Update, 6:45 p.m. The city of Berkeley issued an advisory around 6:25 p.m. Friday outlining rules it will impose Sunday at two city parks — Civic Center Park and Ohlone Park — and through much of central and Southside Berkeley to ensure “the peaceful expression of free speech.” Sticks, pipes, poles, Tasers and “anything else that can be used for a ‘riot'” are prohibited, the city manager’s office said. The city cited the 2017 political clashes that sometimes involved violent confrontations and prompted a significant police presence. Some of the rules about banned items apply to neighborhood streets and sidewalks, while others are only in effect in the parks. Within the parks, protesters may not wear a mask, scarf, bandana or “any other accessory or item that covers or partially covers the face and shields the wearer’s face from view, or partially from view.”
The geographic area affected by the rules begins at “Sacramento Street to the west, Piedmont Avenue to the east (between Dwight Way and Bancroft Way) and Oxford Street to the east (between Hearst Avenue and Bancroft Way), Dwight Way to the south, and Delaware Street to the north (except between Shattuck and Avenue and Oxford Street, where Hearst Avenue will mark the northern boundary).” See the full list of banned items and rules.
Original story: Bay Area activists are gearing up for what could be a large “Stop the hate” rally and march Sunday in downtown Berkeley.
Organizers for the event wrote on Facebook that the aim is to “stop white supremacist and state violence from growing.” The rally was planned as a counterprotest against a smaller event, promoted by avowed anti-Communist Amber Cummings, and to commemorate Heather Heyer, who was killed last year in August at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
It remains to be seen whether Sunday will bring the type of political clashes that thrust Berkeley into national headlines last year. Some prominent figures on the right who had said they would come to Berkeley later backed out. And the Cummings event page on Facebook has had little activity. Cummings did not respond to an interview request.
But the city of Berkeley has recently made moves to prepare for any political rallies in the city over the next two months. This past week, the Berkeley City Council voted to allow city staff to issue special rules for streets and sidewalks around unpermitted events, defined as “any march, demonstration, assembly, parade, festival, or street fair expected to draw 100 people or more.” Rules must be issued 24 hours in advance. Last year, when council approved a similar policy, the resulting rules prohibited a variety of items that could be used as weapons, as well as face coverings in Berkeley parks.
City spokesman Matthai Chakko said no one has gotten permits for any of the events that have been promoted online Sunday. But he said, over the past year, the city has “seen that the promoters of various events have tried to lure well-meaning people to events with language sympathetic to their causes as a cover for violent actions.”
The “Stop the Hate” rally has drawn the largest online response, with about 450 people marked as “going,” and another 1,000 who are “interested.” The “No to Marxism” Cummings rally has just one person listed as going, with another 200 listed as “interested.” Several other Facebook events listed Sunday on both sides of the political spectrum show little in the way of actual attendance.
“I’ve retired from the patriot movement. Focusing on my family and Career.” — Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman
Berkeleyside attempted to contact various organizers or figures connected to the conservative events, but was largely unsuccessful. Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman said he does not plan to attend any future political events: “I’ve retired from the patriot movement. Focusing on my family and Career,” he told Berkeleyside on Facebook on Friday.
Jourdin Davis, a Berkeley native who was a fixture at many of the “free speech” rallies in Berkeley in 2017, said he does not think many on the right will come Sunday, either. He said infighting and a lack of leadership have led to fractures in the movement over the past year: “It’s gotten worse rather than better. I don’t want to be associated with that,” of Sunday’s event.
Still, no one wants to be caught unprepared should violent clashes take place — as they did repeatedly last year.
Alex Williams, who runs Volunteer Medical Team — which goes into protest zones in uniform to de-escalate tension and serve as a bridge between people who need medical aid and first-responders outside the hot zone — said she’s concerned the potential for violence has been underestimated. Williams said she’s seen reports online from alt-right groups and fascists who have said they will be in Berkeley on Sunday. She and others have said the community needs to be informed and ready.
She said she doesn’t want to see another death like Heather Heyer’s: “It took 19 minutes to get to her, and she bled out.” (Ambulance crews generally will not enter active protest areas, or other dangerous situations, until police report that the scene is secure.)
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, most members of the public who came to speak told officials Berkeley must take a stronger stand and stop using language that gives legitimacy to “both sides.”
One speaker said there is no place for white nationalism in Berkeley, and that the urgency ordinance and rules would stop people from defending themselves. Another said Berkeley has become “the testing ground” for right-wing groups: “We need flexibility because they are trying to confuse us all.” She and others asked for help from the city to stand up against racism and fascism.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín said Tuesday that the ordinance will let police confiscate weapons before people come to rallies so people can express themselves peacefully.
“This community is fundamentally against hate,” Arreguin said. He said many people came to Berkeley last August to protest peacefully, while others came with weapons to commit violence. Stopping violence “is the purpose of this ordinance.”
Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood told officials Tuesday night that politics play no role in how police enforce laws during rallies.
“We’re absolutely committed to the neutral application of these rules,” he said.
Arreguín said Friday that “a lot of different individuals and groups” have announced plans to come to Berkeley on Sunday. Only time will tell who will actually show up, however.
“My commitment and the city’s commitment is to create a safe environment for people to express their views,” he said. “What we will not tolerate, and what we will work to minimize, is violence.”
Listed endorsers for the “Stop the hate” event include Solidarity Against Fascism East Bay, Revolution Books Refuse Fascism (Bay Area Chapter), SEIU 1021, DSA and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers.
AC Transit sent out an alert Friday afternoon to say some of its buses would be on detour on Sunday because of the planned rally. Riders are advised to look for orange signs at stops in the area for closure notifications.
The “Stop the hate” group says it will meet at 11 a.m. at Ohlone Park, and will eventually end up at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. Cummings says she will be at Civic Center Park from noon to 2 p.m.