Supporters of President Trump crowded all four corners of Fair Oaks and Mission in South Pasadena Sunday afternoon, sporting signs, waving flags, and prompting honks and shouts from a caravan of similarly attired cars and trucks making their way through the intersection and roaming city streets. Some but not all the demonstrators wore COVID-19 masks.
SPPD Sgt. Robert Bartl said the crowd peaked at about 350 people. He said no permit was required or issued for the rally.
The group was described as “happy warriors who wanted to participate in a nice, peaceful rally in support of our country, the South Pasadena Police Department and President Trump,” by Matt Bryant, the South Pasadena realtor who was one of the principal organizers of the event and who solicited support from the Pasadena Republican Club and other “like-minded” folks to whom he reached out.
The vast bulk of the crowd was white, but Bryant noted blacks, Asians, and “Latinos for Trump” were present — “people from all walks of life. They waved Trump flags, American flags and ‘Back the Blue’ flags.”
While a number of the demonstrators said they were from South Pasadena, others said they came from neighboring communities such as Alhambra, Pasadena, Glendale, and the San Fernando Valley. One woman, who declined to give her name, when asked if she was a South Pasadena resident, responded tersely, “It doesn’t matter where I’m from. This is a national issue.”
There were also secondhand reports of demonstrators coming from as far as Riverside and Orange Counties, who had been brought in by bus. While some alleged supporters were brought in by the busload, Bryant said he did not organize any buses. The turnout, he said, was more likely because “there are so few opportunities for people who still love their country and police to express that.”
The Trump rally was originally set to take place in front of the police station, but that would have been a violation because there was a ballot drop box outside city hall. Bryant found an alternative location a block away, where Black Lives Matter demonstrators have stood sentinel for months and ended their near-150-day run of protests on Saturday. “This is America and they have a right to protest there, but we want them to extend to us the same privilege that we have to peacefully protest.”
Some in the community wondered if Bryant was connected with the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, whose plan for a prayer vigil at the police station backed by SPPD Chief Ortiz was scratched after details emerged of the group’s very conservative politics. Bryant said he was not affiliated with the group, but had checked TFP’s website and “didn’t see anything offensive there.” He was “surprised the chief was called upon to apologize” for authorizing the vigil.
About 10 to 15 counter protesters shared the corner in front of Fair Oaks Pharmacy for a few hours before deciding to move up to the intersection of Hope and Fair Oaks temporarily, with some saying that they were bullied into doing so.
Bryant said the demonstration was peaceful, insisting the people had fun and were in a good mood. “But I did see a lot of hate coming from the other side.” He said that he lost count how many people gave them the finger, shouted profanities or called them racist. “Someone told me they had a bottle thrown at them from a car.”
But the demonstration was not free of incident.
The counter protesters, either supporting presidential candidate Joe Biden or the Black Lives Matter movement, allege they too were harassed, citing hostile behavior that included derogatory gestures and profane language targeted against them.
South Pasadenan Jacinta Lincke, a nurse and Assembly District 41 Democratic central committee delegate, said she and a 13-year old girl who was sitting near her were coughed and spat upon in front of City Hall. “They were not wearing masks and I asked them to keep their distance. When I was spat on, I turned around and then the young girl standing near me started to cry. She got spat on on the shoulder by a man wearing a jack o’ lantern t-shirt and purple pants (while) walking a dog.” Lincke believes this was a Trump supporter due to his wearing of a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. Linda Krauss, a fellow counter protester and resident since 1973, said she witnessed this.
Lincke, who believes that the Trump rally was not an accurate portrayal of the city’s residents, told the South Pasadenan, “The reason I stood out here is because I wanted children that live in this town or were passing through this town, especially children of color, to know that this was not representative of South Pasadena. We’re people against this, this was not acceptable.”
The rally was set to end at 4:00. Bryant said by the time he left at 4:15, counter protesters “started occupying some of the corners and started to mix in a little bit.” Other witnesses said there were still several dozen counter protesters present.
Local BLM organizer London Lang says “We came out just to say we want this corner back for Black Lives Matter, basically” he told the South Pasadenan. “There were some verbal arguments” but otherwise “It was peaceful until, from what I heard, a woman grabbed a girl by her hair and dragged her and threw around (on) the floor.”
SPPD reported that at about 6:00 pm, eight police units and over a dozen officers — all who were on duty at the time — responded to reports of a “physical altercation between two opposing political groups.” Sgt. Robert Bartl told the South Pasadenan News an adult woman operating a Trump paraphernalia concession booth accused a 16 year-old girl of knocking over merchandise that had been sitting on a table.
The 16 year-old victim swore out a statement saying the concessionaire grabbed her hair. A second woman, who Bartl said was a BLM member, then pushed a male who was with the concessionaire.
Both the young woman and the male asked police to arrest their respective assaulters. No arrests were made, but Bartl said both the concessionaire and the BLM member will be charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
The young female victim told the South Pasadenan News the attack brought her to the ground and that another assailant kicked her in the head several times when she was down.
Paramedics were called and treatment was offered, but there were no physical injuries, Bartl said. Over a half dozen witness statements were taken and the case is being prepared for review by the district attorney, he added.
An eyewitness, Ixchel Carrizales De Lara, said the 16 year-old “knocked over a couple of the hats out of frustration and she began to walk away. That’s when they grabbed her hair, and started pulling her back and pulling her down.” A couple of protesters then moved in and forcibly pulled a man away from the girl. He then returned to his booth to clean up without reprimanding from officers, she said.
Anyone operating a concession must have a city business license and a permit for the booth, a city official told the South Pasadenan, although there may be exceptions for “one-day pop-ups”. But the city did not respond to inquiries about whether a permit was issued to the Trump concessionaire. Bryant said he didn’t know the woman’s identity. “All we did was, we had a flier. People showed up. I didn’t know anyone would have a booth.”
Bryant said the incident did not mar the rally, because it was over by then. He said he phoned the police department Monday “to ask if there were any problems with our people, and they said ‘no.’”
Bryant said reports that Trump demonstrators did things “they should not have done is an absolute lie. One tact of the Left,” he says, “is to delegitimize a rally like ours and cast aspersions” about things that did not actually happen.
“We just want to get the energy we want to fuel the cause to reach as many people as we can before Tuesday,” said demonstrator Tony Pasarella of Glendale. “With these cars that are passing by, maybe they’re undecided. But if we show it, if we come out in numbers, and with enthusiasm and energy just like Trump does, then maybe we can flip a few people that are undecided.”
Allen, a counter protester from Alhambra who asked that his surname be withheld, sought to offer balanced perspective. While he supports Biden, a majority of his family are Trump supporters. “My brother is a big Trumper. I love him,” he said tearfully. “He was just diagnosed with cancer and has a low T-cell count. If he gets this virus, he could die. That’s what Trumpers don’t understand: that while people are against Trump, we still love Trumpers, we still love these people. They’re our family, friends, our neighbors. They got us all wrong.”
Some demonstrators engaged in earnest discussion with political opponents who approached them. While no minds were changed, both sides expressed some comfort in their respective interlocutor’s willingness to civilly disagree.
Esteban Lopez contributed to this report.
Reports concerning the altercation and the ensuing response from counter protesters are in development. Please stay tuned for more updates.