Anti-Trump protesters claiming to be “anti-fascist” have ironically attacked a pro-free speech rally being held in Berkeley, California.
Skirmishes between alt-right and antifa continue at Berkeley. pic.twitter.com/m5oVB87zQB
— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) April 15, 2017
Early into the event, there were reports of knives being thrown, pepper spray deployed, and antifa throwing M80s into the crowd of free speech activists.
M80's going off
Fights breaking out
— DeDeKim (@ZDeDeKim) April 15, 2017
The event, called “Patriots Day,” was set to feature outspoken pro-Donald Trump speakers including Lauren Southern, Kyle Chapman *better known as “Based Stick Man,” who defended Trump supporters against left-wing agitators at a previous rally), Vaughn Neville, Irma Hinojosa, Tim Treadstone (also known as Baked Alaska, songwriter behind the campaign season’s “MAGA Anthem”) and Brittany Pettibone.
Rich Black of the Liberty Revival Alliance raised nearly $8,000 to hold the rally through crowdfunding website WeSearchr. He was also one of the organizers of a March 4 rally, where Chapman was arrested for defending fellow Trump supporters from the masked black bloc.
“This event will happen. We cannot allow ourselves to be bullied and our freedoms to be taken from us. Bring heart, support the Patriots who made their stand on March 4th, again on April 15th,” the crowdfunding bounty description read.
As Chapman went to give his speech, he was pepper sprayed by one of the anarchists.
There were also multiple reports of injuries.
— Tom Lochner (@tomlochner) April 15, 2017
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) April 15, 2017
As the free speech activists faced down the violent mob of antifa, they reportedly began chanting, “trust fund commies get off our streets.”
— David Mack (@davidmackau) April 15, 2017
Soon after the rally was announced, antifa vowed to shut it down — urging followers and fellow anti-free speech advocates to bring masks.
#defendthebay Sat 4/15 10am-2pm
— Berkeley Antifa (@berkeleyantifa) April 13, 2017
“Masking up or otherwise concealing your identity helps protect you from the alt-right and the state. There is a risk of the alt-right doxxing individuals for the purposes of online harassment campaigns which can lead to offline consequences,” the Facebook event urged. “You also want to assure the state does not identify you so they cannot target you for repression later on. Consider bringing an extra mask in case someone else might need one!”
Citing previous violence from antifa towards Trump supporters at rallies in Berkeley, many planned to attend the event with weapons.
— Proudboys Canada (@ProudboysCanada) April 14, 2017
Both antifa and the Patriot’s Day crowds began to pour in an hour and a half before the protest began. The police had attempted to place a barrior between the two groups, but it did not last long.
— Oakland Photo Vault (@BlackKangoPhoto) April 15, 2017
— Gabrielle Canon (@GabrielleCanon) April 15, 2017
— janey (@janeygak) April 15, 2017
The day before the event, Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change asserted that he was in Home Depot to get a gas mask and saw multiple “antifa-types” purchasing wooden sticks.
In Berkeley now for tomorrow's riot, was at home depot yesterday getting a gas mask and saw anti-fa types buy a lot of wooden polls.
— Luke Rudkowski (@Lukewearechange) April 14, 2017
The radical leftists had also placed signs around town, libeling comedian and political commentator Gavin McInnes, though he told Big League Politics that he was not scheduled to attend the event at any point. His group, The Proud Boys, was planning to attend to help protect Trump supporters.
I'm a Nazi who defends child rape!? Their straw men go WAY past cartoon villain and into cheesy horror flick. pic.twitter.com/S5VNaeng4z
— Gavin McInnes (@Gavin_McInnes) April 14, 2017
“They’re attacking little old ladies with American flags, the flag of the country that they are in!” McInnes told Big League Politics. “The left has made the American flag the new swastika.”
Speaking to Big League Politics on the eve of the event, Hinojosa, an advisor for Latinos for Trump, said that she was not nervous at all, but excited.
“I’m not nervous, I’m excited to speak up on the importance of freedom of speech especially now that we have different groups like Antifa trying to shut us down,” Hinojosa said. “I’m concerned for the safety of those in attendance but we have to be willing to speak up against anyone trying to take away our first amendment right. I’m ready to stand up.”
Hinojosa’s sentiment was echoed by Southern, who stated that instead of getting nervous, she gets prepared.
“I try not to get nervous, instead I get prepared. It’s a shame I have to have so much security ready simply to speak my mind in public – but getting punched or pepper sprayed is a small price to pay compared to those who gave their lives for my right to speak,” Southern told Big League Politics.
Pettibone, co-host of the Virtue of the West podcast, told Big League that she was so nervous that she almost refused to speak at the event. She ultimately decided it was important to overcome her fears to speak out for something she believes in.
“I’m definitely nervous. In fact, when I was initially asked to speak at the event, I declined out of a concern of threats of physical violence from Antifa,” Pettibone told BLP. “But I changed my mind because I decided that, in the grand scheme of things, the freedom for a society to speak what it believes is infinitely more important than my personal fears.”
— Brittany Pettibone (@BrittPettibone) April 15, 2017
Last month, Trump supporters held a “March 4 Trump” in Berkeley, and a large amount of protesters in black bloc attire arrived. The day ended with violence, including the assault and pepper spraying of an elderly man.
— Thee Red Elephant ™ (@TheeRedElephant) March 5, 2017
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.”