BERKELEY, Calif. - The pro-President Trump rally and protest scheduled for Saturday in Berkeley has already caused collateral damage. The farmer's market is closing down after violence from a similar rally in March spilled over.
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The threat of violence and vandalism is being taken seriously in Berkeley. The pre-Easter market is supposed to be the biggest of the season, and is closing in anticipation of the rally.
"Some of the more corporatized businesses have started boarding up just in precaution," said Lance Goree of the Downtown Berkeley Association.
Supporters of Trump plan to rally Saturday in Civic Center Park. This follows the March clash between them and counterprotesters.
Organizers of the farmer's market are closing it down in anticipation of the day.
"I feel like it's an overreaction and I also feel like it's giving in to the culture of fear that's taking over the country," said Timm Mueller of Riverdog Farm.
Mueller says Riverdog Farm stands to miss out on $7,000 to $10,000 dollars Saturday.
"We have 60 people who work year round on the farm who depend on the farm for their income to feed their families," Mueller told ABC7 News.
He and 50 other vendors are collateral damage to a rally and protest that hasn't even happened yet.
"I'm not sure that's even really their intent," Mueller added. "They're absorbed in their own moment of anger."
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Both sides of the demonstration posted flyers while the city published a list of banned items -- basically anything that can be used as a weapon. Police arrested 10 people at the March 4th event and are still working to identify suspects.
You can read statements from the farmer's market and City of Berkeley below.
The following statement is from Martin Bourque, the Ecology Center's Executive Director: We are deeply saddened that political confrontations have escalated this far. In a peace-loving City with such a long non-violent tradition, it is terrible that the only responsible course of action is to close market this Saturday. It is disturbing, as a lifelong resident of Berkeley, that this confrontation will take place in front of Berkeley's Peace Wall.
Communities need more of all the positive things that farmers' markets accomplish: healthy food, thriving community spaces, sustainable agricultural practices, local economic stimulation, good jobs and revitalization of rural economies. We do not need more division and violent confrontation.
It pains us to close the market for one day, to ensure safety, but we are hoping that people will come out to our other two markets, and then return the following Saturday to help our farmers thrive. The Downtown Berkeley Saturday Farmers' Market usually has about 50 vendors this time of year. Farmers' are very disappointed as they have been hard hit by the drought, and then rains and floods. Saturday is an important market, as it is the last market before Easter Sunday and is usually a kickoff of the spring season when they have more variety and produce to sell.
We've been working closely with the City of Berkeley. They've committed to additional support for the market, but the situation is unpredictable, and things may happen that are out of their control. We appreciate the police department's restraint and what a challenge it is to protect both free speech and public safety today. We have to be very cautious, as there are usually hundreds of shoppers, including children and elders, in our markets.
The Ecology Center Farmer's Markets are a safe, welcoming and healthy environment for the community. While this is a real financial blow to many farmers, we can not put a price on safety. Please support our farmers Tuesdays in South Berkeley (Adeline Street and 63rd Street from 2-6:30) and Thursdays in North Berkeley (Shattuck Avenue @ Rose Street from 3-7pm). We encourage those who regularly come to the Saturday Downtown Berkeley market (Center @ MLK from 10 am to 3 pm) to shop our other markets this week and come back Downtown the following week.
The City of Berkeley released a statement and list of banned items in preparation for the protests: Sticks, pipes, poles and anything else that can be used for a "riot" will be banned on Saturday, April 15 at Civic Center Park in an effort to ensure the peaceful expression of free speech.
Anyone violating these rules will be subject to citation and arrest.
Organizers have promoted Saturday's gathering as a follow-up to an unpermitted March 4 demonstration, when numerous people were hurt due to violence. Ten people were arrested for their roles in the events, and other arrests are being actively pursued. No one has applied for or obtained a permit for Saturday, and as a result, anyone at the park will be subject to these rules.
Given that many individuals brought various items that were used as weapons into Civic Center Park on March 4, the following items are prohibited from being brought into the park by any person on April 15, 2017:
Baseball or softball bats
Lengths of lumber or wood (any size)
Pepper spray (OC spray)
Knives or daggers
Axes, axe handles, or hatchets
Any other item that is generally considered an "implement of riot" that can be used as a weapon
Signs and flags on Saturday at the park must be held by hand, and may not be affixed to any pole or stick.
For peaceful protesters, there are a number of things people can do to stay safe. Separate yourself from people committing violence. Doing so not only keeps you safe, it prevents criminals from being done under the cover of a peaceful crowd. That allows police to focus on criminal acts. To read more, see an earlier news release.
The City will work to safeguard our community while facilitating the peaceful expression of the First Amendment. If anyone commits a crime in our community, we will work with the community to identify, investigate and prosecute suspects. That applies both during and after the event.
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