Deplorables battle to a draw in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Monday March 06, 2017 - 10:28:00 PM
A Trump fan who also believes in free speech!
Cynthia Papermaster
A Trump fan who also believes in free speech!

My sister in Southern California called me on Sunday night because she’d seen reports of violence in Berkeley on Saturday and she was worried. Knowing me for many years as she has, she thought I might have been there.

Well, we did go to the variously named Provo /Martin Luther King, Jr./Civic Center Park as we do on many Saturdays, mainly to buy tangerines at the Farmers’ Market (Brokaw, Gold Nugget, the best). And yes, we knew the Trumpistas would be there for comic relief, and no, we were not disappointed.

Really, there’s just one sobriquet that fits many on their team, “deplorables”. Unfortunately that also fits many on our team. The two groups, or at least those who came spoiling for a fight, deserved each other. Losers, all of them, and deeply pathetic.

Except for the black costumes and kerchief masks on some of our deplorables you’d have trouble telling the tribes apart. Each had a remarkable percentage of oddly decorated participants. Many, many variously ugly tattoos. At least one man in a skirt on each side. Lots of hair-dye, though theirs tended to unreal orange and platinum where ours ran to blue tones, probably not because they were Dems however. Braids and tie-dyes everywhere, both sides. Motorcycle jackets and boots for both.

Each side also had a reasonable number of seemingly peaceable hangers-on urging their cohorts to “be nice, don’t fight, eat a piece of fruit”. A self-labelled Grandmother for Trump was matched by someone of a similar age I recognized as a hardcore supporter of Berkeley’s Unitarian-Universalist Social Justice Committee.

I decided I wasn’t there to do neutral reporting, since the reliably impartial Bay City News would supply that for the Berkeley Daily Planet, and I saw Tracey Taylor from Berkeleyside snapping pictures. In fact, it appeared that the media outnumbered the demonstrators, both the pros with the fancy cameras and the amateurs with their cells. The reporters took to interviewing each other, because frankly it was pretty boring most of the time. 

As a non-reporter for the day, I allowed myself to be interviewed by both Italian and Korean video crews, who seemed confused when I simply repeated the tried-and- true ACLU/FSM party-line: I don’t like what they say, but I’ll defend their right to say it. Not to the death, though, I thought, as I repeatedly had to back off when folks with sticks started snarling and poking at one another. 

In between dodging some ineffectual skirmishes and one-punch fist fights I made a vain attempt to talk some sense into both sides, as did the daughter who was with me. Just for fun I started a few conversations with the Trumpettes with barely-remembered college Russian for “do you speak Russian”, a tip of the hat to the latest news about who their guy was hanging with. They just looked puzzled, and even more puzzled when I explained why I was speaking Russian, because clearly they hadn’t heard about that stuff. That’s not the guy they voted for. 

They were, most of the pro-Donald protesters, such an old-timey California crowd. They came from the tin-hat wing of the Republican Party, formerly the John Birch Society, dried-up wearers of bolo ties, diehard opponents of water fluoridation, homeschoolers, vaccination deniers. 

Oh, wait. That could describe some of the anti-Trumpers who showed up too, couldn’t it? A friend on the scene described how he’d gone to Sacramento before the election and worked a block, converting at least one Trumper to a Bernieite. Some such converts later voted for Dr. Jill, another vaccination-denier, not necessarily a plus for our team, but very Old Cal. At 500 paces, it was hard to tell them apart. 

Also on the scene as observers were quite a few Berkeley regulars that I knew, some like me attempting to speak sense to nutsos, with little success. One told me that she’d seen an anti-Trump woman stab a pro-Trump woman with an umbrella. Mrs. Pro then bashed Ms. Anti with the pole from her sign, causing some small amount of blood to flow, which was greeted enthusiastically by colleagues who’d brought bandages.  

Both sides were observed with canisters of pepper-spray, and some on each side appeared to have been sprayed. The Black Bloc-heads seemed to have smoke bombs and the Bikers for Trump firecrackers, with some of each deployed from time to time causing the crowd to scream. 

We picked up a couple of nasty-looking poles, one with nails sticking out of it, but we couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be a weapon or was just incredibly poor carpentry. 

Toward the end of the afternoon a smallish contingent took off to march around the block. I couldn’t figure out which set started out first, but by the time they got back the two groups were intermingled and indistinguishable. 

I’ve frequently been critical of the Berkeley Police, but on this occasion they acquitted themselves admirably. They maintained a constant non-violent uniformed presence, moving in a line toward the participants when things started to get contentious, but as BCN reported there were only ten arrests and seven minor injuries.  

I can’t speak to that myself, since we got really bored about 4:30 and just went home. Reports of violence, I was happy to reassure my sister, were greatly exaggerated.