A pro-Donald Trump demonstration in southern California turned violent on Saturday after counterprotesters allegedly pepper-sprayed several people, including the event’s organizer.
Anti-Trump protesters claimed after the incident that one of their members had used the spray in self-defense after being physically assaulted.
Pro-Trump marchers in Huntington Beach jumped on the alleged sprayer, who was wearing a black balaclava. They punched and kicked him, witnesses told the Los Angeles Times.
Bystanders broke up the fight and police later detained the alleged sprayer, who was among some 40 counterprotesters.
One pro-Trump marcher told the LA Times that he chased the alleged sprayer to the highway and hit him five times with a Make American Great Again flag.
The counterprotesters 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 Capt. 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, holding 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 its members would not join any counterprotest 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.