3 arrested at Trump rally, counterprotest in Pacific Beach

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SAN DIEGO — Three people were arrested Saturday when counterprotesters clashed violently with supporters of President Donald Trump at a rally in Pacific Beach, police said Monday.

Two adults were arrested for failing to disperse and a juvenile was arrested for assaulting an officer, San Diego police Lt. Shawn Takeuchi told FOX 5 in an email.

Five officers sustained minor injuries. They did not need medical care.

One business was vandalized when a person broke a front window of the Sketchers store on Mission Boulevard, Takeuchi said.

The event, described in flyers as a “Patriot March,” took place along Ocean Front Walk and began early Saturday afternoon. A group of counterdemonstrators — including members of anti-fascist groups, clad in all black and holding sticks or bats — showed up to face off with the pro-Trump group, and at times the tense exchanges turned violent.

In one instance, a line of counterprotesters advanced on a smaller group of people from the Patriot March, shouting and telling them to leave. One member of the group, who was dressed in all black with their face covered, pulled out a can of chemicals and sprayed it in the Trump supporters’ faces.

At other times, members of the two groups shoved, swung and threw items at each other along the boardwalk. The scuffles drew a heavy police presence, with teams of bicycle officers moving in to separate the demonstrators and asking bystanders to clear out.

Some of the counterprotesters waved flags declaring themselves anti-fascists, or Antifa, an umbrella term for a loose collection of far-left militant groups that confront demonstrators for right-wing causes and neo-Nazi groups.

By 2:30 p.m., lines of officers in riot gear had separated large portions of the two sides on opposite ends of the intersection at Mission Boulevard and Hornblend Street.

Some area businesses closed early as tensions escalated.

“We had people that were having an anxiety attack because they weren’t sure what was going to happen. We were unsure if somebody was going to break windows and start coming in,” said Andy Ortega, a manager at Board & Brew.

Across the street, a Skechers store was vandalized.

San Diego Police Department declared the gathering an “unlawful assembly, due to acts of violence.” Residents were asked to avoid the area, and officials said those who stayed nearby and refused officers’ orders could “risk exposure to chemical agents and less-lethal force.”

Shortly before 3 p.m., SDPD said on Twitter that officers had been hit with a glass bottle and that eggs were being thrown in their direction.

Police told FOX 5 the protesters throwing objects at officers were dressed in all-black.

Police said the crowds dispersed from Hornblend Street and Mission Boulevard just before 5 p.m. Officers stayed in the area and said both groups left Pacific Beach by 6 p.m.

Mayor Todd Gloria released a statement about the protest Monday, asking San Diegans to help identify anyone involved in Saturday’s violence.

The police department said it was sent photos and videos of people being assaulted during the protest. Officers are asking victims to contact the Northern Division substation at 858-552-1700.

“Investigators will make every effort to investigate all crimes and identify any person who committed an assault so that justice can be sought for victims,” the department said.

The violence in San Diego mirrored unrest around the nation in the wake of a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, where a pro-Trump mob breached congressional security and interrupted the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Five people, including a San Diego woman who was among the rioters trying to enter the Capitol, died in the chaos.

Lawmakers and other public figures have called for Trump to step down or be removed from office in the wake of the violence, blaming him for inciting the riot by organizing a large rally in Washington and repeatedly claiming without proof that the election had been rigged against him.

Meanwhile, adherents of the president have organized marches and rallies, like the local event Saturday, to show their support. In some cases, they’ve devolved into chaotic and violent scenes when met with counterdemonstrations.

Gloria’s full statement:

“This past weekend, we saw violent confrontations and destruction following the outrageous events last Wednesday in Washington, D.C., when the President used lies and disinformation to incite his followers to storm and ransack the Capitol, causing the deaths of five people.

Violence will not be tolerated in San Diego. There will be consequences for those who bring that kind of behavior to our city. I am asking for the public’s help in identifying anyone who was seen committing acts of violence in Pacific Beach. Please report those incidents and individuals to the San Diego Police Department as soon as possible.

The City of San Diego will always support the people’s right to demonstrate and voice their opinions, while taking measures to keep the peace and prevent violence. However, I want to remind San Diegans that COVID-19 continues to kill thousands of Americans every day, and the smartest thing all of us can do right now is stay home.”

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