Donald Trump

Tension Mounts Ahead of Berkeley Rallies to Celebrate, Oppose President Trump

The event in Berkeley is the only event planned in the Bay Area and one of three planned in California.

A march to support President Donald Trump is planned on Saturday in Berkeley — one of dozens planned nationwide to show support for the new president.

The "March 4 Trump" in Berkeley is the only event planned in the Bay Area and is one of three expected in California. Marches were previously planned in Los Angeles and Sacramento, but organizers decided to cancel those in an attempt to bolster attendance at other events.

By Friday afternoon, more than 100 people had said they were attending the Berkeley march on the event's Facebook page. Several commenters were trying to arrange rides, some coming from elsewhere in the Bay Area or the Central Valley.

Berkeley police Sgt. Andrew Frankel said that the police department has been in touch with organizers and while they have not obtained a permit, they are coordinating with police.

The rally is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park and then will march to the University of California, Berkeley campus at about 3 p.m., Frankel said. He said he did not know how many people would attend.

There has been some indication that there may be counter protests at the event, including from anti-fascist groups who helped organize the violent protest against alt-right writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos last month. 

Asked if police had any plans to prevent violence between different factions of demonstrators on Saturday, Frankel said, "The department is prepared for a number of different contingencies."

Counter-protesters have said that there is the potential for white nationalists to attend the march, but organizer Rich Black has pushed back against that suggestion in online postings, saying that no organizers have any association with white nationalist groups

"If any one person that shares the beliefs associated with white nationalism or belongs to any Neo-Nazi faction or Nazi Workers Party attempts to attend this event, they will be ejected immediately," Black wrote.

Asked how they plan to eject Nazis from the rally, Black said, "We have security detail as well and police will be present. We will remove agitators and Nazis flying any Nazi banners are agitators."

For his part, Cal student Naweed Tahamas, who belongs to the Berkeley College Republican, recalls finding himself in the middle of last month's outburst against Yiannopoulos.

Sadly, he said, that wasn't his first brush with violence.

"I've been punched. I've been spit on. I've had my information posted online," Tahamas said. 

But the night thousands turned out to ensure that the divisive Yiannopoulos didn't address the Berkeley community, Tahamas said he was left in fear for his life as fireworks and stones flew overheard.

"The city completely went up in flames," he said.

Tahamas recalled the ground shaking beneath him amid the chaos, and so decided not to attend Saturday's pro-Trump rally.

"I have safety concerns," he said.

But Tahamas' stance is music to the ears of the anti-Trump group.

"We're going to confront and defeat the Trump movement," protect organizer Benjamin Lynch said.

On Friday, Lynch said his group's motto is "By any means necessary" or BAMN. 

They plan to gather two hours before the pro-Trump group so the marchers will see the already gathered crowd and move on before they even get started.

"We hope they're demoralized," Lynch said. "We hope they drive on by. We hope they decide to hold their rally somewhere else."

Lynch says he doesn’t promote violence or vandalism, but noted that hate speech could could incite some of the protestors.

“We're not going to let a fringe group of bigots come in and target our immigrant and local communities,” he said.

But Tahamas offers a different take.

“This is Berkeley's second chance [to show] that they support freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” he said.

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