A news station called it “something resembling a war zone.” A woman told the Los Angeles Times that it was “more of a riot.”
And, yes, that’s apparently weaponized Pepsi sitting there — along with knives, sticks, a shield and cans of pepper spray.
In a widely panned commercial earlier this month, Pepsi had billed its product as a catalyst for peaceful protest. Instead, this happened:
All this occurred despite police efforts to prevent a repeat of the violence and vandalism that occurred in the city in February, before a university canceled a scheduled talk by former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
And again in early March, when about 500 pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators punched, sprayed and clubbed one another, according to local news reports.
So, after a pro-Trump group announced Saturday’s rally in Civic Center Park downtown, a farmers market that regularly opens next door closed as a precaution, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Police banned anything that could be used as a weapon — or had been in past rallies — such as pepper spray, mace, baseball bats and glass bottles. In a sweep of the park before the rally, they found a “realistic-appearing replica gun.”
But despite these measures, fistfights broke out. Protesters fired pepper spray into a crowd. Small explosions, often blamed on firecrackers, could be heard going off in a thick throng of people.
Members of a citizen militia in security gear showed up to protect the pro-Trump demonstrators. Police in riot gear separated both sides, the Times reported.
It wasn’t total chaos, though.
A citizen militia member told the Times that police were doing a good job of keeping people “chilled and relaxed” — despite sporadic fights.
Although many people simply walked around chanting or counter-chanting, others ended up bloodied and injured, as seen in photos of the event.
Police said that seven people had to go to the hospital, and that several people were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, with more arrests expected as investigators review videos of the event.
A previous version of this post incorrectly said February’s violence followed the university’s cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech. It has been corrected to reflect that the violence preceded the cancellation.