A pro-Trump demonstration in southern California turned violent Saturday after several people, including the organizer, were allegedly pepper-sprayed by counter-protesters.
After the incident, anti-Trump protesters claimed one of their members used the spray in self-defense after they were physically assaulted.
Pro-Trump marchers in Huntington Beach jumped on the alleged sprayer, who was wearing a black balaclava, punching and kicking him, witnesses told the Los Angeles Times.
Bystanders broke up the fight and police later detained the alleged sprayer, who was among some 40 counter-protesters, many also dressed in black.
One pro-Trump marcher told the Times that he was among those who had chased the man to the highway following the incident, and that he struck him five times with his Make American Great Again flag.
The counter protesters later claimed they were the victims. “People started punching and tackling our side and one [of the protesters] pepper-sprayed in defense,” counter-rally organizer Jordan Hoiberg told the Orange County Register. “We were expecting it to be more peaceful.”
State Parks Police said they arrested six people, including three on suspicion of illegal use of pepper spray. Two people suffered minor injuries, police Captain Kevin Pearsall told NBC, noting there had been a “disagreement of beliefs” at the scene.
There were other confrontations as anti-Trump protesters and bystanders berated members of the Make America Great Again gathering. As many as 2,000 people waving flags and signs, and wearing face paint marched along the Bolsa Chica State Beach. It was one of several pro-Trump events that took place across the nation.
The anti-Trump group Indivisible OC 48 released a statement before the march saying that their members would not join any counter-protest at the rally.
“Indivisible OC 48 believes that the most effective way to combat an agenda built on discrimination and divisiveness is to focus on our own positive and peaceful political actions, and not to engage in confrontations with other citizens exercising their rights to free speech,” the group said.