Huntington Beach pro-Trump demonstration gets ugly, violent

Posted at 8:34 AM, Mar 26, 2017

HUNTINGTON BEACH (CNS) - At least three people arrested during a ``Make America Great'' rally at Bolsa Chica State Beach are facing felony charges, according to published reports.

Three of the four people arrested have been charged with felony illegal use of pepper spray and a woman was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor assault and battery, the Orange County Register reported.

Initially, six people were detained. Four of the six were arrested, including the three on suspicion of illegal use of pepper spray, a felony, and the woman suspected of misdemeanor assault and battery, State Parks Police Capt. Kevin Pearsall said.

The Saturday rally, one of several held nationwide, was organized by supporters of President Donald Trump who also wanted to show their respect for veterans, law enforcement and first responders.

"We love our country and we want to show gratitude to the men and women who put their own lives on the line every day," the organizers said in a pre- march statement.

They also announced plans to collect donations to benefit homeless veterans.

About 2,000 people marched on the Bolsa Chica beachfront walk for the event that started at noon, State Parks Police Capt. Kevin Pearsall said.

At least 30 counter-demonstrators also showed up, which led to clashes over differing political viewpoints.

Organizers said a man wearing a black mask pepper-sprayed an organizer of the event and was tackled and punched by Trump supporters. Video from the scene, posted on Facebook, showed the confrontation.

A Trump supporter can be seen punching the man with the black mask and then being pulled away as the masked man runs off.

Jennifer Sterling of Laguna Beach, who organized the event, said she was the person pepper-sprayed, but she appeared uninjured. "It was a quick reaction," she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "There was about 12 of them." 

The altercation began at 12:30 p.m., Pearsall said.

Thirty-five state parks police officers and 11 California Highway Patrol officers were standing by at the time and moved in to quell the violence, he said.

Two people suffered "very minor abrasions" and were treated at the scene, Pearsall said. The woman who was pepper-sprayed needed no treatment.

The march broke up about 3 p.m. as scheduled, he said.

"It was unfortunate there were some incidents," Pearsall said. But it could have been worse "considering the amount of people and social media coverage."

Jordan Hoiberg of Newport Beach, a member of the Socialist Party USA, told the Register he saw a protester use pepper spray in self-defense.

"We were expecting it to be more peaceful," he told the paper. "We were not about to start something when we are 10 people and they are a thousand. That would be suicidal." 

Police said no arrests were reported at a smaller event in Hollywood where about 100 people gathered near Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.