House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi condemns "antifa" violence in Berkeley

People in black masks attend a Berkeley rally. Pic: Lisa Fernandez

Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on Wednesday condemned the violence in Berkeley this weekend after 13 people on the far left, and who describe themselves as “antifascists” or “antifa” were arrested on charges of assault.

The antifascists showed up in force, and all in black, to battle those on the far right, who describe themselves as “patriots.” The handful of patriots came on Sunday to Berkeley’s Civic Center Park to hold a “No to Marxism in America” rally. More than 2,000 people came, and the small number of attacks and beat-downs came when the antifascists chased Trump supporters out of the area.

“Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted. In California, as across all of our great nation, we have deep reverence for the Constitutional right to peaceful dissent and free speech.  Non-violence is fundamental to that right.  Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate, and to remember the values of peace, openness and justice that represent the best of America.”

Al Letson, a host for San Francisco’s Center for Investigative oReprting’s Reveal, ended up witnessing a Trump supporter getting attacked by a group of antifascists wearing black. He jumped in front of the attackers, protecting the man.

“I was scared they were going to kill him,” Letson said in a piece he wrote. “So the only thing I could think was I wanted to get on top of him to protect him.”

Pelosi’s statements come days after Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin asked UC Berkeley to cancel Free Speech Week on campus, where far-right provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter were invited to speak by right wing campus groups. Cal has not canceled the talks.

Earlier this month, State Sen. Nancy Skinner ( D-Berkeley) proposed to amend California's hate crime statute so that if someone is killed because they're an ally to an oppressed group, their killer will face stricter penalties. Skinner’s bill, however, was inspired after Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia during a white supremacy rally.