Protesters, organizers revolt for freedom of speech

Thousands gather in Berkeley during counter protest against ‘alt-right’ supporters

Hundreds of anti-facist protesters marched unto Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park with a sign reading “Smash Racism” to counter protest the “No to Marxism in America” rally on August 27 in Berkeley, California.

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

Violent protests erupted here following a clash between protesters staging a “Rally Against Hate” after a canceled anti-Marxist gathering Sunday in Berkeley.

Masked marchers chanted, “We will avenge Charlottesville,” and physically removed anyone who harbored opposing views and was bold enough to express them.

Two weeks following the deadly “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville Virginia (Aug. 11) that resulted in the death of counter protester Heather Heyer and left 19 others injured, many white nationalist groups planned similar actions in Boston (Aug. 19), San Francisco (Saturday) and Berkeley (Sunday).

Following the capitulation by the National Park Service on Aug. 23, the Saturday “Patriot Prayer” rally in San Francisco was scheduled to be held on Crissy Field, at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, before Joey Gibson, founder of the conservative group Patriot Prayer, canceled the event.

Gibson said he feared the police could not provide his group adequate protection.

Upon hearing that the group’s organizers wanted to hold a press conference to formally announce the cancellation, area residents mobilized and forced the cancellation of the press conference that organizers planned to hold at Alamo Square park in San Francisco.

People of all races and ages came out to show the white supremacists that their views were not welcomed in their community.

The gathering morphed into an impromptu march leading hundreds toward the intersection of 24th and Mission streets.

“I want my children to know how important it is to speak up for what’s right,” Fremont resident Karl Cousineau said. “My children are brown and I just moved here from the South. I know why I’m here. I’m well aware of what’s going on.”

Cousineau is in an interracial marriage and although he is white, his wife and children are black.

Defeated in San Francisco, the white supremacists took to social media where the groups vowed to regroup in Berkeley the following day.

Self-proclaimed “Alt Knight” Kyle Chapman took to Facebook to rally his brethren for another rally in the Bay Area, this time at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Park in Berkeley.

Chapman gained notoriety for fighting counter protesters during a pro-Trump rally March 4, also in Berkeley.

“I’ve repeatedly put my life and freedom on the line,” Chapman posted to his Facebook page. “It’s time to return the favor. I need all warriors to suit up and boot up this weekend.”

MLK Park in Berkeley had a completely different vibe than the event just 24 hours earlier across the bay.

As many as 4,000 people descended on the park, located kitty corner to the Berkeley Police station on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, for the “No to Marxism in America” event that was canceled by event organizer Amber Cummings — also for safety concerns.

Despite her public plea for her supporters to remain away, roughly 100 conservatives chose to attend the event.

The counter protesters were part of the “Bay Area Rally Against Hate.”

Police controlled access to the park and prohibited water bottles, masks, pipes, poles and anything else that could be used as an instrument of terror.

The first three arrests all occurred before noon and were the result of two people wearing bandanas and one person filming with a selfie stick.

Conservatives stood far outnumbered by counter protesters, however, early on they spoke their mind and engaged in debate with anyone who would listen.

Tensions reached their peak when hundreds of masked protesters in black arrived with shields reading no hate. They quickly overran the police line and infiltrated the park, blended with the rest of the people and continued to clear the area of alleged “fascists.”

Fisticuffs were rare, yet intense, and in one case gas was deployed by Berkeley police to disburse a crowd surrounding a conservative being assaulted by a group of counter protesters in the intersection outside of the park.

Tempers rose as quickly as the summer temperatures and debates devolved into dust ups with 13 people arrested before the protests were over, according to Berkeley Police.

Like Saturday, people traveled from far reaches of Northern California to ensure a front row seat to the epicenter of free speech.

Sam Hyde, who also answered to Matt, is a young black Republican who took the train in from Sacramento.

“I bought a train ticket and then heard the event was canceled but still decided to make the trip down,” Hyde said. “I came to show people that all right wingers are not white supremacists. I’m black so I can’t be a white nationalist. Color doesn’t define me — I’m an American.”

Hyde, like many other far-right sympathizers sprinkled throughout the park, was systematically run from the premises.

Some retreated quickly, others were doused with paint or urine, others were violently removed and some were removed by police for their own protection.

An hour after the masked group’s arrival, they led a contingent of supporters north up Martin Luther King Jr. Way to Ohlone Park where they chanted, shared water and eventually dissolved onto separate streets throughout Berkeley.