Fights erupt at pro-Trump rally on California beach

Jennifer Sterling, one of the organizers of the pro-Donald Trump rally reacts after getting hit with pepper spray in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Violence erupted when a march of about 2,000 Trump supporters at Bolsa Chica State Beach reached a group of about 30 counter-protesters, some of whom began spraying pepper spray, said Capt. Kevin Pearsall of the California State Parks Police. (Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register via AP)

By Patrick T. Fallon

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (Reuters) - Supporters of President Donald Trump holding a rally on a popular southern California beach clashed with counter-protesters on Saturday and four people were arrested, law enforcement said.

Multiple fights broke out and at least one Trump supporter was doused with pepper spray when pro-Trump demonstrators marching along Bolsa Chica State Beach encountered a small group opposed to the Republican president who had gathered to denounce the rally.

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Four counter-protesters were arrested, three for illegal use of pepper spray and one for assault and battery, Kevin Pearsall, a spokesman for the California State Parks Police said on Saturday evening.

The fights appeared to start in the early afternoon when around a dozen anti-Trump protesters dressed in all black refused to move from a bike path to allow a larger group of pro-Trump supporters taking part in the Make America Great Again rally to pass. The confrontation escalated into a fight with more skirmishes quickly breaking out.

At least one person was pepper-sprayed by an anti-Trump protester, Pearsall said. Park police estimated that 2,000 Trump supporters flocked to the stretch of coastline located south of the ocean-side community of Huntington Beach. Around 20 counter-protesters attended, Pearsall said.

Known as Surf City, U.S.A., Huntington Beach is located some 40 miles (64 km) south of Los Angeles.

Video footage from social media uploaded to the Los Angeles Times' website showed a chaotic scene with men fighting in the sand and a group of around 20 Trump supporters, some carrying Trump flags, chasing a man in a black mask away from the beach and on to a freeway. The man was stopped by members of the California Highway Patrol, the newspaper said.

The masked man had used pepper spray on a female rally organizer and was set upon by a group of Trump supporters, the newspaper reported.

Demonstrations denouncing the Trump administration have drawn hundreds of thousands since he took office in January. Smaller rallies have been staged across the country in support of Trump.

On Saturday, Trump praised his supporters.

"Thanks you for all of the Trump Rallies today. Amazing support. We will all MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" He said in a message on Twitter.


(Reporting by Patrick T. Fallon; Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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