City of Berkeley: ‘Stay away’ from upcoming alt-right rally, counter-protest

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The city of Berkeley is now advising community members to “stay away” from an alt-right “No to Marxism in America” rally scheduled in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Aug. 27 and to not “create alternative events near downtown Berkeley,” according to a city of Berkeley press release issued Wednesday. “Stay away from conflict. There are many alternative ways to respond,” the release reads.

The “No to Marxism” rally invites attendees “to come stand against Marxism,” according to a Facebook event description. Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced in a Tuesday press release his office was exploring options to prevent the event from taking place, including whether the city has “the legal means to stop this rally from taking place.”

“We don’t want the rally to take place due to a high probability of violence,” said Karina Ioffee, a spokesperson with the mayor’s office. “The reality is: we really can’t stop people from gathering in a public venue. We’re still meeting with police and the city manager to find out what are our options. We want to de-escalate the situation (and) make sure our city does not turn into a war zone.”

A permit for the event has not yet been sought by event organizers or granted by the city, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. Amber Cummings, a person listed as the host for the “No to Marxism” rally, could not be reached for comment.

Berkeley City Council will be holding an emergency meeting Friday at 3 p.m. to consider the adoption of an urgency ordinance to issue regulations “that are deemed necessary to preserve public health, welfare, safety, and property” for street events without permits.

Chakko said while the city “does not have any evidence” that organizations connected to last week’s Charlottesville, Virginia protests are planning on attending the scheduled Berkeley rally, the city is advising residents to stay away from the protests to assist police “in terms of managing crowds and keeping people safe.”

We don’t want police officers who could be focused on people breaking the law instead busy helping to manage counter-protesters,” Chakko said. “But when you create an alternative event, that poses real risk. It compromises the ability for police to respond. We want to use every available tool we have to keep our people safe. ”

Multiple campus student leaders cited community safety as a concern for the scheduled rally. ASUC External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson said in an email he is meeting with Arreguín later to week to explore “every possible avenue” to best secure the protection of students and community members.

ASUC Senator-elect Juniperangelica Cordova added that she was “happy to see the city strongly condemning the upcoming actions of white supremacists” and hopes that “every possible action” is taken to prevent harm and violence from coming to Berkeley.

“The UC Berkeley/City of Berkeley name and reputation will be used to score headlines and national attention. While this leaves communities vulnerable, the legalities of free speech continue to outline the boundaries of what officials can and/or choose to act on,” Cordova said in an email. Nevertheless, people are mad. And with anger may come violence. My hope for the events is that marginalized communities are able to stay as safe as possible and the greater community uses this opportunity to be critical of where we are in the political and social environment today.”

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.