Berkeley police arrest 17, seize several makeshift 'weapons' at start of planned protests

Police in Berkeley, Calif., arrested at least 17 people Sunday as several hundred people gathered in the city for planned dueling protests that sparked fears of broader violence.

Two groups of alt-right protesters had announced plans for a “No to Marxism” rally at the city’s Civic Center Park earlier in the week. That prompted plans for a “Sweep Out The Facists” march and counter-rally that drew hundreds of people downtown.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that several dozen “anti-Marxist” protesters arrived at Civic Center at 12:30 p.m. At one point, the group pushed books off a table set up by a local Communist bookstore, but police and bystanders stepped in to head off any potential confrontation.

Approximately an hour later, a group of marching counterprotesters tossed fireworks and flares at police officers. No injuries were reported.

City officials said neither group had sought or obtained a permit for their respective rallies. On Friday, police issued rules prohibiting masks and items that could be used as weapons.

On Sunday, the police department posted photos of weapons they had seized on Facebook and Twitter. They included a hammer, rocks, wooden sticks, metal rods, and canisters of pepper spray.

“We are confiscating weapons and making arrests,” police said.

Those arrested included Jason Wallach, 41, and Kate Brenner, 69, both of Oakland, who were charged with possession of a banned weapon, police said. Another Oakland native, 35-year-old Andres Gonzalez, was charged with five counts of carrying a banned weapon.

Kristen Edith Koster, 50, of Berkeley, was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon. Maria Lewis, 29, of Emeryville, was charged with carrying a banned weapon and working with others to commit a crime.

Maria Lewis Thomas Parker

Arrested protesters Maria Lewis and Thomas Parker.  (Berkeley Police)

Thomas Parker, 22, of Berkeley, was also charged with working with others to commit a crime, as was 27-year-old Caitlin Boyle of Oakland. Blake Griffith, 29, of Oakland, was charged with vandalism.

Sarena Perez, 39, of Oakland, was charged with possession of a banned weapon. David Chou, 26, of Santa Cruz, was charged with possession of a banned weapon and working with others to commit a crime. Freddy Martinez, 31, of Berkeley, was charged with battery.

David Chou Freddy Martinez

Arrested protesters David Chou and Freddy Martinez.  (Berkeley Police)

Ericka Sokolower-Shain, 28, and Javier Cruz-O’Connell, 22, both of Berkeley, were charged with possession of a banned weapon. Jamie Hill, 30, of Emeryville, was also charged with possession of a banned weapon, as was 27-year-old Bella Podolsky of San Francisco.

“We’ve seen what the patterns are and one of the patterns is using nonviolent protests as a cover for violence and what we encourage people to do is to separate themselves from violence,” Berkeley city spokesman Matthai Chakko told KTVU Saturday.

Events last year turned violent when so-called “alt-right” groups clashed with anti-fascist groups, the station reported.

Blake Griffith Sarena Perez

Arrested protesters Blake Griffith and Sarena Perez  (Berkeley Police)


“No to Marxism” rally organizer Amber Cummings held a “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley last August in which 10 people were arrested, the Bay City News Service reported. A person dressed in black, the hallmark of the infamous Black Bloc, which advocates violence, destroyed another person’s camera, according to the news outlet.

Police said the list of banned items at Civic Center and Ohlone parks included metal pipes, baseball bats, glass bottles, pepper spray, knives or daggers, shields and slingshots, KTVU reported.

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Arrested protesters Ericka Sokolower-Shain and Jamie Hill.  (Berkeley Police)

Police also banned people from wearing masks, scarves or bandannas or anything covering their faces except for religious or medical reasons.

Sunday’s protests came one day after police in Portland, Ore. clashed with demonstrators protesting a rally by far-right groups. Local media reported that police ordered the counter-protesters to disperse, then moved in behind a volley of stun grenades. One of the rounds reportedly hit a counter-protester in the head, becoming embedded in his helmet and injuring him. One woman was taken to a hospital after being hit in the arm and chest with a “flash-bang” grenade.

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Arrested protesters Bella Podolsky and Javier Cruz-O’Connell  (Berkeley Police )

Four people were arrested.

On Sunday, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw ordered a review of the use of force by officers to determine if they followed policy and training guidelines.

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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