Dozens of Chinese Americans gathered Tuesday in Millbrae to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the National Day of People's Republic of China.
But what started as a celebration quickly turned into a screaming match with protesters determined to disrupt the event. The protesters say they’re angry the event took place in a city-owned meeting room.
The clash started when China’s national anthem started playing.
Moments after a video started playing, a heated exchange ensued between a small group of protesters and more than a hundred people at the celebration. During the clash, attendees started loudly singing China’s anthem as demonstrators tried to shout them down.
You You Xue says his parents fled oppression in Bejing to live in the U.S. He says the gathering honoring a communist country and posting its flag should never have been held in a city-owned building in any Democratic country.
"This event is insensitive and inappropriate, especially with all the protests going on in Hong Kong," Xue said. "This is a country with the worst human rights abuses in the 21st century."
The Peninsula Committee to Celebrate the National Day of the People's Republic of China organized the event. It was originally set to be held in the Millbrae City Council chambers. Committee leaders said it was moved to the community room to accommodate the crowd of more than 100 expected attendees.
The organizers also said it’s a valuable event allowing Chinese Americans to celebrate their motherland.
"Just like our mother's birthday, everyone has his or her own mother, and like it or not, it's your mother. That's our main point," said Marcus Dong, committee member.
Opponents said an event with Communist ties has no place here.
"The Chinese Communist flag does not go with the freedom flag of the U.S.," Millbrae resident Adele Dunnigan said.
Police responded to the event but made no arrests. The protest ended with people peacefully leaving the community room.
NBC Bay Area learned many of the event attendees had been bused in for the event from other local cities.
City of Millbrae officials did not immediately respond to requests for comments.