San Francisco Police: 3 cops injured in clashes between pro-Trump, anti-Trump groups
Officials said three demonstrators and three officers sustained non-life-threatening injuries
By Mallory Moench and Michael Williams
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco police said six people were injured, including three officers, during clashes between a small group of President Trump's supporters and a larger crowd of counterprotesters Saturday near Civic Center. No arrests had been made by early Saturday evening.
The pro-Trump protest, billed as a free speech rally, drew people from Team Save America wearing "Make America Great Again" hats and carrying pro-police "Thin Blue Line" flags. They set up a stage at the Federal Building at U.N. Plaza, but dozens of black-clad demonstrators quickly gathered to oppose the group, holding signs that read, "Smash Fascism" and "Nazi Trump F-- Off."
The rally was organized in protest of what the Team Save America group described as censorship of conservative views by social media companies. About 10 people were on the speech-giving side of a police barricade.
They were eventually outnumbered by hundreds of counterprotesters. Rumors spread on social media that the Proud Boys, a pro-Trump group known for participating in street brawls, would appear at the rally. The rally's organizer, Philip Anderson, has identified himself on social media as a member of the Proud Boys.
Tensions rapidly built up as demonstrators surrounded some members of the pro-Trump group, chasing them behind a barricade set up to separate the groups.
Philip Anderson, a free speech rally leader, punched by counter protester and pushed back into barricaded area at UN Plaza in SF. Rally has not started yet. #ProudBoys #SanFrancisco pic.twitter.com/NcNopIyDAX— Denis Ivan Perez (@dpi_19) October 17, 2020
A short time later, the opposition group confronted Anderson, arguing about fascism and the police.
After about 10 minutes, the two men started walking away, followed by the black-clad demonstrators. Some people threw punches at the men as they retreated behind a police barrier. A couple dozen officers holding batons and carrying zip-tie handcuffs on their belts lined a barricade on the stage side.
At about 1 p.m., Anderson took the stage. He was quickly greeted by a barrage of plastic water bottles and glass bottles thrown over the barricade. He had gotten punched in the face, and later posted photos on social media of his broken teeth.
"You knocked my tooth out, but you're saying Black lives matter," said Anderson, who is Black. "I love America and I love this country, but I want free speech."
At least one Trump supporter was taken from the rally in an ambulance after being attacked by a counterprotester. His condition was not immediately known.
Medics transport a supporter of President Donald Trump to an ambulance after he was attacked by counter-protesters in San Francisco on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. About a dozen pro-Trump demonstrators were met by several hundred counter-protesters as they tried to rally. pic.twitter.com/CJDG35xMXe— Randi (@RandiJones) October 18, 2020
The speech ended after about 15 minutes, and counterprotesters were left confronting a line of riot-gear-clad police.
San Francisco police said that one rally participant was "assaulted," and that opposition protesters had thrown items including "plastic bottles filled with unknown liquid," metal cans and eggs at rally participants. Police shut down the event due to the violence, the police statement said.
After the speeches ended, the counterprotesters moved to block McAllister Street as the pro-Trump crowd left the area. Shields were handed out among counterprotesters as riot police formed a line to move the crowd off the streets. At one point, pepper spray was used -- its origin was unclear, though both sides blamed the other -- causing coughs.
By about 1:30 p.m., the counterprotesters moved west along Market Street toward Twitter headquarters with a line of shields in the front that read, "We keep us safe."
Mara Coleman, 20, of San Mateo joined the march with a bullhorn and a sign that read, "Say his name," and "Protect black men," with a picture of George Floyd.
"These are people who have been hurt for hundreds, if not thousands, of years," she said of protesters. "What do you expect? It's not our job to be peaceful. You don't get justice, you take justice."
"All cops are bulls--," the crowd chanted as it moved down Market Street toward Twitter headquarters, where Team Save America was said to be planning another anti-censorship rally later.
Around 2:30 p.m., a scuffle erupted at the corner of Market and Polk streets. A video taken by bystander Brynn Atlas, obtained by The Chronicle, shows two men, one with a MAGA hat, walking into the crowd at Twitter headquarters. In the video, a counterprotester appears to notice the hat and sends water from a bottle toward the man. Another grabs the hat, while another swings, as counterprotesters chase the two men down the street into a gathering of police.
When counterprotesters, one waving a partially burned Thin Blue Line flag, moved toward the police and the two men receiving medical attention, police called for backup. Sirens came screaming down side streets to Market Street, and about 50 officers in a line, batons raised, marched steadily forward, effectively pushing counterprotesters toward South Van Ness Avenue. Another line did the same toward 10th Street. After a couple of heated minutes with the counterprotesters yelling at silent officers, the counterprotesters retreated.
Police cleared out from Market Street by 3:15 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. the street was back open and no protesters were to be seen.
Police said in a statement that "several rally participants sustained non life-threatening-injuries." Three officers had non-life-threatening injuries "when they were assaulted with pepper spray and caustic chemicals," the police said. One was taken to a hospital.
Twitter and Facebook both came under attack from Trump and conservative groups when they banned users from sharing links to a New York Post story that said email recovered from a computer suggested that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had lied about not being involved in meeting with people from a Ukrainian energy company that had his son Hunter on its board of directors.
"So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of 'Smoking Gun' emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter," Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Twitter officials argued that the story violated their rules against using hacked content, but backed away and lifted the ban Friday.
"Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted.
(c)2020 the San Francisco Chronicle