On April 15, thousands across the country participated in Tax-Day rallies, and pro-Trump free speech protesters came to blows with counter-demonstrators in Berkeley, California. The Los Angeles Times reported that at least a dozen demonstrators were arrested during the confrontations while Time magazine stated that Berkeley police put the number of arrests closer to four.
The Trump supporters descended upon the MLK Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley by the hundreds for a “Patriots Day” rally in support of free speech. Anti-Trump protesters learned of the rally and planned a counter-demonstration to occur at the same time.
A group called the Liberty Revival Alliance promoted and organized the free-speech event on social media beginning in early March. Leading up to the “Patriots Day” rally, organizers posted two videos on YouTube explaining that they received an ordinance from the Berkeley Police Department outlining items barred from the event, though reports from the rally indicated that a knife and stun gun were confiscated.
Other pro-Trump groups that attended the Berkeley rally included Citizens for Trump and the Oath Keepers, a far-right organization made up of current and former military and police officers. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Oath Keepers a radical extremist group that propagates conspiracy theories and aggressive rhetoric.
With a motto of “Not on our watch,” the Oath Keepers posted live feeds throughout the day’s events at Berkeley, with one man in a video claiming that he received death threats from anti-Trump protesters.
The videos posted on the Oath Keepers site further promote the popular point of view in alt-right circles that anti-Trump liberals are violent agitators that are promoting discord.
The counter-argument on the left is that the protests are a needed resistance to growing racism and intolerance that has come to the forefront in a Trump administration.
Shane Bauer, a senior reporter at Mother Jones, captured the chaotic events that took place at Berkeley throughout the day. One video shot by Bauer shows pro and anti-Trump supporters aggressively throwing objects at one another and voicing their mutual displeasure. The clips culminated with a group of people gathering to move a dumpster as people scurry around them.
Skirmishes between alt-right and antifa continue at Berkeley. pic.twitter.com/m5oVB87zQB
— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) April 15, 2017
The Berkeley Police Department had a prominent presence at today’s rallies, where they set up barricades to keep the warring demonstrators from confrontation, although sparring was inevitable.
In recent months, Berkeley has been a site where both sides of the Trump debate have come together in moments of contention. Back in February, violence erupted on the campus of UC Berkeley during a scheduled event for controversial figure Milo Yiannopoulos.
Ann Coulter will speak at UC Berkeley in late April.
Remember what happened when Milo Yiannopoulos showed up? pic.twitter.com/Jwx4A3Bxz9
— AJ+ (@ajplus) March 30, 2017
The Milo Yiannopoulos-related protests caused over $100,000 in damage to buildings on UC Berkeley’s campus and highlighted just how intense the political divide has become in the United States.
The Berkeley unease was a far cry from the typical Saturday at the MLK Jr. Civic Center Park where the community holds a weekly Farmers’ Market. Instead of produce, parkgoers were treated to a barrage of arguments, and in some cases flying fists.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 15, 2017
The confrontations that erupted in Berkeley came on a day when thousands held Tax-Day rallies in Portland, New York City, and Washington, D.C., to name a few. The rallies, like most these days, were focused on Trump. This time, protesters were speaking out against the president’s continued insistence that people have moved on from caring about his precedent-setting move not to release his tax returns.
The rallies held nationwide would appear to indicate that many citizens are indeed still concerned about the president’s lack of transparency when it comes to his tax returns. Further, the face-off at Berkeley shows that the acrimony between those who show unwavering support for the president and those who protest him is growing.
[Featured Image by Mary Altaffer/AP Images]