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Increase in violent confrontations in California

Violent and hostile confrontations statewide that resulted in crimes, arrests, significant property damage, cancellation of a scheduled event or injuries are on track to double in 2017 compared to 2016, according to a report released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.

In California, there were 13 such incidents in all of 2016. But for 2017, by the end of August, there were 15 incidents. Last year, around the same time, there were seven.

This upward trend has been seen not just in Southern California, but statewide, said Brian Levin, the center’s director.

“This is significant because California is a bellwether state where the number of hate crimes have significantly increased year to year as have the number of hate incidents,” he said. “Also, with the beginning of the academic year, public universities are faced with the challenge of being able to guarantee first amendment rights on their campuses.”

The center’s report looks at a number of high-profile events around the Southland including the Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach in March when fights broke out on the sand in Bolsa Chica State Beach between Trump supporters and masked Antifa members who tried to block the march.

In April, students blockaded access to a campus event in protest of conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald, who is known for defending police against Black Lives Matter activists.

In June, Trump supporters and Antifa members clashed again in San Bernardino during an Anti-Sharia March near the site of a terrorist attack on Dec. 2, 2015 at the Inland Regional Center.

Last month, four arrests including one assault were reported in Laguna Beach at the America First! Immigration Rally.

This data isn’t “predictive or diagnostic,” Levin said.

“We’re not just divided, but polarized because folks on different sides of the political spectrum are entrenched in their beliefs and feel fearful of the future,” he said. “We have seen an increase in political rallies in general. We’ve also seen an emboldening of the fringes and they are coming out in large numbers.”

Groups that perpetrate violence — be it white nationalists or the Antifa — are recruiting and mobilizing followers online, Levin said. But the activity is not limited to these two groups, he said.

“California is so big and diverse that our extremists are, too.”

March 25: Assaults with fists and use of pepper spray reported at the Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach resulted in four arrests all counter-protesters.

April 6: Students blocked entry to a speaking event by conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont. Authorities refused to make arrests. However, the college suspended three students for a year and two others for a semester. Mac Donald spoke to a handful of observers and the college live-streamed the event.

May 30: Immigration protesters disrupted Lou Correa’s open house event in Santa Ana, which led to three assault arrests and disruption of a town hall meeting.

June 10: Three arrested at Act for America’s Anti-Sharia March in San Bernardino involving both Trump supporters and members of the Antifa who showed up to protest.

July 15: Two arrests and minor injuries after Trump supporters and protesters clashed in Hollywood.

Aug. 20: Four arrests including an assault at the America First! Immigration Rally at the Main Beach in Laguna Beach.

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