California Democrats who whipped up opposition to the weekend’s free speech rallies had little to say after radical leftist protesters, led by the antifa movement, attacked police and Trump supporters on Sunday in Berkeley, injuring six.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who last week denounced the Patriot Prayer gathering in San Francisco as a “white supremacist rally,” had no public comment on the leftist violence.
Neither did Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who joined other local Democrats last week at a press conference to condemn “bigotry and hate” ahead of what they called a “white nationalist rally in Berkeley.”
Those familiar with recent right-of-center rallies in the Bay Area, Boston and Portland, Oregon, say it’s a familiar pattern: Democrats play to their base by hyping fears of neo-Nazis while ignoring or glossing over any leftist violence.
“There has been nearly complete silence from Democrats regarding the violence of antifa in Berkeley and elsewhere,” said Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson. “This silence only emboldens and encourages those who seek to turn our streets into battlegrounds. Leading Democratic politicians need to go on record unconditionally rejecting and condemning antifa.”
Joey Gibson, leader of Patriot Prayer, who was chased and struck by masked antifa protesters in Berkeley before police rescued him, called on Mrs. Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to denounce the leftist violence.
“I’m asking Mayor [Ed] Lee and I’m asking Nancy Pelosi to speak against this violence and speak against this hatred, and be consistent with your message,” Mr. Gibson said at a press conference after canceling his event.
“Nancy Pelosi, she’s trying to further her own agenda, and she’s putting her own citizens in danger, directly in danger,” he said.
Democrats’ muted response after Berkeley is in sharp contrast to the Republican reaction following a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed and 19 others were injured after a car plowed into a crowd of protesters.
At its summer meeting Friday, the Republican National Committee passed unanimously a resolution denouncing the racist beliefs of “Nazis, the KKK, white supremacists,” and declaring the party “unified in its revulsion at the abhorrent white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
After President Trump blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” for the Aug. 12 violence, multiple Republicans urged him to call out white supremacists and white nationalists by name, which he did in an Aug. 14 statement.
“Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Mr. Trump said.
One California Democrat who did condemn the violence at Berkeley was Sen. Kamala D. Harris, although her spokesman did not mention antifa by name.
“Sen. Harris respects the right for people to peacefully protest but believes violence has no place in America and condemns any violent actors,” Harris spokesman Tyrone Gayle said in a Monday email.
Antifa’s defenders argue that it may be extreme but it isn’t racist, while its critics have decried it as a terrorist group, given its willingness to use force against “fascists” and others who run afoul of its radical anti-American ideology.
At one point, protesters in Berkeley chanted, “No Trump! No wall! No USA at all!”
The leftist violence so far has not killed anybody, but it has resulted in numerous injuries and property damage, including an estimated $100,000 hit to the University of California Berkeley from the Feb. 1 rioting against conservative Milo Yiannopoulos.
At Sunday’s melee, about 100 black-masked protesters jumped police barricades and chased down and attacked a small number of Trump supporters, resulting in 13 arrests and injuries to six people, including a police officer.
Berkeley police reported that protesters threw paint at officers and that two of the six people hurt were transported to hospitals for treatment.
The chaotic protest erupted even though organizers canceled both events — Saturday’s Patriot Prayer in San Francisco and the No to Marxism in America event Sunday in Berkeley — over concerns about violence from counterprotesters.
Both groups denied any connection to white supremacists. Patriot Prayer’s Joey Gibson is half-Asian, and his event included mostly nonwhite speakers. The No to Marxism event was organized by transgender Trump supporter Amber Cummings.
Ms. Cummings was outraged after Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin denounced the event as an attempt to send a “racist and hate-filled message.”
“That is an outright lie that this mayor is propagating,” Ms. Cummings said on the website Berkeleyside. “White supremacy is not allowed at my rally. We do not want racist people there. We do not want hateful people there.”
Mr. Arreguin did not respond immediately Monday to a request for comment about the leftist violence. Neither did Ms. Pelosi nor Ms. Lee.
In Boston, the free speech rally Aug. 19 was similarly characterized as a white nationalist gathering despite denials by the event’s organizers at Boston Free Speech.
“We don’t need this type of hate,” Mayor Marty Walsh said prior to the rally on CBS4. “So my message is clear to this group. We don’t want you in Boston. We don’t want you on Boston Common.”
Afterward, Mr. Walsh congratulated those in massive crowd of counterprotesters who “peacefully stood up for our values” and “stood for peace and love, not bigotry and hate,” against the small band of those cordoned off at the free speech rally.
Not mentioned was antifa or the 33 arrests for offenses that included assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Several of those detained carried knives, and one was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Boston police reported that counterprotesters threw rocks, bottles and urine. Rally speaker Shiva Ayyadurai said protesters harassed people who were barred from the free speech event at Boston Common.
“Outside, we had some of our supporters who were out there, and they were saying people wearing MAGA hats and holding American flags were completely attacked,” said Mr. Ayyadurai. “They were mauled by the antifa people.”
The small rally included right-wing, libertarian and progressive voices, as well as several nonwhite speakers. A moment of silence was held at the start for Heather Heyer, who was killed at Charlottesville.
Mr. Ayyadurai, a candidate for the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, accused the Democratic mayor and Gov. Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, of cozying up to progressive voters in advance of their re-election bids next year.
“They’re both up for re-election, they both need quote unquote liberal Democrat votes,” said Mr. Ayyadurai. “So they used Charlottesville, and they used the race card to pound out how much they’re against racism and white supremacy, and they basically endangered us and the policemen.”
Mr. Baker joined Democratic leaders in signing a resolution denouncing white supremacy after Charlottesville, saying that “white nationalism and neo-Nazism are continuing to grow as menaces to societal order.”