April 14, 2017, was the day we would all like to forget. For about a week I had heard about a “free press” rally scheduled for Berkeley, California. This rally, organized by people on the right of the political spectrum, was meaningful due to the multiple events that had occurred in Berkeley California in 2017 that were shut down or plagued with violence by anarchist groups.
The rally soon turned into a war between the people attending the rally and the anarchist and blossomed to what brought me back to old black and white movies of Roman soldiers battling with sticks and shields. People were changing others, and the fire in people’s eyes is something commonly seen in the eyes of a father who’s lost their child to a murderer when they confront that murder. People were charging others; fist were flying in all different directions. Bright red blood is covering white traffic markers in the road, smoke filled the air, and after hours upon hours with law enforcement doing the minimal amount of work to restore control while people were injured and a literal war was being on the streets of America.
These anarchist groups refer to themselves as “Antifa” and have been around for a long time. They are around the world and have been seen in Europe mainly protesting capitalism.. Antifa’s method of operation is to create havoc at an event they disagree with, whether it be capitalism, racism, and sometimes it seems like they are just bored and look for a protest that’s going on.
The first posting from the event came on March 7, 2017, and it is obvious from the post that there was going to be violence at the event.
With all of this open source intelligence, it is impossible that the Berkeley Police Department did not come up with the same conclusion that violence was imminent. According to the Public Information Officer, who did an interview on CNN with Ana Cabrera during the incident, he used the excuse of not planning for the strategies that were deployed by the Antifa group which led to chaos as the reason for basically zero police involvement.
The day started quickly. First, it seemed like Berkeley PD had things well planned. They had a plastic net fence up with about a 5-foot clear zone separating both groups. Officers could walk in between the clear zone, and tempers flared, but nothing major happened. However, I’m not sure who started it first but all the sudden the rally attendees crossed over the barricade, and a fight broke out between several people on the Antifa side. Next thing you know a large explosion was heard about 20-feet behind the barricade on the rally side. Someone through an exploding device (believe to be an M80) almost hitting people. Police quickly jumped in and separated people.
A couple of minutes later the same thing happens as rally attendees meet Antifa. This time in the clear zone and people are on the ground fighting. Police are a little late to this one as someone from the Antifa side throws another exploding device directly into the mosh of people barely missing anyone as it explodes. Approximate 3-4 explosive devices were thrown from the Antifa side into the rally are crowds before the next stage. Police did nothing that was seen to disrupt or figure out who was throwing the explosive material.
Flanking the Police
For some reason, Antifa decided to move to the side street to flank the rally, and this is where things became dangerous. For approximately one-hour, Antifa and the rally goers were fist fighting, Antifa members were pepper spraying people and a knife was spotted and thrown at a rally member. Also, approximately ten more explosive charges were thrown directly into large crowds of rally members. This chaos occurred for at least an hour with no signs of police.
However, Berkeley Police officers were about 30-40 yards away watching this entire event. When someone would get injured, they would come in and scoop them out. After about an hour, Antifa moved to the back of the park to try and penetrate the rally side from there. This caused the rally members to go there, and more fist fighting occurred. There was severe fighting going on in the rear of the park with sticks, bottles, and who knows what else and a vast majority of Berkeley PD officers were standing around at the front of the park talking to each other and watching, well over 75-yards away.
Fighting continued for an hour or longer until it kept moving to the side where you see even more fighting and people getting beat up by 6-7 people. One picture shows someone with their head split open and blood pouring all down their face. The next visual seen is people running through Berkeley like a scene out of a movie with no control, complete chaos, and zero police presence.
Berkeley PD Defense
Sgt. Andrew Frankel told KPIX 5, the police department staffed larger numbers of officers and had several contingencies but they did not plan on Antifa taking the street and could not do much about it.
This is not the first-time that the Berkeley Police Department has appeared to “hold back” during a riot environment and that is very troubling. Law enforcement is the foundation to making sure that there is order in society and in my humble opinion, the Berkeley Police Department clearly failed in this incident.
As a former cop, I stood with a lot of cops that day in embarrassment at the Berkeley Police Department. Not at the officers, because standing down wasn’t their choice. That was a decision made by the command staff. A command staff that has failed to do their sworn oath and duty multiple times before. A command staff that has put the Mayor’s office and political ideology in front of integrity, honor, enforcing laws, keeping order, and protecting people. I stand with the rank and file of Berkeley as should you.
Matthew Day has spent much of his adult life working in the law Enforcement and security fields. He spent seven years as an officer in Florida where he worked a very diverse area with residents, government facilities, and tourist. He spent much of his law enforcement career researching constitutional case law and criminal behavior/intelligence. Matthew now specializes in Physical Security Systems and is a student who conducts hundreds of hours of research on defensible space theory, sociology, environmental design theories, and architectural security design.