Vi­o­lence erupts in clash at S.F. proTrump rally

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - BAY AREA - By Mal­lory Moench and Michael Wil­liams San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer Lauren Hernán­dez con­trib­uted to this re­port. Mal­lory Moench and Michael Wil­liams are San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writ­ers. Email: mal­lory.moench@sfchron­i­, michael. wil­liam

San Fran­cisco po­lice said six peo­ple were in­jured, in­clud­ing three of­fi­cers, dur­ing clashes be­tween a small group of Pres­i­dent Trump’s sup­port­ers and a larger crowd of coun­ter­protesters Satur­day near Civic Cen­ter. No ar­rests had been made by early Satur­day evening.

The proTrump protest, billed as a free speech rally, drew peo­ple from Team Save Amer­ica wear­ing “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hats and car­ry­ing propo­lice “Thin Blue Line” flags. They set up a stage at the Fed­eral Build­ing at U.N. Plaza, but dozens of black­clad demon­stra­tors quickly gath­ered to op­pose the group, hold­ing signs that read, “Smash Fas­cism” and “Nazi Trump F— Off.”

The rally was or­ga­nized in protest of what the Team Save Amer­ica group de­scribed as cen­sor­ship of con­ser­va­tive views by so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies. About 10 peo­ple were on the speech­giv­ing side of a po­lice bar­ri­cade.

They were even­tu­ally out­num­bered by hun­dreds of coun­ter­protesters. Ru­mors spread on so­cial me­dia that the Proud Boys, a proTrump group known for par­tic­i­pat­ing in street brawls, would ap­pear at the rally. The rally’s or­ga­nizer, Philip An­der­son, has iden­ti­fied him­self on so­cial me­dia as a mem­ber of the Proud Boys.

Ten­sions rapidly built up as demon­stra­tors sur­rounded some mem­bers of the proTrump group, chas­ing them be­hind a bar­ri­cade set up to sep­a­rate the groups.

A short time later, the op­po­si­tion group con­fronted An­der­son, ar­gu­ing about fas­cism and the po­lice.

Af­ter about 10 min­utes, the two men started walk­ing away, fol­lowed by the black­clad demon­stra­tors. Some peo­ple threw punches at the men as they re­treated be­hind a po­lice bar­rier. A cou­ple dozen of­fi­cers hold­ing ba­tons and car­ry­ing zip­tie hand­cuffs on their belts lined a bar­ri­cade on the stage side.

At about 1 p.m., An­der­son took the stage. He was quickly greeted by a bar­rage of plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles and glass bot­tles thrown over the bar­ri­cade. He had got­ten punched in the face, and later posted pho­tos on so­cial me­dia of his bro­ken teeth.

“You knocked my tooth out, but you’re say­ing Black lives mat­ter,” said An­der­son, who is Black. “I love Amer­ica and I love this coun­try, but I want free speech.”

At least one Trump sup­porter was taken from the rally in an am­bu­lance af­ter be­ing at­tacked by a coun­ter­protester. His con­di­tion was not im­me­di­ately known.

The speech ended af­ter about 15 min­utes, and coun­ter­protesters were left con­fronting a line of ri­ot­gearclad po­lice.

San Fran­cisco po­lice said that one rally par­tic­i­pant was “as­saulted,” and that op­po­si­tion pro­test­ers had thrown items in­clud­ing “plas­tic bot­tles filled with un­known liq­uid,” me­tal cans and eggs at rally par­tic­i­pants. Po­lice shut down the event due to the vi­o­lence, the po­lice state­ment said.

Af­ter the speeches ended, the coun­ter­protesters moved to block McAl­lis­ter Street as the proTrump crowd left the area. Shields were handed out among coun­ter­protesters as riot po­lice formed a line to move the crowd off the streets. At one point, pep­per spray was used — its ori­gin was un­clear, though both

sides blamed the other — caus­ing coughs.

By about 1:30 p.m., the coun­ter­protesters moved west along Mar­ket Street to­ward Twit­ter head­quar­ters with a line of shields in the front that read, “We keep us safe.”

Mara Cole­man, 20, of San Ma­teo joined the march with a bull­horn and a sign that read, “Say his name,” and “Pro­tect black men,” with a pic­ture of Ge­orge Floyd.

“Th­ese are peo­ple who have been hurt for hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of years,” she said of pro­test­ers. “What do you ex­pect? It’s not our job to be peace­ful. You don’t get jus­tice, you take jus­tice.”

“All cops are bulls—,” the crowd chanted as it moved down Mar­ket Street to­ward Twit­ter head­quar­ters, where Team Save Amer­ica was said to be plan­ning an­other an­ti­cen­sor­ship rally later.

Around 2:30 p.m., a scuf­fle erupted at the cor­ner of Mar­ket and Polk streets. A video taken by by­stander Brynn At­las, ob­tained by The Chron­i­cle, shows two men, one with a MAGA hat, walk­ing into the crowd at Twit­ter head­quar­ters. In the video, a coun­ter­protester ap­pears to no­tice the hat and sends wa­ter from a bot­tle to­ward

the man. An­other grabs the hat, while an­other swings, as coun­ter­protesters chase the two men down the street into a gath­er­ing of po­lice.

When coun­ter­protesters, one wav­ing a par­tially burned Thin Blue Line flag, moved to­ward the po­lice and the two men re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion, po­lice called for backup. Sirens came scream­ing down side streets to Mar­ket Street, and about 50 of­fi­cers in a line, ba­tons raised, marched steadily for­ward, ef­fec­tively push­ing coun­ter­protesters to­ward South Van Ness Av­enue. An­other line did the same to­ward 10th Street. Af­ter a cou­ple of heated min­utes with the coun­ter­protesters yelling at si­lent of­fi­cers, the coun­ter­protesters re­treated.

Po­lice cleared out from Mar­ket Street by 3:15 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. the street was back open and no pro­test­ers were to be seen.

Po­lice said in a state­ment that “sev­eral rally par­tic­i­pants sus­tained non lifethreat­ening­in­juries.” Three of­fi­cers had non­lifethreat­en­ing in­juries “when they were as­saulted with pep­per spray and caus­tic chem­i­cals,” the po­lice said. One was taken to a hos­pi­tal.

Twit­ter and Face­book both

came un­der at­tack from Trump and con­ser­va­tive groups when they banned users from shar­ing links to a New York Post story that said email re­cov­ered from a com­puter sug­gested that Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den had lied about not be­ing in­volved in meet­ing with peo­ple from a Ukrainian en­ergy com­pany that had his son Hunter on its board of di­rec­tors.

“So ter­ri­ble that Face­book and Twit­ter took down the story of ‘Smok­ing Gun’ emails re­lated to Sleepy Joe Bi­den and his son, Hunter,” Trump tweeted Wed­nes­day.

Twit­ter of­fi­cials ar­gued that the story vi­o­lated their rules against us­ing hacked con­tent, but backed away and lifted the ban Fri­day.

“Straight block­ing of URLs was wrong, and we up­dated our pol­icy and en­force­ment to fix,” Twit­ter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted.

Nick Otto / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

A coun­ter­protester yells at a sup­porter of Pres­i­dent Trump at­tend­ing a free speech rally at S.F.’s United Na­tions Plaza. The Trump backer was later hurt in an at­tack by coun­ter­protesters.

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