Anti-Trump ‘Refuse Fascism’ fears downtown LA violence: New weapons ban

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A protest against President Donald Trump drew a smaller-but-vocal group of counterdemonstrators in downtown Los Angeles Saturday, with the two groups of shouting opponents kept apart by a large police presence.

The group Refuse Fascism started the demonstration at Pershing Square at 1 p.m. Saturday as part of an organized effort in 19 cities across the United States. Officials with the group said they had received threats of violence from “alt-right” and white supremacist groups ahead of the rallies.

One anti-Trump protester was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department for repeated attempts to broach the makeshift barricades set up by police to keep the groups separated. Water bottles were also observed being thrown by some anti-Trump protesters.

Another man was arrested after he failed to move out of the middle of the street, in the area between the demonstrators, despite repeated demands from police. The man wore a royal costume and purple body makeup and said he represented the “radical center” of the country, between the “blue” left and the “red” right.

Police were armed with a new city ordinance limiting what people can bring to such assemblies, and they confiscated a baseball bat from one woman. That anti-Trump protester was not arrested, and police told her she could get her bat back after the rally.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council amended an existing ordinance and created the list of banned items —  including shields, torches, rods, mace, glass bottles and baseball bats — in an attempt to avoid violence that has occurred at demonstrations in cities such as Berkeley and Charlottesville, Virginia.

“We will be operating off of this particular ordinance, which is a very good thing. It’s an important tool that the City Council has given us as law enforcement, and we are very happy about that,” LAPD Assistant Chief Horace Frank told City News Service before the rally.

Anyone showing up at the Los Angeles event carrying an item on the list of newly banned items will be subject to citation or arrest if they do not respond to a warning from police.

The city ordinance contains a long list of items banned at any protests, demonstrations, rallies, picket lines and public assemblies. Among the banned items are firearms, knives, swords, shields, baseball or softball bats, aerosol spray, tear gas, mace, glass bottles, axes, ice picks, nunchucks, Tasers, projectile launchers, bottles or water guns filled with hazardous liquid, open flame torches and ball bearings.

It also regulates signs and banners and the handles they’re mounted on. Signs and banners have to be made of soft material such as cloth, plastic or cardboard. Metal sticks are also banned, while wood or plastic sticks are prohibited unless they are a quarter-of-an-inch or less in thickness, two inches or less in width or not exceed 3/4 of an inch in dimension.

Shorter plastic sticks that meet the requirements must be hollow and not filled with any material.

“We are certainly preparing ourselves and making sure that we have adequate resources to ensure that those who are there to protest legally and lawfully that they have the opportunity to do so without being disrupted by those who have alternative motives,” Frank said.

Frank said the LAPD expected counterprotesters at the demonstration.

“We don’t know about significant numbers, but we suspect there will be protesters and counterprotesters, and we want to make sure that everyone has their opportunity to exercise their First Amendment rights without incurring any violence,” Frank said.

Organizers would not say how many people they expected attend the Pershing Square rally, but said they hope it will be the beginning of a growing movement against Trump.

“We are calling for protests in cities all across the country, the beginning of a movement to drive out the Trump administration,” Michelle Xai, an organizer with Refuse Fascism, told CNS. “And so far we have 19 cities all across the country that will draw thousands hopefully and grow to millions within the next two-week period.”

The crowd numbered around 1,000 people as of 2:30 p.m., with roughly 80 percent in the anti-Trump camp.

The LAPD also cautioned the public to expect traffic delays and street closures in the march area, including the closure of Hill Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.

—City News Service