'No Hate, No Fear': Large Protests in Berkeley Against Far-Right Rally

A counterdemonstration against a far-right rally gathers near UC Berkeley on Aug. 27, 2017. (Sheraz Sadiq/KQED)

Updated Sunday Aug. 27 at 4:10 p.m.

More than 3,000 people marched through the streets of Berkeley on Sunday, toting signs reading "Not in our town," playing music and chanting "No hate, no fear," to protest plans for a far-right rally that was scrapped by the organizer before it began.

The festive but defiant crowd was mostly peaceful until the early afternoon, when skirmishes broke out between black-clad anti-fascist protesters and a few far-right supporters at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, where marchers had gathered. Thirteen people were arrested and two taken to the hospital, said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.

People hit the streets to protest the "No to Marxism in America" rally planned for MLK Civic Center Park -- though its organizer asked supporters late Saturday not to show up. The rally had been expected to draw white supremacist and nationalist groups, but only a few far-right supporters turned out.

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Many police, donned in riot gear and gas masks, were on hand to deal with the crowd when the antifa and members of far-right Patriot Prayer showed up.  At one point, hundreds of protesters pushed past barricades and occupied the park at about 1:30 p.m. as police watched. Video footage shows Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, who had attempted to hold a far-right rally in San Francisco on Saturday, being chased from the park.

The violence was short-lived. The Rev. Ben McBride of Berkeley led protesters in a chant of "victory" after taking over the park and expelling the small number of far-right supporters.

"When people want to hide that kind of white supremacy under the guise of free speech and political persuasion, we see it as our duty to make it very clear that we resist that kind of racist ideology, and we're going to continue to protect people that migrated from the South to have that kind of freedom and protection here in the Bay Area," McBride said.


Comedian W. Kamau Bell also spoke, saying: "Bye Nazis."

"You have to stand up for the black people, for the brown people, for the LGBT people, for the immigrants, for everybody, every day," Bell told the crowd.

At an earlier protest nearby at UC Berkeley's Crescent Lawn, campus police searched bags while people delivered speeches condemning racism and hatred. Police earlier barricaded MLK Civic Center Park and were checking bags to allow people in.

Many parts of Berkeley were filled with people protesting the far right. At the corner of Center and Oxford streets, people chanted, "No hate, no fear, Nazis get out of here," and "When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back."

Ben Stern, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor, marched with protesters.

"It is united that we can defeat hate, racism," Stern said. "It’s only when we will defeat those forces that we will have peace in this great country of ours."

Demonstrators hold signs at Oxford and Center streets in Berkeley on Aug. 27, 2017. (Sheraz Sadiq/KQED)

Protesters had earlier surrounded a man at the Civic Center Park holding a sign reading "God Bless Donald Trump" and chanted "Not my president."

A number of law enforcement agencies were deployed in Berkeley, including the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, the Oakland Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

The protests come a day after thousands turned out to demonstrate against a far-right rally organized by Patriot Prayer's Gibson in San Francisco that was twice relocated and then canceled before it began.

Gibson first canceled his rally at Crissy Field, citing various restrictions placed on his group by the National Park Service and law enforcement agencies. He moved it to Alamo Square Park but scrapped that, too, later holding a press conference in Pacifica.

KQED's Alex Emslie, Devin Katayama, Bert Johnson, Julie Small, John Sepulvado and Eli Wirtschafter contributed to this post.

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