FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — Tensions were high at the Tower Theatre protest on Sunday afternoon, resulting in the arrest of one male in his early 40s.
The protest, organized by the Save the Tower Theatre Committee to oppose the pending sale of the theatre to Adventure Church, is in its 14th week. This week, police say both protesters and counterprotesters, including members of the Proud Boys far-right extremist group, showed up in record numbers.
“It seems to be a bit bigger than it has been the past several weeks. We have approximately 20 officers out here and we estimate that there are about 100 protestors,” said Lt. Rob Beckwith with the Fresno Police Department.
Lt. Beckwith says roughly 40 of the protestors at the Tower Theatre today were from the Proud Boys group, whose presence continues to grow each weekend.
This comes after photos of former Fresno police officer Rick Fitzgerald attending one of the protests in Proud Boys gear surfaced on the internet, which prompted an internal investigation. Fitzgerald was fired by the department last week.
“Police officers do have a freedom of speech, however, there are times when it crosses the line,” Mayor Jerry Dyer said about the situation.
According to Lt. Beckwith, officers arrested a white man in his early forties at the protest Sunday after he got into an argument with another protestor. Beckwith says they then learned the man is an ex-felon who was also carrying pepper spray.
“He is not claiming any specific affiliation out here, and the officers are continuing to look into the assault and battery angle of that,” Beckwith said.
As for the sale of the Tower Theatre, it has been stalled again by the court and members of the Save the Tower Theatre Committee say they expect to hear an update on Friday.