Supporters of President Donald Trump gathered at Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center Park in Berkeley, CA on March 4th, 2017. There were an estimated 200 supporters attending per their events page, with the event officially scheduled to kick off around 2pm. Lead by Rich Black, their motto was “lets support the president and stop the hate.” With anti-trump protesters bound to show up, this could have been a great chance for peaceful exchange of dialog, however that idea quickly crumbled as the groups clashed.
An extremely large presence was maintained by Berkeley Police, prepared with riot gear and less than lethal weapons. Initially, the separate groups maintained segregated for the most part, with only the occasional person wandering over to discuss views. Along the anti-trump protesters area, protesters in black-bloc hid their faces from view and often threw fireworks and small smoke bombs around the crowd.
Tensions boiled over when debate failed and demonstrators of the groups resorted to physical violence within the crowd, though usually being a momentary scuffle to try and land a few punches then backing off. The police officers dawned their riot gear at this point, preparing to intervene if the crowd got too out of control, but they remained on the sidelines after the fights dispersed. The atmosphere settled down a bit as opposite sides of the political spectrum managed to hold some reasonable conversations. I even witnessed an exchange of flowers in terms of peace, but these gestures would be destroyed later throughout the day.
More brawling broke out and individuals with pepper spray began spraying the crowd. One person had suffered decent trauma and was treated by the police, who gave care while keeping the crowd from surrounding him. The demonstrators spilled over into the street in preparation for a march. The trump supporters took off and the anti-trump crowd quickly followed to antagonize, the march resembled a fast-paced scurry between traffic that wasn’t blocked and an overall sense of chaos. I witnessed one member of the anti-trump protesters ducked behind a corner, attempting to ignite a small American flag, but failing.
The crowd, now in a state of disarray, arrived back at the park in waves. A small band had setup named “The Tortured” to bring a little music to the scene. They played with a single guitar and snare drum, using the crowd of angst filled protesters to conduct a bit of self-promotion for their next gig. Police began to identify individuals and quickly moved in with force to detain them, one for the possession of a knife and another for carrying a baseball bat strapped to her backpack.
Trump supporters took up a high ground position and anti-trump protesters took up the other side, the group separated by a wall. Anti-trump supporters began stealing items such as Trump hats, American flags and banners. Several of the hats were burned along with signs that had been forcibly taken. Raw eggs would eventually make it into their hands and the anti-Trump crowd tossed them against their opposition, largely at a man holding a sign that advocated the housing of the homeless.
As arrests of protesters rose, the crowd dispersed slowly. The overall feeling of the entire event was a failure on both sides part, sinking to tactics that did little to create unity between the divided groups. It is worth mentioning that several people did manage to have decent conversations, share common goals and shake hands to make progress. Several instances of bullying, theft and childish vandalism overshadowed this, leaving people with scars, bruises and blood stains.