Man unleashes bear spray on Trump protesters at Santa Monica Pier, California cops say

A California man was arrested Saturday after squirting anti-Trump protesters with bear repellent during a clash between supporters and detractors of the president on the Santa Monica Pier, according to police.

Santa Monica Police Department Lt. Candice Cobarrubias said 32-year-old David Dempsey of Orange County faces charges of assault with a caustic chemical and using a prohibited tear gas weapon after shooting the bear spray around 1:20 p.m. into a group of protesters who were fighting with supporters of the president, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports.

Dempsey, who wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat during the encounter, is being held without bail, according to KTLA.

The TV station reports that he “was seen in witness video arguing with protesters opposed to President Trump when he began spraying the crowd with a large canister of pepper spray intended for deterring bear attacks. At one point, he’s seen walking up to a man who was lying on the ground and spraying him directly in the face at close range.”

Santa Monica police described Dempsey’s criminal record as “fairly extensive” and said he is suspected of violating terms of his parole, according to the Los Angeles Times. Police also said a second Trump supporter may have sprayed the crowd, per the Times.

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“Protesters from both groups dispersed after the incident but were monitored by officers in the event another escalation started,” Cobarrubias said, according to the Daily Press. “No further incidents occurred.”


Some in the crowd carried American flags and Trump flags, while others held signs saying “Trump and Pence Must Go,” KTLA reported, adding that after the bear spray was unleashed “many ran away screaming and coughing” and “one woman was vomiting nearby.”

The group Refuse Fascism coordinated the weekend march against Trump in Santa Monica, calling for his impeachment as well as the removal of Vice President Mike Pence and other cabinet officials, according to the Washington Post.

“It was these f---ing libtards over here, man,” Dempsey told officers in video footage as the scene unfolded, according to the Post. “These commies — I didn’t do anything.”

Dempsey is set to appear in court Tuesday, KTLA reports. He “was previously convicted of burglary in 2006 and 2009 and of larceny and conspiracy in 2012,” according to the Daily Press.

Police said paramedics helped the injured protesters, as well as “non-involved Pier patrons affected by the bear repellent,” the Daily Press reports.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.