Trump supporters and counter-protesters clash in Pacific Beach; police declare unlawful gathering

San Diego police clash with counter-protesters opposing a pro-Trump "Patriot March"  on Jan. 9 in Pacific Beach.
San Diego police clash with counter-protesters Jan. 9 on Mission Boulevard near Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. The counter-protesters were there to oppose a “Patriot March” supporting President Donald Trump.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

About 100 supporters of President Donald Trump and 100 counter-protesters, some of whom described themselves as anti-fascists, stood off with San Diego police for hours in the heart of Pacific Beach on Jan. 9, with officers trying to keep the opposing groups apart following skirmishes.

The dueling demonstrations shut down Mission Boulevard near Crystal Pier. Police declared the gathering “unlawful” and ordered the crowds to disperse at about 2:30 p.m. The message was aired over a police helicopter loudspeaker, and some people appeared to be slowly complying.

“Those who remain or return against this lawful order may be cited/arrested and risk exposure to chemical agents and less-lethal force applications,” according to a San Diego Police Department tweet.

No arrests had been reported as of 5 p.m.

Police reported on Twitter that officers had been struck by a glass bottle. Rocks and eggs also were being thrown at police, and pepper spray was being deployed in their direction from the crowd, police said. They did not say who was responsible.

At one point, officers fired what appeared to be pepper ball rounds into the anti-fascist crowd during a confrontation.

By 4:30 p.m., Trump supporters reconvened on the boardwalk and police allowed them to march. The marchers yelled profanities and clashed at times with passersby.

“We will continue to monitor both groups to help facilitate peaceful protests. However, we will not tolerate acts of violence,” police tweeted at around 5 p.m. “When rocks, bottles, pepper spray and other objects are thrown or used on our officers, actions will be taken against those who commit violent acts.”

The unrest began around 1 p.m. when a crowd of Black Lives Matter supporters and anti-fascists, many of them dressed in black and wearing “antifa” T-shirts and hats, gathered at the pier to counter a pro-Trump “Patriot March” planned for 2 p.m. The march had been scheduled long before the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters Jan. 6.

The counter-protesters held signs that denounced Trump, as well as one that said “No Nazis in PB.”

Before the pro-Trump event, some from the anti-fascist side got in sporadic screaming matches with Trump supporters along the boardwalk. At one point, someone slapped the phone out of the hand of a man on the boardwalk and pushed forward, knocking him down along with a small boy.

Tempers flared at that moment and some non-protesters on the boardwalk moved toward the group, including a man with a dog on a leash barking at the counter-protesters.

Trump supporters gather in Pacific Beach for a "Patriot March" and are met by counter-protesters Jan. 9.
Supporters of President Donald Trump gather in Pacific Beach for a “Patriot March” on Jan. 9 and are met by counter-protesters. San Diego police tried to keep the groups apart.
(Gary Robbins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

One video posted on Twitter showed a man walk to the anti-fascist side and push down a counter-protester who was writing on the street with chalk. When other counter-protesters confronted the man, officers pulled him away and behind the police line.

Both sides wielded pepper spray and it was deployed at various times during confrontations.

By mid-afternoon, about 100 Trump supporters had gathered at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Hornblend Street.

Lines of officers separated the groups, with some from the anti-fascist side taunting police with profanities.