3 arrested in Laguna Beach during right-wing rally, counter-demonstration

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Three people were arrested during a right-wing rally and a counter-demonstration Sunday evening in Laguna Beach, police said. (KABC)

Three people were arrested during a right-wing rally and a counter-demonstration Sunday evening in Laguna Beach, police said.

News video showed some punches being thrown amid scuffles as the two sides confronted each other, but it was unclear what charges the arrestees might possibly face.

A group called "America First!" held a rally against illegal immigration and showed support for President Donald Trump.

"I'm a strong Republican and that's why I'm here. ... I think he's a good guy," Mike Matthews said of Trump. "Freedom of speech - that's my main reason for being here."

Organized by Orange County resident Johnny Benitez, the event was titled "America First! Electric Vigil for the Victims of Illegals and Refugees."

MORE: Anti-hate rallies held throughout SoCal, across country to combat far-right rallies

"The goal is to bring this conversation out and for there to be a dialogue," Benitez said, holding an American flag on a pole. "Because right now, what people think is that all of us are white supremacists."

The rally began about 6:30 p.m. as scheduled. Its attendees were outnumbered by hundreds of counterprotesters.

"I respect their freedom of speech. I think they have the right to say whatever they can say," said Rosa Vasquez. "But right now, in this specific moment, what they're saying is violence. And it's violence against my people, my community and those that I love."

Since his events have been violence-free in the past, if there were conflicts Sunday then, "We'll know which elements made it happen," Benitez said earlier in the week.

MORE: Dozens arrested, few injured as 40,000 protesters descend on Boston

In the aftermath of the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, police said they would keep a close watch on the gathering.

Officers also monitored what was called an "anti-fascist protest" to take a stand against hate.

Hundreds of people from Orange County gathered at Main Beach at 5 p.m. Organized by the Democratic Socialists of America-Orange County, members held the event to "strongly oppose the intention of the America First rally."

The rallies came on the heels of others in Southern California and around the nation on Saturday.

Tensions mounted in Dallas, Texas after police broke up a clash between people rallying against white supremacy and supporters of a confederate monument housed in a cemetery.

In Boston, 40,000 people took to the streets marching against hate and racism. Concerned that a small group of conservatives holding a free speech rally would be joined by white nationalists, police escorted the group away from the crowd.
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politicsprotestrallyPresident Donald TrumpracismkkkimmigrationLaguna BeachOrange County
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