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Supporters of President Donald Trump gather for a "People 4 Trump" rally at Neshaminy State Park in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, U.S. March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Makela(reuters_tickers)
By Stephen Lam and Tim Branfalt
BERKELEY, Calif./LANSING, Mich. (Reuters) - Supporters at a Saturday rally in favor of President Donald Trump clashed with counter-protesters in the famously left-leaning city of Berkeley, California, in what appeared to be the only episode of violence around several pro-Trump events across the country.
At a park in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco, protesters from both sides struck their opponents over the head with wooden sticks. Trump supporters fired pepper spray at counter-protesters as police in riot gear stood at a distance.
Organizers of the so-called Spirit of America rallies in at least 28 of the country's 50 states had said they expected smaller turn-outs than the huge crowds of anti-Trump protesters that clogged the streets of Washington, D.C., and other cities the day after his inauguration on Jan. 20.
Their predictions appeared to be correct, as they were for similar rallies on Monday. In many towns and cities, the rallies did not draw more than a few hundred people, and some were at risk of being outnumbered by small groups of anti-Trump protesters that gathered to shout against the rallies.
In Berkeley, the total crowd of both supporters and detractors numbered 200 to 300 people, police spokesman Byron White said.
One person was hit on the head in the melee and another one had teeth knocked out, White said, adding that police made one arrest.
Video posted to social media soon after the fighting broke out showed men with American flags facing off against other men dressed in black.
The violence comes a month after mask-wearing protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, shut down a planned speech by a far-right speaker by lighting fires and smashing windows.
Most rallies appeared to take place without any disruption or violence, like one in in Lansing outside the Michigan State Capitol building on Saturday.
"People feel like they can't let their foot off the gas and we need to support our president," said Meshawn Maddock, one of the organizers of the rally which drew about 200 people.
"How can anyone be disappointed with bringing back jobs? And he promised he would secure our borders, and that's exactly what he's doing."
Brandon Blanchard, 24, among a small group of anti-Trump protesters, said he had come in support of immigrants, Muslims and transgender people, groups that have been negatively targeted by Trump's rhetoric and policies.
"I feel that every American that voted for Trump has been deceived. Any campaign promises have already been broken," Blanchard said.
More than 200 supporters of the Republican president rallied in downtown San Diego.
"After this, I think people will take the hint," said former U.S. Marine David Moore, 42, a participant in the rally. "It’s okay to voice support for the president and the country."
In the nation's capital, more than a hundred people gathered near the Washington Monument, a short walk from the White House, although the president himself was in Florida for the weekend.
"He does not hate Latinos, he does not hate Hispanics, he does not hate Mexicans," a woman who described herself as a Mexican-American supporter of Trump said, addressing the crowd from a small stage. "He's put his life at risk for us."
(Additional reporting by Ned Randolph in San Diego, Melissa Fares in Palm Beach, Florida, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Writing and additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Dan Grebler and Mary Milliken)