The far right has long had a fascination with holding events in Berkeley, as a sort of finger in the eye to one of the most liberal college campuses in America. But Sunday’s planned demonstration, on the heels the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and in the shadow of the just-permitted Patriot Prayer rally at Crissy Field, has many Berkeley and Bay Area residents motivated to show up and drown out what they see as an attempted show of force by neo-Nazis, skinheads, and white supremacists.
The actual name of the Berkeley alt-right rally No to Marxism in America, which is odd, because “Marxism” is a term I have not heard in about 15 years. The rally is taking pains to assert that it is not the kind of white nationalist rally we saw in Charlottesville. “This event is not a event of hate speech it is a event about concerns of Marxism in America,” the Facebook invite claims. There are no scheduled speakers listed, but some of the Patriot Prayer organizers are active in the invite’s comment section.
That rally is planned Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Civic Center Park in Berkeley. There are currently just over 300 people marked as “Going” on Facebook. They may have some company.
Nearly 2,500 people are marked as “Going” on Facebook to the Bay Area Rally Against Hate, whic appears to be the big default counterprotest. “We’re meeting near UC Berkeley campus, blocks away and on the other side of the downtown, for a peaceful rally to speak to each other about the world we want,” the invite says. That rally goes from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at UC Berkeley’s Crescent Lawn, about three blocks from the alt-right rally.
A smaller counterprotest called Resist Racist Violence & Hate in Berkeley is taking place about four blocks north in Ohlone Park, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. “Meet at Ohlone Park and march with us to Berkeley City Hall where we will maintain a presence and send a clear message: No racism, no hate speech in Berkeley,” the invite says.
How Berkeley can counterprotesters be? Check out Empathy Tent Pop-Up, which according to their Facebook invite, is “offering free empathic listening, dialogue, empathy circles, circle facilitation training, conflict mediation, mediation training, de-escalation, arts and empathic design.” They’ll be right in the teeth of the No to Marxism rally all day Sunday at Civic Center Park, bongo drums will not be provided.
We should note that none of these Berkeley rallies has a permit, and Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin has urged people to avoid Civic Center Park on Sunday. “The best way to silence the white nationalists is by turning your back on their message,” Arreguin said in a statement.