Violence in Berkeley at the hand of “Antifa” activists has spurred soul-searching within the leftist activist movement in the Bay Area and beyond, even as emotions remain raw after a white supremacist rally in Virginia this month that left one woman dead and dozens injured. President Trump received blistering criticism for equating the behavior of Klansmen and neo-Nazis to the actions of those who opposed them. Some fear that Sunday’s violence will only help advance the idea that the two groups are the same.
Trump received blistering criticism for equating the behavior of Klansmen and neo-Nazis to the actions of those who opposed them. Some fear that Sunday’s violence would only help advance the idea that the two sides are the same.
“This is food for the adversary,” said sociologist Todd Gitlin, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, which organized the first national protests against the Vietnam War. He pointed out that violent acts committed by a few will almost always hijack the narrative of the entire protest, and that it is happening now should be no surprise.
Gitlin also described what he sees as a push by the anti-fascist — also called “antifa” — movement to put “themselves on the map of protest” by using violence to “intimidate” both political opponents and those on the left who promote non-violence. One of the biggest banners at the Berkeley demonstration carried the message “Avenge Charlottesville.”
Militants who showed up Sunday were part of a multifaceted rally in which church leaders sang gospel and anti-fascists shouted profanities. Berkeley police estimated more than 4,000 people came out to take over a city park where far-right activists had called for an anti-Marxism rally. The organizer canceled the event Friday, citing security concerns, but a small number of far-right activists showed up anyway.
By the end of the day, 13 people had been arrested, one on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and three on battery charges.