Provocative Donald Trump supporters who have declared Berkeley a home base in their fight for “free speech” marched around the city waving a Trump flag Saturday evening, hoping for reactions from “normy” liberal residents. It is the latest indication that right-wing groups continue to view Berkeley as a focal point.
Some of the groups plan to come back to Berkeley for a “No to Marxism in America” rally in Civic Center Park on Sunday, Aug. 27. Milo Yiannopoulos, whose speaking event at UC Berkeley in February set off a series of often violent rallies in the city, has also promised to return to campus for a “Free Speech Week” in the fall.
On Saturday evening, about 10 young Trump supporters walked along Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues for two hours, decked out in Trump gear. Rick Write, from the conservative media group The Red Elephants, live-streamed the endeavor along with other participants.
They told viewers they were conducting a “social experiment” to see how the people of Berkeley responded to their presence.
“Pretty much my hometown is a liberal Marxist stronghold,” said one member of the group, a Berkeley native, at the beginning of the stream. “The vast majority of the people here hate [Trump] with a passion. Since we actually love the guy with a passion, we’re going to see if we can maybe trigger some snowflakes, something like that. But most of all it’s nice to see we’re here to exercise our freedom of speech and our freedom of expression.”
During their walk, the group got into several shouting matches and a couple verbal confrontations that looked likely to turn physical. Many people walking down the street yelled insults at the group members, others attempted to debate them and a few cheered them on. After a verbal confrontation on Telegraph, one of the Trump supporters called the police to report people who she said threatened the group, telling the dispatcher it was an emergency.
Some of the marchers flung insults back at those who confronted them and others egged them on, smiling. One woman in the group said she felt uncomfortable with the whole project.
“I don’t want to go looking for trouble,” she said at the beginning of the stream.
Toward the end of the march, another Trump supporter who had seen the group’s live stream joined them, yelling at them across Bancroft Way, mimicking a “counter-demonstrator.” When a Berkeley police officer pulled up during this interaction, the group members told him, “Officer, he’s with us, he’s cool…he’s actually our buddy,” and the officer trailed quietly behind the group for a few minutes before leaving.
On Twitter, far-left account Berkeley Antifa followed the pro-Trump stream, periodically tweeting the group’s whereabouts.
When the Trump group called it a night around 8:30, Berkeley Antifa tweeted: “Props to #Berkeley locals tonight. Antifa wasn’t even out there and the right wing trolls were still too scared to stay for long. #winning.”
Rallies in Berkeley on March 4 and April 15 resulted in violent showdowns between black-clad antifa, short for anti-fascists, and members of the right, whose representatives ranged from libertarian civilian militia to prominent white supremacists.
The right-wing groups held the rallies in the name of free speech, they said, in reaction to the antifa violence and property destruction that led to the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ speaking event at UC Berkeley in February. Antifa said they descended on the event because they believed the far-right provocateur planned to reveal the identities of undocumented students.
The most recent rally, held on April 27 in part to protest how UC Berkeley handled plans to bring Ann Coulter to campus, was largely peaceful. Although the demonstrators called it a “Fuck Antifa” rally, antifa did not, in fact, show up to confront them.
Only one person has been charged in connection to the violence at the Berkeley rallies. In May, Eric Clanton, a former community college professor, was charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon at the April 15 rally. On the website 4chan, far-right posters had assembled photos and videos they said revealed Clanton as the antifa demonstrator who attacked right-wing protesters with a metal bike lock.
At Clanton’s arraignment, some of the same Trump supporters who walked through Berkeley on Saturday showed up to celebrate the charges. One was thrown out of the court room, where cameras and phones are prohibited, after the judge asked him multiple times to stop live-streaming the arraignment.
The planned Aug. 27 “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley appears to be organized by Amber Cummings, who came to a March rally in Berkeley holding a “Transwomen for Trump” sign. Kyle Chapman, called Based Stickman by supporters because he hit people with a stick at the same rally, said on Facebook that he will be at the August rally as well.