SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — A free speech demonstration staged by conservative activists quickly fell apart in downtown San Francisco on Saturday after several hundred counter-protesters surged the area, outnumbering and attacking those gathered, including knocking one in the mouth.
Three San Francisco Police officers were recovering from non-life-threatening injuries sustained when they were assaulted with pepper spray and caustic chemicals.READ MORE: Pandemic Points Up Need to Diversify Lake Tahoe Tourist Economy
Team Save America organized the rally to protest Twitter, which it said squelches conservative speech.
Pro-Trump free-speech supporters and liberal anti-Trump plus anti-fascist protesters faced off at San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza and on a street near Twitter’s Market Street headquarters in a protest over the social media giant’s policing policy of hate speech and fake political news.
Members of the group wore red “Make America Great Again” Trump campaign hats and carried pro-police “Thin Blue Line” flags and U.S. flags.
“Two of them were Black men, which is always really confusing to see someone who’s been brainwashed into that,” Demitria Ruiz, a counter-protester, told KPIX.
The Proud Boys were supposed to attend but organizers said they didn’t show up.
“I was hoping (the Proud Boys) would … stand toe-to-toe with us and, like, get spit in their face, you know? If you’re going to come out and establish your principles, you might as well actually show up,” Ruiz said.
Within minutes of when the protest started, there was pushing, shoving and some punches thrown between those protesting with opposing views. One of the protest organizers — Philip Anderson — was punched in the face.
Anderson posted photos to social media of his bloody mouth with a front tooth missing and another hanging loosely. He said anti-fascist protesters attacked him “for no reason.”
Following the attack, Anderson took the stage at about 1 p.m. and was greeted by chants and plastic water bottles and glass bottles thrown over police barricades.READ MORE: UPDATE: Evacuation Orders Downgraded to Warnings as Crews Mop Up Estrada Fire Near Watsonville
Anderson called the counter-protesters hypocrites and said they are the reason why he’s voting for President Donald Trump.
“I love America, I love this country and I love free speech,” he said.
One man told KPIX as paramedics were wheeling him toward an ambulance, “I’m a Trump supporter. They assaulted me!”
“They chased me, they kicked me for no reason. said Marc Solorzano, who suffered a leg injury. “I’m from a Latin home. I married a Mexican woman. They kicked me for running — I was running from them!”
The event was canceled, although both sides lingered in the area.
“All dressed in black, I think he might be Black Lives Matter (activist), hit me in the back of the head, knocked me down. I got up. The security guards ran him off and they told us to go over here,” Derrick Main, a Trump supporter from San Rafael, told KPIX.
Some counterprotesters said violence is wrong and voting is the best way to fight back.
“I would never say that you should hurt Trump supporters no matter how much we disagree about anything. That just hurts our cause,” said Kate Edstrom, a Biden supporter from Castro Valley.
Right wing free speech rally didn’t last long. Toothless Anderson and crew escorted away, protesters take to streets and march to Twitter HQ. pic.twitter.com/4SajHc5Q7N
— Denis Ivan Perez (@dpi_19) October 17, 2020
Dozens of riot-clad San Francisco police officers set up barriers in the United Nations Plaza and kept a wary eye over the gathering.
Eventually, the crowd of anti-fascist supporters also spilled over onto Market Street and began marching toward the waterfront.
Shield line is slowly making its way down Market Street pic.twitter.com/WIYx19PwkQ
— Michael Williams (@michaeldamianw) October 17, 2020
San Francisco police said several people and three officers were injured. Paramedics took one officer to the hospital for treatment. They told KPIX no arrests were made.MORE NEWS: Pleasant Hill Police Ask Public for Help Finding Stabbing Suspect
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. KPIX 5’s Da Lin and the Associated Press contributed to this report