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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Racial Justice
A Medic’s Report from the Streets of Berkeley on April 15
I have been to the past two march’s against the white nationalist gatherings in Berkeley on March 4th and this past April 15th. My primary goal was to provide medical aid to my comrades and learn more, from a street level, about the antifa movement and the threat of fascism that seems to be growing.
I would like to share some of what I saw 4/15 as a way to give you additional on the ground information and personally process what was a very intense conflict.
On arrival I was searched multiple times by police, I did not give consent and did not resist. It was an obvious tactic to make it difficult to join ranks with others in black bloc. They attempted to confiscate some of my medical supplies under illegal justification. I did not physically resist, but politely indicated my lack of consent and understanding of their illegal action. The medical supplies were returned and I was eventually allowed to enter the barricade.
As the day went on the crowd swelled on both sides and antifa began to march around the MAGA enclave. Small fights broke out here and there and antifa held the line and continued to march. By mid-afternoon the clashes had moved to an intersection outside of MLK park and the police presence had backed off. This is when things began to escalate and I saw more and more people suffering lacerations and asking for help with pepper spray.
It seemed the MAGA group had grown and clearly outnumbered Antifa. We lost the intersection and at around 3pm as a large smoke bomb went off and the MAGA group overran us. Organized groups of 4-5 MAGA in protective gear, isolated and beat antifa individuals wherever they had power of numbers.
I moved up the block to Shattuck and began assisting injured antifa. The situation was very fluid and fights continued around me as MAGA continued to push up the street. I headed towards a comrade who was on the ground and bleeding from the head. At this point I noticed what appeared to be a man in a MAGA cap attacking a woman in black bloc about half his size with a flag pole. The woman had been backed into a retail shop front and was attempting to use the shop’s sign to shield her head from his blows.
I had until this point refrained from any violent action but without thinking I slammed this man into the wall with all my force. His friends began kicking and punching me, I believe there were 3 or 4 of them. The man with the pole took two swings at my head and one at my neck as I tried to close the distance between us and get control of his weapon. His blows landed on my elbow and forearm as I am fortunate enough to have some basic training and my guard was up. Him and his goons backed off for some reason and the woman had fled.
I backed up to the injured man who was now being treated by another medic and attempted to help. I had lost function in my right hand from the blows and was attempting to open my med packs when the MAGA group came back. I faced them ready to fight for my life but did not engage. They yelled some taunts and continued past us. I provided some bandages to the wounded man, and offered him a ride to the hospital since I was planning to head there myself out of fear of a broken arm.
He accepted and we managed to leave the area without further attacks. I am lucky enough and perhaps young enough to have not suffered any fractures.
In retrospect some things have become clear to me. The white nationalists/fascists/MAGAs united and outnumbered us substantially, they were more organized and frankly seemed to have more weapons, armor, and generally more violent forces.
The anonymity of black bloc and Antifa is a strength in many ways but on Saturday I felt the lack of organization was a primary factor in the losses antifa took across the board. I have come to the past two events by myself, as I do not personally know anyone willing to take this sort of action and I do not talk about it to others. I imagine I am not the only one in this situation. My question has become: how do I safely reach out to others, how can I organize better and collaborate to make Antifa more effective, even when outnumbered. It seemed to me that a group of 8-10 physically prepared antifa with armor and shields and flag poles who had trained together as a unit could have held the line.
I will continue to stand with you in solidarity against the rising tide of fascism. Thank you for your hard work.