BERKELEY BATTLE: POST-TRUTH
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF BERKELEY AND SAN FRANCISCO RALLIES
PART 1. EVENTS
“On Saturday, August 26, thousands of people showed up for the peaceful demonstration in San Francisco at eight locations. Even with a giant portion of the city — estimated 35,000 — at Burning Man, San Francisco had amazing attendance at seven different rallies across the city,” shares Shelly Crouse-Monarez, a violinist, string teacher at Music in the Schools Foundation and a Former String Orchestra Director at the Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts.
A human banner at the Ocean Beach reflected the spirit of the San Francisco event. Walnut Creek joined: Women’s March Contra Costa organized a human banner “End Hate!”
These peaceful events were held in response to the Patriot Prayer’s rally planned for August 26, Saturday and had one simple message:
NO ROOM FOR FASCISM AND HATE IN OUR CITY. NO DIALOGUE. ZERO TOLERANCE.
In the past, Patriot Prayer rallies caused violence and murder. After Patriot Prayer’s rally in Portland on 29 April 2017, an attendee Jeremy Christian killed two men and injured one after they confronted him about harassing two young Muslim girls. Read a full report of multiple cases of racism and bigotry and Neo-Nazi leaders during Patriot Prayer rallies nationwide here.
DAY ONE: SF, AUGUST 26, SATURDAY
In light of the Patriot Prayer rallies reputation and the aftermath of Charlottesville, on August 25, Friday, precautions were on the way. Construction workers built fences at Chrissy Field.
Weapons of any kind, explosives, firearms (including licensed concealed carry firearms), gas masks, helmets, toy or replica guns, shields, selfie sticks, sticks or bats of any nature, including supports for signs and placards, mace/pepper spray, were on the long list of items prohibited within the fenced area. Signs were only allowed if made of foam core, cardboard or paper. Backpacks and bags exceeding a certain size and liquids (other than water in factory-sealed, clear plastic bottles) were not allowed.
However, at 3 pm August 25, Friday, the Patriot Prayer leader canceled the event due “to the lack of security at Crissy Field” but did not officially withdraw the application. The group then posted on its FB page that it would hold a “press conference” in Alamo Square at 2 pm, Saturday.
As of 11 am Saturday the city administration blocked the Alamo Square from public access. No permit for this event was issued since this is a residential area and the authorities could not provide adequate public safety.
At 11 am, counter-protesters gathered around Alamo Square, outside of the park, and then marched towards Mission street, protected by hundreds of SFPD. The atmosphere was festive: bright colors, music, children, dogs.
Patriot Prayer group gave a “press conference” in Pacifica, a small remote town inaccessible by public transportation. They did not obtain a permit.
In San Francisco, I personally spotted a group of four “alt-right” hiding in a small diner on Market street at 1.30 pm, in theatrical costumes, with flags in backpacks.
The march ended around 3 pm at 24th@Mission with a powerful poetry reading and music.
At 3.30 a group of about 15–20 Patriot Prayer members arrived at Crissy Field. Despite the fact that the fences by that time were removed, Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer — who previously claimed that Chrissy Field was unsafe for gatherings— was also present but left before we arrived.
We arrived around 4 pm to find a group of about 10 “alt-right” and 5–10 people in black plus about 20 onlookers without any clear affiliation, lots of press and about 100 SFPD (3 on horseback) and Federal Police in riot gear.
I recognized people who hid in the diner during the march. As observed by It’s Going Down, one woman’s costume was a replica of a Nazi character from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, with an addition of the Kekistan flag.
One member of antifa had two megaphones on maximum volume, aimed at two alt-right men holding an American flag, with the same clear message: Zero tolerance of intolerance. No dialogue on hate.
In a few minutes, the procession backed up to the street and off of Crissy Field.
Golden Gate bridge in the fog as the backdrop, cruise-ship howling, sirens wailing, outrageous outfits, horses and riot police — the scene had a mixed taste of a comic book, cult film and the theater of the absurd. There was some screaming back and forth, and many people recorded themselves on devices plugged to them with wires, looking into the screens, talking past each other to the invisible audience instead of the other party.
Around 5 pm, most of the alt-right retreated. I had a brief interview with a member of antifa with the megaphones. He politely declined to give me his name or to be photographed as “self-PR was not a goal.” (Unlike alt-right members who walked around streaming their every word and gesture, antifa did not record their actions in SF or Berkeley and did not seek an opportunity to speak to the press.) He was aware of the recent anti-Antifa campaign on Twitter and chat boards that I reported and experienced first-hand. We talked about the tongue-in-cheek, post-modern feel of the “alt-right” and their negating of “social justice”, liberalism and progressive ideas.
At this time, after five hours of running up and down the hills, my flip-flop broke and I found myself barefoot on a mine-field — literally. One group counter-protested by NOT cleaning after their dogs at Crissy Field. Either these protesters failed to deliver or I developed a new survival skill but I ran along with the crowd around the field for about an hour and stayed relatively clean. This was the only moment I felt in any danger throughout this weekend.
Around 5.30 pm, a group of people dressed in black and in plain clothes, with posters “Protect Our Communities” chased out one of the “alt-right” vehicles (without license plates). Later, a Neo-Nazi group Identity Evropa was found near Crissy Field.
At approximately 6 pm, Gibson was spotted at Civic Center, San Francisco, where he was protected by police during a brief and confrontational discussion of the Patriot Prayer’s affiliations with the members of the public.
DAY 2. BERKELEY: EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS
A second event in the Bay Area planned for this weekend, titled in coded language “No to Marxism in America,” did not get a permit and was canceled on Friday evening by a provoking (and confusing) letter from the organizer. Patriot Prayer leaders used social media to announce their intent to attend the canceled event.
In the past year, the “alt-right” tagged Berkeley as a “battlefield” and turned it into the arena for four disturbing events involving extreme violence. We have reported from three of these events: February 1, March 4, April 27. Berkeley residents and authorities, therefore, knew that the discussion of Marxism had little relevance and was used to veil the same message of intolerance and hate.
“THERE WAS EVERY REASON TO EXPECT MORE VIOLENCE,” writes Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a KPFA journalist covering protests in the Bay Area for 15 years. “Amber Cummings, the “organizer’ of the right-wing rally that didn’t happen, is someone who’s on video throwing punches at prior demonstrations. She used her Facebook account to “sell sticks and shields” for people coming to her rally…That’s what anti-hate organizers were primed for — but I haven’t seen that context in any coverage of the day’s events.”
At 8.30 about 20 police vans and a number of motorcycles passed by MLK blocking the road. Concrete and plastic barricades surrounded the park. Helicopters arrived. At 10 am a peaceful counter-protest started. Around 1.oo pm a march of estimated 4,000 people appeared outside of the barricades, protected in the front by 100–200 people dressed in black. At 2 pm there were rumors of tear gas but, in fact, BPD used smoke to break up a fight. There were reports of 13 people arrested. By 5 pm the rally stopped. Read the most accurate live blog at Berkeleyside.
I witnessed a few people detained for attempting to wear masks but released soon after. A police officer asked a young Trump supporter to remove a helmet and did not detain him. It was unclear how this person got into the park with the helmet as all bags were subject to search.
I have heard a police officer saying to an “alt-right” speaker: “You have created a media spectacle.” Then I heard him saying to his partner: “Victim mentality.”
“PEACEFUL AND JOYOUS COMMUNITY EVENT”
“Thousands of Berkeley residents joined the counter protest on Sunday to reclaim our city from provocateurs who have been descending on our streets since the election of President Trump. Members of resistance groups and unions, neighbors and teachers, congregants of churches and synagogues, joined in a carnivalesque expression of solidarity, donning Groucho Marx glasses and handing out humorous posters in response to the “anti-Marxist” intention of the originally proposed rally by its organizer Amber Cummings, who did not get a permit from the city,” said Alla Efimova, PhD, Berkeley resident, KunstWorks founder, former Jacques and Esther Reutlinger Director at UC Berkeley, Director at Judah L. Magnes Museum, Associate Curator at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and author, in an email interview.
“Although Berkeley mayor and city council advised residents against gathering, once the counter-protest became inevitable, Berkeley police and UCPD responded with flexibility, blocking off Oxford Street with dumpster trucks and other vehicles to keep the crowd safe. City council woman Sophie Hahn joined the crowd, greeting and hugging friends. Indivisible members wearing yellow vests and arm bands kept an eye on the crowd, immediately surrounding and questioning anyone with suspicious large backpacks or heavy items.”
“When a handful of Patriot Prayer members showed up at Civic Center, without a permit and with clear intent to provoke by wearing MAGA hats and draped in Trump banners, antifa sprung into action, fundamentally helping Berkeley residents to chase them out of town. There were minor skirmishes in a predominantly peaceful and joyous community event to take back the city.”
“I SAW MORE SERIOUS FIGHTS AT MY HIGH SCHOOL EVERY DAY”
Fred Dodsworth, a journalist with 30 years of experience, former SF Examiner columnist, SF Examiner feature editor and ANG Newspapers copy chief, who ran for Berkeley City Council, District 6 in 2016, shared on FB: “I was at the event all day (from before 10 am till after 5). It was a celebration with some shouting and posturing, but damn little of that as well. I saw more serious fights at my high school every day than I saw today at a rally by racist, Jew-hating scum who had to deal with the reality that they’ve lost four public events in a row (yes, the haters lost at Charlottesville because they exposed their poison to a nation that became horrifying then angry and engaged).”
“HE PEPPER-SPRAYED PEOPLE …”
Kitty Stryker, a popular blogger, writer for Buzzfeed, Vice, Wear Your Voice, Ravishly, the Frisky, the Guardian, antifascist activist, queer sex educator, and a Struggalo Circus Ringmistress, has been providing first-aid assistance on site at several Berkeley rallies. Below are the photos of her at the event.
Stryker shared her story in an email interview with us:
“…after pepper spraying a bunch of protesters, that dude [a Trump supporter behind a man in a yellow shirt] tried to to grab a flag and run. His attempts to grab our friend’s flag almost knocked over our speaker and a person in a wheelchair. The crowd stopped him and was about to start really punching him in the head —so you see me, in the photo, putting my hands out and separating people.
I told the man who was attacking people that he needed to get out and I could help escort him safely, and he was shouting about how they were beating up his son. I offered to get his son out of the crowd too, but he wouldn’t tell me anything else, he just got pushed out by the crowd. When I was doing that, he didn’t appear to have any real damage to the head/face — no blood, no swelling.
I did however end up taking care of people who, I now presume, were the ones he was pepper spraying. I took care of two folks, a friend took care of a couple more.
It’s worth noting that there were a lot more shields [than at previous rallies] and that probably helped prevent more bloodshed. I didn’t have to tend to any open wounds, and that is far better than the last battle for Berkeley [in April] I went to, where I was tending to knife slashes to the head and face. I don’t know [if the victims were alt-right], I don’t ask before I provide care. Judging from clothes and injuries, though, they were not alt-right — they weren’t wearing body armor or any indicators of the alt-right. The alt-right were the only ones cited for or seen carrying and waving around knives.”
“A PEACEFUL PROTEST”
Simon Rogghe, UC Berkeley Ph.D. student, author, translator and performer, recorded a short video of the event. He attended Berkeley rallies throughout the year and wrote articles and short stories about some of them.
"The rats are everywhere," the exterminator says, rolling up the blue sleeves on his overall. I tell him he doesn't…
In his commentary on the video, Rogghe wrote, “Here is a video to counteract the serious disinformation being spread by some of the mainstream media (notably by the SF Chronicle, SFGate, The Washington Post, et al.) about the rally and counter-protest held in Berkeley at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. There was a peaceful protest with a few rare moments of tension scattered in between. Antifa was there to protect the peaceful protesters from possible violence from the far-right. They did not initiate any violence themselves.”
It is the third rally where I think how the ability to speak is crucial for exercising the First Amendment and that heads are, indeed, “important body parts” (as per Gibson) in need of more than helmets. The lack of thought and parroting slogans is a characteristic feature of “alt-right” personalities. Once you talk to these people you understand that they are simply incapable of planning or strategizing an intricate campaign like this. We see only the front. We are provoked into an argument with mere tools. It is the journalists’ obligation to research facts and think — instead of using the heads for wearing helmets.
The show slides into physical violence simply due to the impossibility of the verbal exchange. And that, to me, is expressed the back by two sirens on max volume and Antifa’s zero tolerance.
ANTIFA: ZERO TOLERANCE
In response to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s statement on Antifa, Julian Carter, California College of the Arts associate professor and a former professor at NYU and Stanford, an attendee of the counter-protest in Berkeley, wrote:“As a lifelong pacifist who has gone to hundreds of protests, I personally feel much safer knowing that antifa is there. I am deeply in their debt for their willingness to risk injury and prosecution so that people like me can assemble despite the constant threat of violence from the armed violence of the police as well as from less official soldiers who fight for white supremacy and against queer freedom.”
“I know many progressive organizers. There are a variety of opinions about the spontaneous gathering of protesters called “Antifa.” Many are beginning to recognize we do not live in normal times. Armed self-identified Nazis traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to march in Berkeley, to assault people in Berkeley, is not anything like the anti-war protests of the 1960s, which I also attended (and help organize and got arrested at),” said Fred Dodsworth, a journalist, Berkeley City Council candidate.
Terry Taplin, a local award-winning poet and the representative of the Civic Arts Commission of Berkeley, reports: “I stood outside of the old city hall near the police station for the most part, behind antifa’s defensive line. I can one hundred percent speak to the peacefulness… peaceful protesters and black bloc coexisted and stood together.”
A Berkeley protest participant who identifies as antifa, interviewed by us in the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi’s statement, said: “Berkeley was neither violent nor a sad event. It’s pretty clear [Nancy Pelosi] wasn’t there. Yet despite her ignorance, her pronouncement will have consequences. Fighting the spin after a Nazi rally is one of the hardest psychological aspects of being at one. I always knew on one level that the media was sensationalist, a tool of our corpocracy, and full of lies. But it adds such a whole other level to that knowledge to experience events and watch them become distorted like this. It’s the ugliest form of gaslighting Ihave ever experienced. This bullshit from Pelosi is meant to keep you out of the streets and afraid of people who have your backs. Don’t buy it!” *I decided to withdraw their names after seeing online death threats to Antifa.
“…I identify with antifascism or “antifa”… their lack of tolerance for fascism.
Fascism that aided a group of angry white people to terrorize Black folks, to murder an activist, to injure many more. Fascism that allowed the cops to stand by and let that happen with few consequences. Fascism that has shrugged while the militant “alt-right” become ever more transparent about their adoration of Nazis, their delight in bringing guns to protests, their increasing desire to murder people. Antifa is a strategy to prevent these people from having power… and we’re being declared a terrorist organization, the “militant left”, because the status quo is dependent on that white supremacy,” writes Kitty Stryker, a blogger and activist.
THIS BATTLE IS NOT ABOUT ANITFA AND NAZIS.
This is a war in which we all are being played: media, police, left, right, youth, elderly, conservatives and progressives.
By reflecting these events as dialogues between two opposite sides, the media is accepting and enabling fascism.
By engaging in debates about Frog deities, oxymoronic free hate speech, saying words like “alt-right” and “alt-left” and allowing to question whether Hitler did or did not anything wrong, we shift not just out sanity and dignity — we undermine our very humanity.
READ MORE ABOUT “ALT-RIGHT” IN BERKELEY HERE:
HOW “ALT-RIGHT” TROLLED AMERICA: “Alt-right” campaign to cover up their Nazi, white supremacist and racist views to win “normies” (your) hearts.
WHO IS TROLLING BAY AREA? A practical guide to “alt-right” behind SF/Berkeley rallies
TO PUNCH OR NOT TO PUNCH: Fake memes campaign to smear Antifa, PR for Nazis and more.
KNOW YOUR NAZIS: A guide to Charlottesville’s organizers and their ties with the Russian ideologists.
*All facts and photos are in public domain and available through Google. Links to the original sources are included.
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