At 1 p.m. Sunday, 1,000 counterprotesters arrived at the police line surrounding a sparsely attended “No to Marxism in America” rally held by right-wing activists in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park.
At the head of the column were perhaps 100 black bloc activists– black-clad leftists, many of them masked. Also known as antifascists or “antifa,” they have been implicated in street fighting and trashing in three violent protests in Berkeley this year.
Tensions rose. The black bloc pushed forward, as if to scale the waist-high barriers that officers put up to secure the park. Alameda County sheriff’s deputies began putting on helmets and gas masks – a sign of trouble to come.
Then, police radios crackled: “Please be advised – we are not deploying,” the dispatcher said.
With that, police pulled back from the park, and the black bloc surged in. Fights and scuffles broke out. Right-wing demonstrators, badly outnumbered, found themselves mobbed by the black-clad protesters. They struggled to break away and flee.
Within the hour, the right-wingers were gone from the park, and the confrontation was over. There had been 13 arrests, two people hospitalized – but none of the prolonged, intense street fighting and looting that marred earlier protests.