Pro-Trump and anti-fascist demonstrators clash in Pacific Beach in San Diego

Gary Robbins, Phil Diehl
·3 min read
SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 07: On Thursday, Jan. 9, 2021 in San Diego, CA., at Pacific Beach in San Diego, Antifa members clash with an individual on the boardwalk just south of Crystal Pier. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Antifa members and Black Lives Matter supporters clash with pro-Trump marchers on the boardwalk just south of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

About 100 Trump supporters and dozens of counter-demonstrators, some of whom described themselves as anti-fascists, faced off for hours in the heart of Pacific Beach in San Diego on Saturday, with officers trying to keep the opposing groups apart following several skirmishes.

The dueling demonstrations shut down Mission Boulevard near the Crystal Pier. Police declared the gathering unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse about 2:30 p.m.

Police reported on Twitter that officers had been struck by a glass bottle. Rocks and eggs were also being thrown at police, and pepper spray was being deployed in their direction from the crowd, police said. They did not say who was responsible.

During one confrontation, officers fired what appeared to be pepper ball rounds into the anti-fascist crowd.

By 4:30 p.m., supporters of President Trump reconvened on the boardwalk, and police allowed them to march. The marchers yelled profanities and clashed at times with passersby.

“We will continue to monitor both groups to help facilitate peaceful protests. However, we will not tolerate acts of violence,” police tweeted around 5 p.m. “When rocks, bottles, pepper spray and other objects are thrown or used on our officers, actions will be taken against those who commit violent acts.”

The unrest began around 1 p.m., when a crowd of Black Lives Matter supporters and anti-fascists, many of them dressed in black and wearing “antifa” T-shirts and hats, gathered at the pier to counter a pro-Trump “Patriot March” planned for 2 p.m. The march had been scheduled long before the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob Wednesday.

The counter-protesters held signs that denounced Trump, as well as one that said “No Nazis in PB.”

San Diego police set up a security line to keep pro- and anti-Trump groups apart.
San Diego police set up a security line on Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach on Saturday to keep pro- and anti-Trump groups apart. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Before the Trump event, some counter-demonstrators got in sporadic screaming matches with Trump supporters along the boardwalk. At one point, someone slapped the phone out of the hand of an unidentified man on the boardwalk and pushed forward, knocking him down along with a small boy.

Tempers flared at that moment and some non-protesters on the boardwalk moved toward the group, including a man with a dog on a leash barking at the counter-protesters.

One video posted on Twitter showed a man walk to the anti-fascist side and push down a counter-protester who was writing on the street with chalk. When fellow counter-protesters then confronted the man, officers pulled him away and behind the police line.

Both sides wielded pepper spray, and it was deployed at different times during confrontations.

By midafternoon about 100 Trump supporters had gathered at the corner of Mission and Hornblend.

Lines of officers separated the groups, with some from the anti-fascist demonstrators taunting police with profanities.

Police declared an unlawful assembly about 2:30 p.m. and began asking people to disperse.

“Those who remain or return against this lawful order may be cited/arrested and risk exposure to chemical agents & less-lethal force applications,” according to a San Diego Police Department tweet.

The crowds cleared the area by 6 p.m. It was not immediately clear if there were any arrests.

Robbins and Diehl write for the San Diego Union-Tribune

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.