SAN DIEGO — Counter-protesters clashed violently with supporters of President Donald Trump at a rally in Pacific Beach Saturday, and police ordered people to leave the area as they tried to maintain order.
The event, described in flyers as a “Patriot March,” took place along Ocean Front Walk and began early Saturday afternoon. A group of counter-demonstrators — 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 counter-protesters 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 counter-protesters 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.
Around that time, 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 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.
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 counter-demonstrations.