A protest against President Donald Trump in Santa Monica turned chaotic Saturday when demonstrators were assaulted by pro-Trump disrupters, including a man in a backward Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat, who attacked the group indiscriminately with pepper spray at Santa Monica Pier, according to protest organizers and observable in video supplied to City News Service.
The RefuseFascism.org-organized demonstration coincided with others across the country, including New York City, and was intended to be the start of prolonged and sustained protest campaign against the Trump-Pence administration, said Mari Matsuoka, a press spokesperson for the organization.
“The people in Puerto Rico and Hong Kong showed us how this needs to be done,” Matsuoka said. “We intend to make this a campaign and not a single protest.”
The planned event began on the beach around noon, with demonstrators setting up a football-field-sized anti-Trump banner in the sand, spelling out “Trump Pence Out Now,” and was featured in one of the videos received by CNS.
The protesters moved from the beach to Santa Monica Pier and adjacent boardwalk about 2 p.m., when they were confronted by several dozen pro-Trump counter-demonstrators, according to a YouTube video shot by a group calling itself, “Be less Stupid.”
A lack of police presence in the area resulted in a clash between the anti- and pro-Trump groups in which tensions quickly escalated.
“The Trump supporters were already there on the pier when we got up there from the beach,” said Atlas Winfrey, an organizer of the anti-Trump demonstration.
“The Trump people wearing their MAGA hats and waving flags were there to intimidate and incite a confrontation,” Winfrey said, adding that she and her fellow organizers urged their group not to be cowed.
“Our goal was to have a peaceful, non-violent protest,” she said.
Video shows the demonstration degenerating into chaos when the pro-Trump group begins to push and shove the protesters. A Trump supporter in a red MAGA hat then brandishes a canister of pepper spray and attacks the demonstrators indiscriminately, spraying into their faces, as well as those of unaffiliated passersby on the boardwalk.
The video goes on to show people dropping to the ground, scattering and pushing back at the assailants in an apparent attempt to avoid being pepper-sprayed. A man then grabs the pepper-spraying assailant and pushes him away. The attacker returns, however, and targets people lying on the ground with another wave of pepper spray. Again, he is pushed away and cornered next to a Santa Monica police satellite station. That is when police first appear in the video.
Officers can be seen taking the pepper spray canister from the man and handcuffing him. He is then led away, but it is unclear if he is arrested or merely detained.
CNS contacted the Santa Monica police watch commander, who was unable to provide any details about the matter. CNS also left several messages for the department’s spokeswoman, who has yet to return those calls.
CNS also tried unsuccessfully to reach Samantha Zager, a regional communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign, but she, too, has yet to return the call.
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