A "No to Marxism in America" rally in Berkeley on Sunday has been canceled amid "violent threats," but preparations are still being made in the event that chaos breaks out.
Despite the cancellation, some Berkeley residents fear that violence will once again rear its head as it did in April when supporters and detractors of President Donald Trump clashed on city streets.
"I'm always concerned about the security and I'm planning to stay away," Liza Malm of Berkeley said.
In a statement issued Friday, Cummings, who still plans to go to the event by herself, expressed "grave concerns for the safety of people" who had planned to attend her 1 p.m. protest at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.
"I stress I DO NOT WANT ANYONE COMING and if they do you will be turned away, I'm sorry for this but I want this event to happen peacefully and I do not want to risk anyone getting harmed by terrorists," Cummings wrote.
Brandon Morgan of Berkeley is one of those who plans to steer clear of the potential rally area.
"We're planning on staying home, staying away," he said. "But we hope that the community coming together will dissuade people who want to come and be violent."
The gathering's alleged ties to white nationalists was criticized by Berkeley officials at a news conference Tuesday, where Cummings showed up unexpectedly.
"From what we’re seeing, people like Richard Spencer and Kyle Chapman — very sort of 'alt-right leaders' — that have been in Berkeley have said that they intend to come this weekend," Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said, urging city residents to avoid the park where the rally was expected to unfold.
Upon being lumped with hate groups, Cummings responded: "I do not support white supremacy. White supremacy is not allowed at our rally. We do not want racists there. We do not want hateful people there. We do not want violent people there. If anybody is coming with the intent of violence, do not come to my rally."
Despite her unequivocal position, Berkeley's Deputy City Manager Jovan Grogan on Thursday denied Cummings' permit request, citing several city codes that she had failed to meet with her application, including a lack of explanation for security arrangements and absence of emergency medical service coordination. Cummings issued another statement Saturday claiming that she asked Berkeley police to escort her to and from the event, but she says she was denied.
In her statement Friday, Cummings emphasized that a one-person rally, featuring just her, will still occur Sunday.
"If In the event I am hurt or killed attending this rally," she wrote, "I ask you to please not retaliate on each other as result of my injuries. Let my life be the last one lost and hopefully we can wake up to the fact that we are one America and it is time we stop allowing the extreme people on the Alt Left and Alt right instigate us into more violence."
The idea behind the rally — which was meant to encourage people to take a stance against political violence and Marxist ideology — has deen diluted, Cummings claimed.
"This all needs to stop and we need the violence to come to an end," she wrote. "I have concerns that Antifa and BAMN will attack my people attending the event and in good conscience I cannot risk this happening."
Cummings also accused Berkeley city leaders and police of preventing people from carrying gear that will allow them to protect themselves.
Since Donald Trump was elected as president of the United States, Berkeley has become a flashpoint of political unrest. People who oppose him rioted on Election Night.
On Tax Day, hundreds exchanged blows, burned flags, and set off fireworks at dueling rallies at which 20 people were arrested and 11 injured, police said.
"Past experience shows that Antifa has thrown rocks, (M-80) explosives, and many other dangerous items that could kill a person and without some protective gear that might happen and that concerns me," Cummings wrote.
Antifa — or "anti-fascist" — is the term recently used to describe groups, who are far left-leaning.
Cummings described them as "people that do not care who they attack. They attack our veterans, our police, elderly ... and I cannot and will not allow innocent people to be hurt or subjected to this violence."
Protesters, no matter what side of the political spectrum they fall on, she said, gather based on the knowledge that freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment — an issue that has earned Berkeley flak in recent months.
"In the past that has not been so and police were ordered to stand down," Cummings said.
Reiterating her plan to be at the MLK park by herself, Cummings noted that she does not feel alone.
"I know the American people are with me and stand with me in healing this nation and it needs to start somewhere," she said in conclusion. "I stand up for all the American people who want to heal this nation and stop the fighting. I stand for all of you and I wanna see both sides come together."
Seemingly undeterred by Cummings' announcement, Berkeley officials on Friday imposed rules on anyone who gathers at Civic Center Park. People are not allowed to affix signs or flags on sticks or poles, and masks, scarfs and bandanas are not permitted either.
A number of items have been identified as potential safety hazards and banned:
- Metal pipes
- Baseball or softball bats
- Lengths of lumber or wood (any size)
- Wooden dowels
- Glass bottles
- Metal beverage or food cans or containers
- Pepper or bear spray (OC spray)
- Knives or daggers
- Axes, axe handles, or hatchets
- Ice picks
- Razor blades
- Improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
- Spray cans
- Fire works
- U-lock bike locks
- Heavy-gauge chain
- Dogs (except for service dogs)
- Skate boards
- Torches, lanterns or other devices that use fire or fuel
- Any other item that is generally considered an "implement of riot" that can be used as a weapon