A “Make America Great Again” rally in Huntington Beach, California, descended into violence Saturday after a masked anti-Trumper pepper-sprayed and punched event organizer Jennifer Sterling. Furious Trump supporters flew into action, beating down a group of masked protesters who came just to disrupt their event. A massive brawl erupted, ending with several arrests.
Travis Guenther — whose wife was also pepper-sprayed — chased down the masked man who assaulted his wife and hit him with a flag that said: “Trump, Make America Great Again.” A group of Trump supporters tackled a masked thug who had pepper-sprayed a woman and detained him until he was arrested by police.
Steele Vaz, 17, was disgusted when he saw masked men pepper-spray and punch event organizer Jennifer Sterling.
“They sprayed her. They were punching her,” Vaz told the Los Angeles Times. “I was here to support Trump but I didn’t know it was going to be violent.”
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The Huntington Beach rally was one of 40 pro-Trump events scheduled around the country Saturday. Not all of them ended in violence, but many were disrupted by masked protesters, who bullied and assaulted Trump supporters.
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Trump supporters say protesters will not bully them into skipping pro-Trump rallies. “That is even more reason to go,” one woman said. The protesters wore masks and some were tackled, punched and kicked. One man who was beaten ended up jumping over a fence and running toward officers in an effort to get away from the crowd.
One protester, who wore his mask on camera, said it was a dangerous situation for them to be in.
“We’re outnumbered one to 100 and these are not nice people we’re dealing with. We put our hands behind our backs. We don’t engage. We don’t use violence. I may have a bruised rib or two,” he said.
But Trump supporter Travis Guenther said someone came up to his “100-pound” wife and pepper sprayed her within close range.
“There was no fight. I’m an intellect. I can talk with anybody – no problem. But if you want to come and start a fight, I can fight. That’s what that man got,” he said.
Despite all the violence, there was some unity between the crowds. Some protesters and supporters were seen having civil discussions and even hugging.
California State Parks Police Capt. Kevin Pearsall said Monday his officers saw “a lot of people punching,” and it was chaotic.
“When you have that many people going at the same time, it’s difficult,” he said. “We went into this with the thinking that if a situation became life-threatening, we would act.”
The violent brawl lasted about 30 minutes as marchers and protesters, who initially blocked the march, clashed. It ended with three of the protesters pepper-spraying some on the other side, including Jennifer Sterling, one of the march’s organizers who was trying to break up the fight. Officials charged three males with felony illegal use of pepper spray and one woman with misdemeanor assault and battery. Their names were not available Monday.