On Sunday, hundreds of counterprotesters — including dozens of black-clad antifa — filled Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Park in downtown Berkeley, California. They were there to protest a weekend of right-wing rallies — in particular, one organized by Patriot Prayer, a small right-wing group headed by 33-year-old Joey Gibson.
As it turned out, the rallies had actually been canceled by their organizers before the weekend even began. But local left-wing activists showed up anyway.
At first, police prevented anyone wearing a mask from entering the park, detaining anyone who covered their face. But the law enforcement presence was inconsistent, and a group of masked protesters were able to climb over the barricade and enter the park.
Not long after, Gibson showed up with a few other members of Patriot Prayer, and walked right into a crowd of masked protesters where an argument broke out.
Gibson was pepper-sprayed and hit by members of the group, forcing him to retreat out of the park and down the street, where a group of heavily armed police detained him and another Patriot Prayer member and led them away from the crowd.
Berkeley police arrested 13 people in the course of the day.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi called Gibson’s planned march a “white supremacist” event, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee similarly condemned it. Though Patriot Prayer responded by saying that they disavowed white supremacists, and that Joey Gibson is himself a person of color, white supremacist groups seem to find an attraction to Patriot Prayer. Groups like Identity Evropa have come to their events, and Patriot Prayer has ties with members of groups like the Proud Boys, including Kyle Chapman — also known as “Based Stickman” — who was recently charged with brandishing a leaded stick at another rally in Berkeley.
For a lot of leftists in Berkeley, that association was enough to demand that the group not be allowed to protest.
This time around, the left-wing protesters overwhelmingly outnumbered right-wing protesters. But the weekend was more of a warm-up — in September Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon, and Ann Coulter are scheduled to speak at Berkeley, all but guaranteeing a clash between their right-wing supporters and the people who plan to protest them.