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Far-right activist faces criminal charges in Berkeley violence caught on video

Five months after the so-called Battle of Berkeley began, Alameda County prosecutors are pressing charges against those accused of causing the violent clashes between far-right and far-left demonstrators.

The latest charged were filed this week against Kyle Chapman, an extreme-right organizer who has said on social media that he’s planning to hold other rallies later this month.

Chapman, 41, was seen on video swinging a heavy wooden rod at counter-demonstrators during a March 4 demonstration in Berkeley in support of President Trump. The commercial diver from Daly City is accused of felony possession of a “leaded cane/billy” — described in police detectives’ statements as a tape-wrapped stick, adorned with two stickers of the U.S. flag. He has a history of weapons-related charges.

The complaint alleges that, if he is convicted, this would be Chapman’s third strike under California’s three-strikes law, which enhances penalties for multiple convictions. He has a 2009 burglary conviction for which he served time in prison.

He was one of hundreds of demonstrators who clashed and brawled on the streets of Berkeley.

In a post to his Facebook page, Chapman declared that he was “ready to go to jail for this movement,” taunting the district attorney and cursing the “trumped up bogus charges. I’m speaking in Boston! Catch me if you can punk!”

There is a “free-speech” rally planned in Boston on Saturday that is expected to attract activists on the far-right and left.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Teresa Dresnick said the case against Chapman is unrelated to his role in rallies scheduled Aug. 26 at a national park in San Francisco and Aug. 27 at a city park in Berkeley.

“It’s related to what happened on March 4. There has been an enormous amount of evidence for us to meticulously and methodically review,” Dresnick said Friday.

Court files show felony charges have been filed against two others related to the demonstrations. Eric Clanton, 28, is charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Clanton, a former community college professor affiliated with the anarchist movement, has been arraigned on charges of hitting multiple people on the head with a bicycle lock.

A third rally participant, Berkeley resident and Trump supporter Robert Peete, 53, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, wearing a mask and possession of a billy stick, in this case an ax handle. According to a probable cause statement, Peete allegedly hit a counter-protester with the weapon during an April 15 rally, knocking the unknown victim to the ground.

Misdemeanor charges are pending against seven other individuals. Dockets show most of the cases were filed in late July and early August.

The demonstrations and protests have resulted in dozens of reported injuries and scores of arrests, including 23 people at an April rally held after conservative commentator Ann Coulter canceled an appearance at the college.

Most of those individuals have not been charged. Dresnick said she did not know if further charges were pending.

The image of Chapman — bearing a plywood shield, his face covered by a gas mask and helmet as he lunged at demonstrators with his raised stick — earned him viral fame among the radical right.

Chapman has become a well-known figure in the far-right world, vowing violent responses to anti-fascists, anarchists and other demonstrators who turn out in opposition to white nationalist and self-proclaimed patriot rallies.

He recently told a reporter from Mother Jones that he intended to promote a comic book character modeled after himself.

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

For updates and more, follow @paigestjohn.

An earlier version of this article misreported Eric Clanton's age as 48. He is 28.
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