Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin has called for authorities to tackle left-wing violence by classifying members of antifa, the loosely organized group of “anti-fascists” who believe that violence is acceptable in countering right-wing extremism, as a gang.
A largely peaceful demonstration in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Civic Center Park was disrupted Sunday by black-clad antifa counterprotesters, who jumped over police barriers and chased Trump supporters, according to multiple news reports.
Berkeley police made 10 arrests on Sunday, using tear gas to disperse black-clad counterprotesters on several occasions, Newsweek reported from the protests Sunday.
Organizers had called off the “No Marxism in America” event earlier after strict police measures were introduced, but hundreds of counterdemonstrators and a small group of right-wing protesters gathered regardless.
Arreguin said that new measures were required to tackle a violent fringe of left-wing demonstrators.
“I think we should classify them as a gang,” said Arreguin, as quoted by CBS. “They come dressed in uniforms. They have weapons, almost like a militia, and I think we need to think about that in terms of our law enforcement approach.”
Arreguin said that although he does not support the far-right, tougher measures were required to counter left-wing violence, and he called for nonviolent protesters to take a stand.
“I think we are going to have to think ‘big picture’ about what is the strategy for how we are going to deal with these violent elements on the left as well,” said the mayor.
“We also need to hold accountable and encourage people not to associate with these extremists because it empowers them and gives them cover,” said Arreguin.
Under California law, a gang is defined as an organization of at least three persons, with a common name, or identifying mark or symbol, which engages in criminal activity. Criminals who commit offenses for gangs can face tougher sentences in the state.