Once again, the black-clad “antifa” anarchists have stirred up conflict at Berkeley. The Daily Mail reported that on Sunday the 27th more than 100 Anarchists broke through police lines assaulting and harassing attendees. They appeared to be targeting those that were outwardly pro-Trump conservatives. Yet, not only were Trump supporters targeted, several journalists were assaulted and brutalized by the black-clad anarchists.
The violence took place during a rally that was held on Sunday, the ‘Rally Against Hate,’ which thousands attended, the majority being peaceful law-abiding protesters. However, the Rally was overshadowed by the needless aggression of the “antifa” protesters, and the uniting premise of the movement was largely lost amid the countless reports of battery and assault. For instance, ABC News reported that 13 people were arrested and six injured, with two being hospitalized.
“No need for a confrontation over a grass patch,” Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood told reporters regarding his decision to allow the violent activists into the peaceful rally. According to the Associated Press, Greenwood defended his strategy, explaining that by allowing the anarchists into the rally the potential for violence would be reduced. On top of that Greenwood had ordered his officers out of the park explaining, “the potential use of force became very problematic.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in some detail about multiple instances of Trump supporters being attacked by packs of black-clad “antifa” members. The supporters, in most cases, were only wearing clothing that affiliated them with President Trump. The activists also engaged in several chants, ranging from, “Fascist go home!” to “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA.”
Despite the heavy police presence and the knowledge of the potential threat, the decision for the police to step back and allow the anarchists into the peaceful protest seems to be counter-intuitive. It is possible that the police chief was worried that the aggressors would become violent with the police and, therefore, avoided serious prevention tactics. Yet, prevention seems like it should be the primary operation of the police at a rally or protest, such as by disarming and removing threats before any conflict takes place. Instead, police removed themselves from that role and waited until the conflict took place before trying to intervene, and, even then, they were not necessarily effective. For example, there were instances where victims found themselves surrounded by packs of anarchists and the public had to put themselves in harm’s way to protect these individuals. In one case, a journalist had to lay on top of a man being assaulted in order to stop the violent beating.
Furthermore, Politico also recently reported on government documents that warned of the increasing threat of left-wing extremist violence. Interestingly, these documents were issued at the beginning of 2016. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has formally classified “antifa” activities as “domestic terrorist violence.” DHS and the FBI, in a joint intelligence assessment, identified “antifa” as the “primary instigators” of violence at political rallies and protests across the nation. As well, according to the report, “antifa” had become so aggressive throughout 2016 that the U.S. intelligence community opened a global investigation. They found that members of the organization had travelled overseas to train and fight with ally anarchist groups.
With that said, given the recent reports, the reaction of the police on Sunday, August 27th, should be criticized. The police are the only people that stand between the aggressors and the peaceful public, but when they step back and allow the aggressors to interact, then there a is real concern for public safety. Law enforcement agencies were aware of these extremist groups, and instead of taking a hard-line approach they stood back and allowed weapon-bearing extremists into a peaceful rally, knowing full-well their intentions. As such, it is important that police and law enforcement set a hard-line precedent toward violence at protests. As well, in the future, police should aim to employ more effective mechanisms to curb the outrageous behaviour of left-wing extremists, along with their counterparts on the right.