The police department in Berkeley, California offered “symbolic arrests” to protesters ahead of the melee that ensued this weekend, as “Anti-fascist” (Antifa) left-wingers clashed brutally with Trump supporters holding a “free speech” rally in the progressive city.
Many people wondered — as they did during a prior riot in Berkeley — why the police did not do more to handle the situation. It turns out that Berkeley actually has an official policy of doling out “symbolic arrests” to agitators if they contact the police beforehand.
That policy is stated clearly on the City of Berkeley website, which is excerpted below (bold emphasis added):
“Event Planning Checklist
The Berkeley Police and City of Berkeley want to facilitate the safe expression of constitutionally protected speech. We want to work in partnership with you to hold a safe and peaceful event. The following items are things that we recommend you do to ensure a safe event.
Go to City of Berkeley Website
- Download and complete forms
- File them at the Recreation Department
Contact the Police Department and Provide:
- Purpose of protest
- Date(s) and time of event
- Route of march, if planned
- Estimated attendance
- Organizing person or group
- Number of organizers
- How to identify and contact organizers/monitors at the event (hats, shirts, armbands)
- What will they be wearing?
- Will they have mobile phones?
- Do you want symbolic arrests?
- If so, where and when?
When advertising on social media
- Inform people of date, time and location
- Encourage peaceful expression and lawful behavior by attendees
- Discourage certain items from being brought to the event
During the Event
- Make organizers/monitors visible through clearly identifiable clothing
- Coordinate at the event with uniformed bicycle officers, they will help facilitate the event
- Stay on your planned march route, if applicable
- Maintain communication with officers throughout the event and notify them of any change in plans.”
As Cassandra Fairbanks reported for Big League Politics, the melee in Berkeley was violent and devastating. Fairbanks reported:
“The protest was organized by militant leftist group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), who had previously claimed involvement in another riot in the city in February — boasting that they were one of the “organizers of Berkeley’s shutdown of white neo-fascist Milo Yiannopoulos.”
Prior to Yiannopoulous’ scheduled speech at University of California Berkeley, protesters lead by BAMN had thrown a firebomb, violently attacked attendees, and looted several nearby businesses.
The group, clad in ski masks and all-black attire from head to toe, launched fireworks and molotov cocktails at law enforcement, caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the school’s Student Union, and set the generator of a mobile light structure ablaze. The city estimated that the riot left between $400,000 and $500,000 in damage to the area.
BAMN was identified by the FBI in 2005 as thought to be involved in terrorist activities, in a document called the Domestic Terrorism Symposium, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Black bloc is a common tactic used by anarchists to make it more difficult to identify violent protesters and rioters for prosecution or civil claims. The goal is to make one person nearly indistinguishable from the next so that they can disappear in the crowd. The tactic has been used throughout the world for decades, but its first documented use in the US was at a protest against the support of “right-wing death squads” in El Salvador outside the Pentagon in 1988.
Since then, the tactic has become common at protests organized by the far left, which often lead to riots.
It is important to note that the definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.””