut off his camera. “I’m a hardcore liberal. [But] this is pretty unnerving,” tweeted Kunze.
Other protesters lunged at some photographers and tried to stop them from taking photos.
When the marchers approached Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, they ran into a group of USC football fans dressed in cardinal red and gold who had come to watch the game against Cal. (The Trojans won.)
A female student posted a video of the march on social media platform Snapchat: “Is this real life?”
The marchers briefly occupied that intersection, and the event concluded around 3 p.m.