(Editor’s Note: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-50th congressional District) and other far right-wing Trump Border Wall adherents held a rally Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Otay Mesa site of wall prototypes. At the event, right-wing activists attacked the protestors. Here is an account from protestors about the violence and police actions there.
During his speech, Hunter repeated discredited claims he has made in the past that terrorists come through the Otay Mesa border crossing from Mexico.
“You don’t have national security unless you have border security, Hunter said. “It’s very simple… Yemenis, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Chinese, name your former Soviet satellite states, they all come in through Mexico. They don’t come in on cruise ships, they don’t come in through the airports, they come across the border here and that’s what the wall stops and that’s why we need the wall.”)
VIOLENCE BROKE out during a December 9 right-wing rally calling on the Trump administration to carry out its promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Members of the Trump-supporting Proud Boys–aided, abetted and encouraged by dozens of heavily armed police–surrounded a small group of anti-racists and pummeled them.
The “Build the Wall” rally in Otay Mesa, California, attracted about 100 supporters and featured speakers who ranged from racist to extremely racist. Headlining the event was Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who deemed his attendance more important than the fact that his district, like much of California, was being ravaged by wildfires.
Hunter is famous for advocating the deportation of American-born children of undocumented immigrants.
But others addressing the rally were just as odious, including Tim Donnelly, a founder of the Minutemen Project, and Ben Bergquam, a radio host who has suggested that the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality is a greater danger than the neo-Nazis who murdered an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Construction of prototypes for Trump’s expanded border wall began in San Diego County this fall, and despite the discomfort San Diegans have with being the birthplace of this monstrosity, this was the first clash between anti-immigrant militants and activists calling for amnesty for undocumented workers seeking citizenship.
The border area where the wall prototypes are under construction is also home to ICE’s Otay Mesa Detention Center as well as both state and federal prisons. It’s a forbidding landscape even when there aren’t crowds of white nationalists and fascist sympathizers. The landscape became the foreground on December 9.
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SIXTEEN ANTI-racist counterprotesters marched toward the rally, united in our resolve and collectively chanting “Racists go home!” as we weaved our way through red-faced, flag-waving white nationalists.
Although we never overheard spoken collaboration between the civilian right-wingers and the endless columns of baton-wielding police, their actions spoke loud and clear.
When a heated exchange between the two sides turned into a fight, the police refused to respond. As one of our colleagues reported, “I asked the cops right away, ‘Can we get some separation here?’ And one of them just shrugged.”
Our march slowed so we could keep our friend from being attacked, and the police spread out in the field, perhaps 50 yards away from where the anti-immigrant rally was taking place. This row of cops, about 30 across, worked in concert with cops clad in riot gear and wielding intimidating weaponry who guarded the rally from the street.
Initially, we were disturbed at the way they were keeping us from exercising our right to free speech and the way they prohibited us from moving around the area–while simultaneously allowing Trump supporters to dart between the lines so they could yell in our faces, bumping chests and making sure to direct the bulk of their vitriol toward the women among the anti-racists.
But what soon became clear was that the police were “protecting” the television cameras from the fact that this racist rally had opposition.
By keeping us away from the public eye and by refusing to respond to subsequent acts of escalation on the part of the Proud Boys and their allies, it became obvious to everyone–racists, anti-racists and the police themselves–that a fight would soon break out. And it was equally obvious that the police had already chosen their side.
The predictable outcome became reality when a Proud Boy body-slammed a man who had been doing his best to keep the peace. For several minutes, our friend had been separating shouting matches before they could become shoving matches.
Once he was pushed to the ground, two men wearing pro-Trump gear set themselves upon him, teaming up to deliver as many blows as quickly as they could.
This was their method throughout the melee. The racists would attack people on the ground or while we were struggling to pull aggressors away from their victims. One young man–was he the one wearing what appeared to be American-flag pajamas?–began hitting anti-racists with the flagpole he’d been waving.
The police stood by–that is, the ones who weren’t maneuvering to box all of us in from another side. They waited and waited, and only when things began to slow down did they move forward, acting as if their intention had always been to keep the peace.
But they were only really there to ensure their peace and our defeat. They squeezed us backward, further still from the rally.
When we were at last able to depart, we left with bloody faces, torn clothing and lessons learned. A caravan of police cars came with us, too.
They followed us not only to our vehicles near the rally, but to our off-site carpool location where they stood brandishing unsheathed batons. Then they returned to their cars–and followed us for miles on the freeway in order to further intimidate us.
WHILE OUR cause was just and our actions legal, we have returned home with plenty of regrets.
We are proud of confronting the racists and standing in solidarity with our friends and neighbors, whom the Trump regime seeks to banish and destroy, but we regret not arriving with a better-communicated plan, a clear exit strategy and many more forces on our side.
Most of all, however, we regret underestimating the shamelessness of the police. We always knew the police were not on our side, but the eagerness with which they aligned themselves with white supremacy should make everyone sick to their stomachs.
The vast majority of the U.S. population opposes Trump and his racist agenda. We need to band together–to create rapid response networks, demonstrate solidarity with the most vulnerable in our communities, and build further unity both between existing organizations and with people who are currently unaffiliated with a political group.
Our error was not in confronting the racists, but in doing so without greater numbers. Opposition to the wall is not hard to find. San Diego has already shown its resolve this year by coming together democratically to put on the Rally Against Hate, the Chicano Park defense, and the airport protests against the Muslim ban.
We need to show that kind of strength and unity every single day until we tear down not only this wall, but the entire system that inflicted it upon us. The police are there to perpetuate violence. It is up to us to protect ourselves.
I am disheartened to hear about the skirmish at the Build the Wall Rally. I am involved with local Indivisible groups that work hard to keep peace at all protests we engage in. Our experience with the police has been extremely positive in the areas we have protested in: Ramona, El Cajon, Temecula and Escondido. I encourage protesters to work with the police by contacting the police in advance of protesting to discuss ways to keep protests safe for all parties.