Berkeley mayor on Sunday rally: ‘It went as well as it could have’

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Sunday’s rally in Downtown Berkeley featured clashes between “alt-right” ralliers and counterprotesters, but some activists and residents still consider it to have been a largely “peaceful” and “successful” event.

The “No to Marxism in America” protest was set to take place in Berkeley on Sunday, but it was canceled last week by organizer Amber Cummings. Despite its cancellation, some ralliers still attended, inciting a response from a horde of counterprotesters.

Berkeley Unified School District teacher and By Any Means Necessary organizer Yvette Felarca summarized the events in Berkeley as a “resounding success,” calling the weekend in the Bay Area a “resounding defeat” for the “alt-right.”

“It was a collective, unified movement where thousands of people made clear that any white supremacists or fascists (were) going to be sent packing,” Felarca said.

Berkeley Police Department escorted several ralliers from situations where they were outnumbered. BPD also organized police barriers around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, later using pepper spray and arresting protesters for a variety of violations when fights broke out.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said he was “really proud of Berkeley.” According to Arreguín, a great deal of preparation from local police and fire departments went into preventing violence, including the physical separation of large groups and the implementation of rules to prohibit the use of weapons and masks.

According to Arreguín, the rallies featured “families, children (and) people of all backgrounds that came out to stand against hate.”

Felarca added that she thought the “alt-right” and “fascist” protesters from Saturday’s rallies in San Francisco came to Berkeley on Sunday as a “last-ditch effort” when their planned events dwindled into a press conference.

On Sunday, masked protesters also handed out flyers declaring another rally for Nov. 4. The flyer read, “This nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!”

Police Review Commissioner Andrea Prichett, a founding member of activist group Berkeley Copwatch, said Berkeley put out a clear message denouncing white supremacy. Prichett also added, however, that Berkeley would still have to address racism in its own communities, referring to issues of racial profiling in the police force and privileging of white and wealthy individuals.

“We’re maturing as a movement against white supremacy,” Prichett said. “That means we’re going to struggle about tactics.”

Naweed Tahmas, external vice president of the Berkeley College Republicans, condemned what he described as police passivity against “leftist criminals.”

“Berkeley police reaffirmed yesterday that lawlessness and mob violence will go unpunished,” Tahmas said in an email. “Ordinary citizens and students who make Berkeley their home are in fear of their lives because the police, City Council, and Mayor routinely abdicate their responsibility to keep the public safe.”

According to Arreguín, the key difference between the rallies of San Francisco and Berkeley was the presence of Antifa and Black Bloc, who he said were the small number of individuals intent on committing violence. He added that these groups do not speak for the people of Berkeley and will be held accountable.

“Overall, it went as well as it could have,” Arreguín said.

Contact Ani Vahradyan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anivahrad.