BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Counter-protest organizers in Berkeley on Monday were defending the violent reaction of black-clad Antifa demonstrators had to right-wing activists during clashes at Sunday’s otherwise largely peaceful event.
KPIX 5 cameras captured Trump supporters being chased out of Berkeley as well as skirmishes between anti-fascists groups and right-wing demonstrator when Sunday’s peaceful counter-protest against racism turned violent.
The counter-protest organizers insisted that what happened at Martin Luther King Civic Center Park was justified.
“We have no regrets for how they left our city,” said Michael McBride, pastor of the Way Christian Center in Berkeley. “We do not want white supremacists in our city. We do not want neo Nazis in our city. We do not want the alt right in our city.”
The organizers said the so-called Antifa activists wearing black masks who vastly outnumbered the far right group provided protection to counter protesters.
“Our experience on the streets was that we were defended by people who came — as anti-fascists — to do that,” said Sara Kurshner of the National Lawyers Guild.
“We don’t apologize for any of it. Do not come here with any of it. Do not!” said Tur-Ha Ak of the Anti-Police Terror Project. “It is unwelcome. We have a right and an obligation to self-defense, period. Point blank.”
Organizers also argued that the media coverage was slanted to show the fighting between Antifa demonstrators and right-wing Trump supporters.
“If we’re talking about balanced and fair reporting on yesterday for people who were not here, I would compel you to air the three hours of footage where we marched through the streets with literally no violence,” said McBride. “Why is Antifa all of a sudden becoming labeled as the most violent element when they were literally here with a buffer between those who were here to harm us?”
However, there was video evidence from Sunday suggesting that wasn’t always the case.
One Trump supporter spent about two hours in the park trying to have a civil discussion with some heated words but no physical violence. As soon as police allowed Antifa to enter the park, he was attacked, chased for two blocks, and cornered outside a gas station.
There was never any indication in the video KPIX 5 cameras captured that the man was inciting violence. The same goes for a second Trump supporter who was also pursued by counter-protesters. That man was beaten to the ground and nearly stripped of his shirt before police pulled him to safety.
Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said seeing the Antifa protesters mixed in with the peaceful demonstration was troubling.
“As far as I’m concerned, there is some deep discussion that needs to happen within our community about providing space for Antifa and some of the folks that we saw,” said Greenwood.
Berkeley police said 13 people were arrested at the Sunday demonstration. On Monday, the National Lawyers Guild signaled it is willing to legally defend some of those peoples who were arrested.
Charges for those arrested ranged from battery and rioting to obstructing an officer and resisting arrest.