So-called ‘Battle for Berkeley' mostly a war of words, 5 arrests

Round three in Berkeley's Civic Center Park was more peaceful than the previous two protest bouts, with no violence and only five arrests.

Pro-Trump groups decided to rally in the mark Thursday, the same day conservative commentator Ann Coulter was to speak nearby at U.C. Berkeley.

She canceled because of security concerns, and because the university said it could not find a venue for her appearance.

In her place, a few hundred people who said they were rallying for the President, and free-speech rights.

"America doesn't take no for an answer," declared headliner Gavin McInnes, a conservative provocateur who delivered the speech Coulter had prepared, focused on U.S. border protection.

"The fact that any immigrants are on welfare proves we're not taking the right immigrants," read McInnes aloud. Another Canadian firebrand joined him. 

"You can see how big this crowd is, and we aren't going to get tired,"  crowed commentator Lauren Southern.
"You can see it's going to be Antifa that's going to get tired first."

Antifa is the acronym used by the self-declared anti-fascist movement, which characterizes the alternative-right faction as racist, nationalist, and white supremacist.

"No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA," protestors shouted, across the street from the rally.

Police formed a line down Allston Way, keeping the two sides apart.

There were dueling bullhorns, but none of the brawling that bloodied people on both sides during earlier clashes this month, and last. 

This time, the so-called "black bloc" faction didn't show in big numbers.

And police were intercepting people wearing masks or carrying weapons.

"I didn't raised my fist at nobody, and I ain't swung at nobody," shouted one man, one of the five arrested.

He was identified as 48 year old Stephen Hall of Oakland, who police say was attempting to incite a riot.

Two other men were taken into custody for resisting arrest, one of them identified as 28 year old Donque Addison of Oakland.

A 52-year-old man, Mark Wilder, from Irving, California, was arrested for carrying a concealed dagger. 

The fifth arrest was a juvenile in possession of drugs.

Throughout the plaza, people were engaged in emotional discussion, and the fact they were throwing words, not fists, was a welcome change.

"The vast majority of Berkeley lefties support free speech," Kevin Casey told KTVU. "And they support the right of someone like Ann Coulter to speak and they abhor that she wasn't allowed to."

"Who is the arbiter of hate speech, " challenged college student Angelie Castaneda.

"Who decides what it is and what it isn't. There's no such thing. Hate speech is free speech. Speech is just speech." 

Many Berkeley High School students wandered into the arguments, listening and taking part.

The scene was equal parts civic lesson and street theatre, with one man circulating throw the crowd and handing out cans of Pepsi, a reference to the aborted soft-drink campaign.

"At least we're not hitting each other with sticks and getting pepper sprayed," smiled college teacher Anna Budd.

"So if we continue in this direction where we do have open dialogue, maybe a bridge can be built. At least now there's a chance."

 

 

 

Planned protests

  • The Orange County Alt Right group gathered at 10 a.m. at Civic Center Park
  • The International Socialist Organization was holding an "Alt Right Delete" rally at noon on Bancroft and Telegraph to show support for free speech but also their condemnation of the views of Coulter and her supporters
  • Right Wing Commentator Gavin McInnis says he will be reading aloud one of Ann Coulter's speeches at 2 p.m. at Civic Center Park, to take her place in protest of her cancelation

 

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