In Berkeley, dozens of far-left Antifa extremists broke through police barricades, surrounded, and attacked opposing protesters and journalists, punching them in their faces and hitting them with sticks, as police looked on after having been ordered to stand down.
Hundreds of Antifa extremists clad in all black as well as communist and socialists groups gathered in Berkeley after a conservative and anti-communist rally had been cancelled.
Organizers of the “Patriot Prayer” rally and the “No to Marxism in America” rally both cancelled their events, which had been scheduled for Sunday Aug. 27 in San Francisco and Berkeley, over fears of violent counterprotests.
“In light of all the violent threats taking place and the past history of police being ordered to stand down at prior rallies in Berkeley this gives me grave concerns for the safety of the people attending my event,” said Amber Cummings, organizer of the “No to Marxism in America” rally, in a letter calling on people not to show up.
In the original posting for the event on Facebook, Cummins said the goal of the event was to speak out against the influence of Marxist ideology in America. She denounced racist groups and told them not to attend the rally.
“I myself am a transsexual female who embraces diversity and loves diversity. This event is not a [sic] event of hate speech, it is a [sic] event about concerns of Marxism in America,” she wrote.
Joey Gibson, organizer of the “Patriot Prayer” rally, said in an improvised news conference that was live-streamed online that he had decided to cancel the rally because participants would have had to go through crowds of opposing protesters, making the chance of violent confrontation extremely high.
On the day of the actual event small groups of pro-Trump supporters and conservatives had shown up. They were far outnumbered by the thousands of opposing protesters, which contained at least hundreds of Antifa extremists.
Numerous violent actions by Antifa extremists were caught on camera and posted on social media during the day.
In one such video a man can be seen lying on the ground and being kicked, punched, and hit with a stick by four Antifa extremists, until a journalist named Al Letson used his body to shield the victim and stop the beating.
In a different video, dozens of Antifa can be seen running over to surround the man with one of them saying, “destroy that [expletive], destroy that [expletive] equipment.”
There were several instances during the day where journalists were attacked for filming Antifas.
In one video the Antifa extremists can be seen toppling over and pushing away plastic police barricades filled with water at Berkeley’s Civic Center Park.
Antifa quickly attacked a handful of “Patriot Prayer” protesters, including Joey Gibson, that had gathered on the other side of the barricades while holding their hands up, with one of them making a peace sign.
The video shows the Antifas breaking through the barriers and punching one of the protesters in the face and hitting another on the head with a stick causing him to fall to the ground. One of the black clad extremists used his shield, which says “No Hate,” to strike one of the men.
Two of the right-wing protesters are then chased for about a block while being pepper sprayed, scolded at, having bottles thrown at them, and being hit with a stick. Police standing on the side of the street do not step in, and the two men have to work themselves through a line of police officers for protection. The men are then handcuffed by police, although they are released later.
Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood defended the order for police to stand down.
“The question has to be: does it make sense to get into a major use of force over grassy area. The need to separate very much vanished. … it doesn’t make sense to fight over something where the conditions have changed, the need for separation simply didn’t exist,” Greenwood told local media. It is unclear which specific location Greenwood was referring to in his comments.
One of the videos uploaded show Antifa extremists chasing police from MLK Plaza in Berkeley.
Police told local media that 13 people had been arrested and two people had been hospitalized.
During the rally, hundreds of Antifa and communist protesters shouted “no Trump, no wall, no USA at all.”
Antifa extremists could also be heard shouting “whose streets, our streets.”
Another video shows a man, who had showed up wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and a Trump flag was attacked by the violent mob, having his hat, flag, and glasses taken, and being spat on by the counterprotesters as he sat on the ground, local media reported.
Another video shows a man beaten on the head by Antifa extremists, having a substance from a bottle—most likely urine—thrown over him, and being violently pushed to the ground.
All of the videos show the pro-Trump and conservative protesters being far outnumbered by Antifa, and show no acts of violence from their side, not even in self defense.
In response to the violence in Berkeley President Donald Trump retweeted a tweet of a Washington Post article headlined: “Black-clad antifa attack peaceful right wing demonstrators in Berkeley.”
In a speech last week in Phoenix, Arizona, the President specifically called out the Antifa extremist group.
“You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything—Antifa,” he said.
The Antifa extremist group was founded in Germany in the early 1920s as the violent wing of Germany’s communist party (the KPD) with the goal of creating a communist dictatorship in Germany.
Following the communist revolution in Russia, the communists believed that Germany would see the next revolution as it had the second-largest communist party.
While the group claimed to oppose fascism, in reality it opposed any group that did not agree with its communist ideology.
While the group in the United States does protest against actual hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, the group also targets conservative or free speech groups that it does not agree with.
In February this year Antifa extremists caused $150,000 in damage to buildings when they set fire and smashed windows in a violent protest in an attempt to prevent controversial conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking. Police at the time decided to stand down.