Berkeley Weekend Protests About More than Trump

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According to reports in mainstream news outlets like CNN, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, Saturday saw pro-Trump demonstrators clash with anti-Trump protesters in Berkeley, California, while more placid “Tax Day” marches took place around the country calling on the president to release his tax returns. The news stories offer largely the same account and framing as that given by the LA Times: “hundreds of pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters clashed Saturday at a ‘Patriots Day’ rally… Both groups threw rocks and sticks at each other and used a large trash bin as a battering ram… Twenty-one people were arrested… Eleven people were injured.”

All of this did happen. But such accounts missed the most crucial aspects of what was at stake in the Berkeley clashes, and thus fail to explain why there were aggressive altercations at all. To frame Saturday’s events as a fight between supporters of the president and his denouncers roundly misses the key tensions undergirding the confrontation: that of anti-fascists versus white nationalists.

This is not to say that each or even the majority, of the hundreds of pro-Trump attendees sympathize with the Venn Diagram of white supremacist, alt-right, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups which intersect with the president’s broader support base. But as firsthand testimonies, numerous images and videos shared on social media can attest, explicitly racist groups and individuals were present in force, some having traveled from out of state to attend. Equally, the masked, black clad anti-fascist protesters did not amass in Berkeley to confront a gathering of people who just happened to vote for Trump. Their presence followed calls to action, which had named the specific far right and neo-Nazi alliances that were planning to attend, and indeed helped organize, the “Patriots Day” rally. The violence from both the far left and far right rested on a fulcrum that, while emphasized in the Trump era, far predates his presidency; anti-fascists have long met white supremacists with force in the streets.

Media reports relying on the “pro-Trump versus anti-Trump” framing missed some glaring and more subtle cues about the nature of Saturday’s protests. Multiple demonstrators, some of whom donned Make America Great Again hats, performed Nazi salutes in full public view.

The sign reading “Da Goyim Know” is no dog whistle—it’s an anti-Semitic foghorn. And it was not a lone nut job carrying the sign to express his own fringe hate. The placard was a part of a series of banners made and carried by dozens of people, all in the same design and style, but some with more veiled messages, such as “Defend America.”

Read the dull story at Esquire.

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