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Berkeley prepares for clashes between Ann Coulter supporters and opponents

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Berkeley officials warned students and residents to “keep a distance from violence” Thursday as police prepared for clashes between supporters and opponents of conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who had been scheduled to speak to two UC Berkeley student groups about immigration policy this week before her appearance was canceled.

“If you are at a demonstration and you see violence, separate yourself. Keep a distance from violence,” Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a joint statement Thursday morning.

5 arrested at Berkeley demonstrations

Police arrested five people and confiscated numerous weapons Thursday during demonstrations in Berkeley.

The Berkeley Police Department said the arrests were “part of a coordinated effort to manage large scale demonstrations in the downtown and South Campus neighborhoods and on the UC Berkeley campus.”

According to police, a few hundred people had peacefully gathered at the Civic Center Park, where speakers held a “Free Speech” rally.

“There were no reports of injuries nor any property damage,” police said in a statement.

Police said they arrested:

  • Stephen Hall, 48, of Oakland on suspicion of attempting to incite a riot and violating probation.
  • Mark Wilder, 52, of Irvine, on suspicion of carrying a concealed dirk/dagger.
  • An unidentified teenager on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance.
  • An unidentified person on suspicion of resisting arrest.
  • Donque Addison, 28, of Oakland on suspicion of resisting arrest.
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Berkeley police set the record straight

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Signs, masks, animals and frozen fruit among items banned at UC Berkeley gathering space

The UC Berkeley Police Department on Thursday afternoon issued a list of items of banned from a gathering space on campus.

According to the department, Sproul Plaza was designated as an event area and those wanting to enter could be searched for restricted items.

Some items, including weapons, fireworks, chains, sticks and explosives, were obvious no-nos. Masks are also prohibited.

But other banned items were just bizarre, including balloons, hard or frozen fruit, and animals.

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Police arrest at least 2 demonstrators at UC Berkeley

At least two demonstrators have been arrested Thursday at UC Berkeley, according to the university.

“Both individuals’ affiliation to UC Berkeley is unknown at this time,” the university tweeted.

A San Francisco Chronicle reporter recorded video of one of the arrests as it unfolded on campus.

The man, who hasn’t been identified, was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police officer performing his duties, police said. Police say he refused to identify himself and remove a surgical mask covering half of his face.

Police first detained the man because they said he was holding a sign that was larger than what is allowed on campus. He told officers that he would cut down the size of his sign. Officers then told the man that he was being detained and that he had to identify himself.

“You’re criminalizing me for holding a sign,” the man told the officer.

The officer responded by saying, “It’s not criminal.”

The man told the reporter that he was wearing a mask because he had a sore throat.

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California Rep. Barbara Lee on Berkeley protests: ‘Battle of ideas cannot be won with violence’

While I stand in firm opposition to the hateful ideology that fuels extremists like Ann Coulter, we must ensure that all parties can peacefully and safely exercise their First Amendment rights. We cannot allow outside agitators to undermine the work of nonviolent protestors and students exercising their constitutional rights. Recognizing that the battle of ideas cannot be won with violence, I urge everyone to protest peacefully.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland)

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Berkeley mayor: Conservatives exploiting ‘engineered intense animosity’ against city

From his fifth-floor suite of offices overlooking the park, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin had a first-hand view of the gathering of far right demonstrators.

He has struggled to come to terms with how to deal with the combatants who continue to use Berkeley as their stage.

“We’re a surrogate for the resistance against the Trump administration certainly, and for progressive values, " he said.

“It’s not lost on me that I’m Berkeley’s first Latino mayor. I have been outspoken against the Trump administration,” he said. “I have to wonder if the mayor was white, would we see such hate.”

He has dealt with hate mail and death threats, he said.

He also has tried to grapple with the presence of extremist anti-fascist groups in his city.

Arreguin said conservatives, including Ann Coulter, have been able to parlay the clash between anti-fascist and nationalist demonstrators to their own advantage.

“It’s engineered intense animosity against Berkeley and that’s a narrative they keep putting out there,” he said.

The mayor’s personal nightmare, he said, is that eventually someone will get killed in one of the violent clashes.

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Berkeley city officials to residents: Don’t get baited by provocateurs

The city of Berkeley issued a warning to residents Thursday, urging them not to be “baited by provocateurs” and to “keep a distance from violence.”

“Mass gatherings of any kind attract a broad variety of people and, inevitably, that means an array of different motives and intentions,” read a statement posted by the city manager’s office. “The overwhelming majority come with a peaceful purpose.”

“However, in recent protests in Berkeley, we have seen a small portion who come seeking to hurt others or to destroy property. We have seen that individuals who come armed and armored use peaceful protesters as a cover for their violent actions.”

“If you are at a demonstration and you see violence, separate yourself. Keep a distance from violence. If you can do so safely, report it to police.”

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Conservative and alt-right groups gather for ‘free speech’ rally in Berkeley

Groups of demonstrators began trickling into Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley on Thursday as police swarmed the city.

Among the activists at the park was Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers. Rhodes and his group had also gathered in Berkeley on April 15, when a planned “Patriots Day” rally erupted in clashes between pro-Trump demonstrators and counter-protesters.

“We are only here for self-defense,” Rhodes said. His role, he said, was “to keep the hotheads in check.”

Rhodes said his group plans to protect alt-right speakers at a “Free Speech Rally” at 2 p.m. at the park. Speakers plan to take the place of conservative commentator Ann Coulter after she announced a day earlier that she would not speak at UC Berkeley.

Announcements for the afternoon rally invited “all patriots ... for an afternoon of free speech in America. We won’t let the bad guys win.”

The speakers include Gavin McInnes, founder of a far right group Proud Boys, and alt-right activist Kyle Chapman. Chapman was arrested at the April 15 demonstration on a warrant alleging an assault at a violent protest in March. When officers grabbed Chapman from the crowd and cuffed him, alt-right blogger “Baked Alaska” launched a livestream feed denouncing the arrest.

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In wake of Ann Coulter speech cancellation, police gird for potential violence at Berkeley

Berkeley officials warned students and residents to “keep a distance from violence” Thursday as police prepared for clashes between supporters and opponents of conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Despite Coulter’s announcement a day earlier that she would not speak at UC Berkeley on Thursday, students and residents were told to expect a heavy police presence and asked to take precautions to remain safe.

By 10:30 a.m. Thursday, a police helicopter hovered over Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley as demonstrators in helmets and carrying flags on poles began to converge on the park.

“If you are at a demonstration and you see violence, separate yourself. Keep a distance from violence,” Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a joint statement Thursday morning.

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Plywood shields cover Berkeley ATMs

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