Ten people who were arrested during a violent "March 4 Trump" rally in Berkeley last weekend spent all of Tuesday in court, only to learn that they are not yet facing charges.
People who support President Donald Trump and others who oppose what he stands for kicked off the rally with signs, slogans and fierce debates at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. But it quickly devolved into demonstrators pepper spraying and egging one another, setting off fireworks and smoke bombs, and lighting fire to American flags and “Make America Great Again” caps. Ten people were arrested and at least three were wounded on Saturday, police said.
The suspects prepared to face a judge for the first time on Tuesday. Their possible charges range from battery to assault with a deadly weapon. But late in the afternoon, they were told they were free to go.
But NBC Bay Area learned that just because they were not slapped with charges on Tuesday, doesn't mean they won't be charged at all.
The Alameda County District Attorney's office said that prosecutors are still reviewing the arrest reports. Berkeley police are expected to hand over additional video evidence, and it is only after investigating that information that charging decisions will be made, Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick said.
“It’s one thing to be a Trump supporter and wave the flag,” said Benjamin Lynch, who belongs to the By Any Means Necessary group that opposes Trump. “It’s another thing to try to build a kind of organization that’s set on attacking immigrants, set on attacking Muslims.”
Kyle Chapman was in court on Tuesday after being arrested for allegedly bashing an Antifa protester in the head with a stick when fights broke out.
Dressed in a hoodie, knee pads, a fume mask, goggles, and a helmet, Chapman, who was also carrying a shield, was caught on camera hitting the protester.
Chapman, hailed on social media as Based StickMan or Alt-Knight, could be charged with up to six felonies, according to a crowd-sourced legal defense fund on WeSearchr.
As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 1,300 contributors had raised in excess of $71,000 for Chapman, who they describe as an “American hero.” Chapman was released from jail on Monday on $5,000 bail, which was apparently paid for via the WeSearchr fund. After his release, he tweeted about his arraignment and asked people to support him.
Chapman refused to comment on his actions or arrest when arriving at the court. As he left, though, he chortled, "I am out and free!"
The 41-year-old has become an internet sensation since Saturday.
"They brought the war to us and we were ready for them," said Krissi Healey, a Trump supporter. She was not arrested, but said she was standing next to Chapman during the attack.
Healey argued on Tuesday that the viral video speaks for itself.
"I think it clearly shows self-defense," she said.
But many disagreed — vehemently.
"It's completely insane," said Rackell Anzaldua. "I literally have proof on my face. Someone literally punched me when I was down on the ground."
The Berkeley resident said the aggressors came from the pro-Trump crowd.
"Just cause I don't have the same views as you, you don't have to get violent," Anzaldua.
Henry Meier, who witnessed the heated clashes, also chimed in.
“If you don’t allow the other side to have freedom of speech, you don’t live in [a] democracy anymore,” he said. “You pretty much just have mob rule.”
One thing both feuding sides agreed on was the Berkeley Police Department's allegedly lackluster response. Many expressed unhappiness with the fact that officers stood in riot gear, and simply watched the skirmishes unfold. Videos and photos from the scene, however, showed police officers intervening in brawls and tending to a man who was bleeding from a head wound.
The department was criticized for adopting a similar strategy last month when thousands stormed the UC Berkeley campus and wreaked havoc to prevent controversial alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from addressing the Berkeley College Republicans.