SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8 / CNS) - Egg-throwing and three arrests were the result of dueling demonstrations Saturday at Chicano Park, where a group calling for the American flag to be displayed at the local landmark was met with hundreds of counter-protesters.
The San Diego Police Department said one of the arrests occurred after an officer was punched in the face. That officer was transported to the hospital and as of 5:00 p.m. Saturday, the officer was listed in serious condition.
A few dozen protesters, part of an event dubbed Patriot Picnic by the group Bordertown Patriots Inc., gathered at the park at about 9 a.m. to call for raising the American flag over the site beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan. The park features colorful murals depicting various elements of Mexican and Mexican-American culture.
Counter-protesters also showed up, and police estimated their numbers at about 700 people.
Police separated the two sides with officers, barriers, yellow tape and the entire width of Logan Avenue.
"I came to support my friends who are here because they're upset the American flag's not flying in this park," said a woman on the Bordertown Patriots' side of the protest who asked only to be identified as `Lisa C.'
"It's not that we think it should be the only flag that's flying, but the Mexican flag shouldn't be the only flag that's flying," she said.
A flag representing Aztlan -- the legendary homeland of the Aztecs -- usually flies over Chicano Park.
For some of the counter-protesters, though, it was more personal than a fight over a flag.
"For us, this is one of our sacred spaces here in San Diego," said Luis Miguel Tovar, who said he was performing a traditional Aztec dance at the park. "We've been here for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This is Native American land."
One of the Bordertown Patriots, Jourdin Davis, said he traveled from the Bay Area to take part in the demonstration.
"I know this park is deeply connected to Latin American history, from what I hear," he said. "But at the same time, you know, it's U.S. land, and we should still be able to share it and support it."
The two sides were kept separated enough that there were few chances for them to come into contact with each other. But once the Patriot Picnic attendees began leaving, police had a harder time preventing interactions.
Two protesters began striking each other with a motorcycle officer in between them.
One person threw eggs at the Bordertown Patriots group as they walked north on Logan Avenue.
"I think it's disappointing, but expected," Lisa C. said. "Both sides aren't going to come together and not have any issues. When the cops can't watch each side perfectly, there's gonna be a little action."
Nicole Orsi, one of the counter-protesters, said she was there because she heard "white supremacists" were going to be demonstrating at the park.
"Supposedly, they say that this park is anti-American and that they feel threatened by it," Orsi said. "But I feel the opposite, that Chicano Park belongs here. Diversity is what makes America a great place to live."
Bordertown Patriots representatives said that no white supremacists were at their event, and any who showed up would have been kicked out.
"Those are rumors that were debunked on the spot. There's no neo- Nazis or white supremacists here at all, or anybody who stands behind that philosophy," Davis said. "I just wanted to come down here and support the message, which is just coming to the park, having a nice, peaceful picnic at a park that's still on American soil."
San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez said she was at the counter-protest to support the neighborhood she was born in.
"This is a historical park that comes from a lot of tears and sweat by the people in the '70s, when the community was abandoned by the government for many, many years and this park is a creation of the community," Gomez said. "(It shows) the significance of what brown people have had to face in this society, in the states. So I think we owe it to history to just give a little bit of space that is protected."
The dispute over the flag, she said, should be a non-issue.
"It's not a big park, and there's many flags everywhere else. You step outside of here, you'll see a flag," she said. "They're just trying to prove a point, and I think that point does not belong here in this particular space."
#ChicanoPark Update: We have made three arrests so far. An @SanDiegoPD Officer was punched in the face. We have arrested the person responsible. As a reminder violence, vandalism, or other criminal acts will not be tolerated. Unlawful behavior will result in your arrest— San Diego Police Department (@SanDiegoPD) February 3, 2018
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