Tense, Peaceful Exchanges Among Berkeley Rallies Protesters

Donald Trump supporter Arthur Schaper, center, argues opposing views during a free speech rally Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Protesters gathered for a “Rally Against Hate” in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of clashes and prompted a large police presence. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hundreds of protesters gathered in Berkeley on Sunday for a "Rally Against Hate" in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of clashes and prompted a large police presence.

Police set up barricades around a city park where the right-wing rally billed "No to Marxism in America" and a counter protest were underway, with officers checking bags of people and warning them that a long list of items were banned - including baseball bats, dogs and skateboards and scarves or bandanas to cover their faces.

Counter protesters largely outnumbered right-wing supporters as the dueling protests began, with participants on both sides engaged in peaceful but tense exchanges.

Karla Fonseca, holding a sign that said "Together We Stand" yelled at Latino man holding a "God Bless Donald Trump" sign.

"You are an immigrant," she said. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

Several others also yelled at the man, who said he was born in Mexico but supports Trump's proposal to build a wall along the southern border.

Another counter protest called the "Bay Area Rally Against Hate" took place Sunday on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, despite calls by university police for demonstrators to stay away.

The Berkeley rallies happened a day after a rally planned by a right-wing group fizzled amid throngs of counter-protesters in San Francisco. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee declared victory over a group he branded as inviting hate.

Berkeley is the city that gave birth to the 1960s Free Speech Movement but authorities refused to issue a permit allowing Sunday's event. The city and campus have been the site of political clashes and violence over the past year.

Sunday's organizer Amber Cummings, a transgender woman who is a supporter of President Donald Trump, has repeatedly denounced racism. Cummings canceled her event - saying that demonization by mayors in both cities and left-wing extremists made it impossible to speak out.

Cummings said she would be the sole attendee - but several supporters turned up anyway.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin urged counter-protesters to stay away.

Cummings has said on social media and in media interviews that Marxism is the real evil and that members of the anti-fascist movement are terrorists.

"I'm not safe to walk down the road with an American flag in this country," she said to reporters in Berkeley last week.

Saturday's event was organized by a group known as Patriot Prayer. Its leader Joey Gibson has also repeatedly disavowed racism. Asked Saturday whether he had any plans to go to Berkeley, Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, said he would "analyze the situation."

Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

However, the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 during a rally of white supremacists led San Francisco police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.

By PAUL ELIAS - Aug 27, 3:04 PM EDT AP

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Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker, Janie Har and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.

 
 

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