Anti-fascist protesters march against ‘No Marxism in America’ rally in Berkeley

Kate Finnman/Staff

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On Sunday, about 70 anti-fascist counterprotesters marched through Berkeley to protest the presence of vocal Trump supporter Amber Cummings on campus.

Eighty police officers in riot gear from both UCPD and Berkeley Police Department provided security and blocked off multiple city streets, as well as parts of campus. By 10 a.m., about 20 counterprotesters had amassed at People’s Park and were shouting anti-fascist chants in between speeches made by members of Bay Area-based anti-fascist groups.

“We feel the need to unite people against fascism, the rise of fascism in our country,” said Dayton Andrews, an organizer of the rally.

After the speeches, about 60 counterprotesters marched up Telegraph Avenue toward Sproul Plaza with UCPD and BPD blocking traffic along intersecting streets. The counterprotesters then had a standoff with police officers as police lined up at the entrance to Sproul Plaza before marching back to People’s Park at about 11:30 a.m. for more speeches.

Several counterprotesters said they felt threatened by Cummings and her “No to Marxism in America” rally.

“I’m a Marxist,” said Nancy Reiko Kato, an organizer from the Freedom Socialist Party. “When they say no to Marxism, that’s an attack on me as a woman of color, as a worker, fighting for my life.”

Cummings began her rally at 12 p.m. on Sproul Plaza, while livestreaming on Facebook. She stood behind the police line and spoke to several people, about six of whom were her supporters.

“As always, I’m here to expose the Marxist tyranny that’s going on out here,” Cummings said. “My message has always been about unification and pro-American.”

Counterprotesters then marched back to Sproul Plaza for a second standoff before marching to Revolution Books. The bookstore — a meeting place for left-wing activists and a self-identified “communist” space — was a rallying point for both sides. Cummings alleged that the store was responsible for harassing her at events and called the demonstration to protest the store in her Facebook event post.

A majority of the counterprotesters stationed themselves at the bookstore while Aidan Hill, a People’s Park commission member, stood at the center of the Free Speech Monument shouting at Cummings for a debate.

Cummings, Hill and the group of protesters then walked a few laps around campus, debating topics including white supremacy and tyranny.

As she circled campus, counter-protesters chanted “Amber is a fascist! Fascists go home!”

“When you embolden white supremacy, then you’re not welcomed here,” Hill said during their debate.

After a majority of the protesters trailing her dispersed, Cummings went to stand in front of Kip’s Bar and Grill on Durant Avenue, directly across from about 50 counterprotesters waiting in front of the bookstore.

The two groups — Cummings with two of her supporters and the counterprotesters —  chanted back and forth, often through police lines that prevented direct confrontation between the two groups. Several counterprotesters were upset by the police presence and attempted to provoke them, but no major altercations occurred.

“Their people are threatening Revolution Books over and over and over again,” Raphael Kadaris, a supporter of the bookstore, said.We’ve turned it into something beautiful. We’ve taken Revolution Books out of the building and onto the streets.”

After about 15 minutes, roughly 10 police officers escorted Cummings back to Sproul Plaza. About 10 other police officers held back all foot traffic, forming a blockade and preventing any passage to Sproul Plaza.

The blockade was lifted about 10 minutes later, after UCPD and BPD had re-formed their lineups on campus, preventing all altercations.

The crowd of counterprotesters disseminated seemingly abruptly at about 2 p.m., and the police did the same.

“It was an honor to stand with you today, and it really matters that we stood here,” Kadaris said to the crowd. “It matters for our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Several counterprotesters thought that the protest was a success.

“I think I would (say it was a success), we did drive out fascists, and they didn’t make it to our bookstore,” said Brandy Youssif, a Berkeley City College student. “I think we definitely got the message out, what the police stood for.”

Cummings posted on Facebook later, expressing some pleasure with some of the peaceful debates she had with certain individuals, including Hill. She also expressed displeasure with other aspects of the event, including how counterprotesters followed her around.

Cummings did not respond to requests for comment after the event.

“I’ll be back and back and back until this tyranny stops,” Cummings said at the rally. “(Berkeley counterprotesters) don’t scare me.”

Contact Kate Finman and Thao Nguyen at [email protected].