At least one person was detained after a protest against President Donald Trump on the Santa Monica Pier turned chaotic when the demonstrators were assaulted by a pro-Trump crowd, authorities said.
The unidentified man can been seen in videos from the scene wearing a backwards Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat attacking the group indiscriminately spraying pepper spray or a similar substance on the anti-Trump protesters and other visitors on the Pier late Saturday, according to protest organizers and a video of the attack supplied to City News Service.
The protest was organized by the group RefuseFascism.org and coincided with other protests held across the country on Saturday, including New York City.
The demonstration was intended to be the start of prolonged and sustained protest campaign against the Trump-Pence administration, explained Mari Matsuoka, a press spokesman for RefuseFascism.org.
“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 protest began on the beach around noon, with demonstrators setting up a huge anti-Trump banner in the sand spelling out “Trump Pence Out Now.” The banner was featured in one of the videos received by CNS.
The protesters moved from the beach to the Santa Monica Pier and the boardwalk about 2 p.m. That’s when they were confronted by a crowd of pro-Trump counter demonstrators numbering several dozen, according to a YouTube video shot by a group, “Be less Stupid.”
At first there were no signs of Santa Monica police on the boardwalk and Pier, which meant the ant-Trump protesters were mixed in with the pro-Trump demonstrators, exacerbating tensions between the two groups.
“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. “We told the dozens of anti-Trump protesters not to let them intimidate them. Our goal was to have a peaceful, non-violent protest.”
The demonstration degenerated into chaos on the tape when the pro-Trump people appeared to start pushing and shoving the anti-Trump people. Suddenly, a Trump supporter pulled out a canister of pepper spray and began attacking the demonstrators indiscriminately spraying the pepper spray into their faces and the faces of passersby on the boardwalk.
That’s when people began dropping to the ground, scattering and pushing back at the counter demonstrators in an effort to stop the assault and avoid the pepper spray.
On the video, one man grabs the person with the person pepper spraying the crowd and shoves him away. But the man runs back and begins spraying the people laying on the ground, And again he is pushed away. He’s eventually cornered by the Santa Monica police satellite station. That’s the first time police appear on the video.
Ultimately, police officers take the pepper spray can and handcuff the man who was using it. He is led away but it’s unclear if he was arrested or just detained.
CNS contacted the Santa Monica police watch commander who said he didn’t have any details on what happened. CNS also left several messages for the department’s spokeswoman but she has not yet returned the calls.
CNS also unsuccessfully tried to reach Samantha Zager, a regional communications director for Trump’s reelection campaign but she hasn’t yet returned our call.
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