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Violent Protest Erupts In Berkeley, At Least 20 Arrested

BERKELEY (CBS Local) — At least 20 people were arrested, many armed with a variety of weapons, after a rally turned into a violent clash between anti-fascist and anti-Marxist protesters near a Berkeley park Sunday afternoon.

Authorities said nearly two dozen city vehicles were also vandalized with their windshields broken and one was set on fire by an incendiary device.

"There have now been 20 arrests, most of them for possession of banned weapons in parks, and on streets and sidewalks," Berkeley police said in a statement. "Dozens of weapons were confiscated…Even though there were many hundreds of people, many of whom came armed and hostile, there were no significant injuries to anyone."

Police said they were surprised by the lack of injuries "given that extremists threw explosives at Berkeley Police and Alameda County Sheriff's Office mutual aid officers."

The "No to Marxism in America 2" rally drew rival protesters to the area near Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. From the start, verbal confrontations erupted under the watchful eyes of riot-geared Berkeley police officers. Those verbal altercations turned into shoving confrontations.

"I'm here to stand-up for America and stand-up against the Marxists in this country that are trying to undermine our country from within," said Ben Bergquam of Front Line America.

Issac Lev Szmonko told KPIX-TV he was demonstrating to tell white supremacists they were not welcome in Berkeley.

"For many months on end white supremacists and fascists have been targeting Berkeley and we're here to say that racism doesn't belong in our community," he said.

Event organizer Amber Gwen Cummings said her supporters were not racists.

"Cities like Berkeley, cities like Portland we're having pro-America people come in these towns and they're being called Nazis," she told the station. "They're being called white supremacists They're being called all sorts of vile names just for supporting America."

The original "No to Marxism in America" rally in the same park in August 2017 ended with at least 10 arrests, assaults, and other violent acts.

On Sunday, police said they had arrested the following people on suspicion of possessing a banned weapon: Jason Wallach, 49, of Oakland; Kate Brenner, 69, of Oakland; Kristin Edith Koster, 50, of Berkeley; Sarena Lynette Perez, 39, of Oakland; David Siegfried Chou, 26, of Santa Cruz; and Maria Lewis, 29, of Emeryville. Lewis and Chou are also suspected of working with others to commit a crime.

Additionally, Blake Griffith, 29, of Oakland, was arrested on suspicion of vandalism; Freddy Martinez, 31, of Berkeley, was arrested on suspicion of battery; and Tomas Parker, 22, of Berkeley, was arrested on suspicion of working with others to commit a crime.

Police on Saturday released a lengthy list of items prohibited at the rally, noting, "These rules are intended to assist those wishing to peaceably express their First Amendment rights."

Sticks, pipes, poles, lengths of lumber or wood, baseball bats, bricks, pepper spray, knives and firearms are some of the items banned at Civic Center and Ohlone parks.

Anyone violating the prohibition would be subject to citation and arrest, authorities said.

"There are concerns that the motivation behind some of the Aug. 5 events is to mark and revive violent conflicts that occurred during protests in Berkeley in 2017, both on the University of California campus and in city parks and streets," police said in a statement.

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