'America First' protesters face off with opponents at California beach rally

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif., Aug 21 (Reuters) - Anti-immigration demonstrators faced off against a much bigger crowd of counter-protesters in the Southern California town of Laguna Beach on Sunday, as police kept the opposing sides apart.

Around 2,500 people in total showed up for what became a raucous shouting match but did not descend into the kind of violence seen at this month's clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed.

RELATED: A look at the California demonstrators and counter protesters

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Nationalist protests in California
Demonstrator Johnny Benitez (L) faces off with peace activist Jared Hughes during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
REFILE - QUALITY REPEAT A demonstrator faces off with a counter-protester during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Demonstrator Johnny Benitez pumps his fist into the air during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Demonstrators protest during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Police officers separate demonstators during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017.REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Demonstrators and counter-protesters face off during a protest at the America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Demonstrators and counter-protesters face off during the America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Demonstrators face off with counter-protesters during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Counter-protester Ediie Velasquez protests during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
Demonstrators and counter-protesters face off during an America First rally in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
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Police erected barricades along the oceanfront to deter car attacks like the one in Charlottesville which killed a woman when a suspected white nationalist drove into the crowd.

Dozens of anti-immigration protesters rallying behind President Donald Trump's campaign slogan "America First" were escorted by police through opposing demonstrators who chanted: "Shame" and "No white supremacy."

Trump's opponents blame him for boosting far-right sentiment, forcing the president to deny he tacitly supports racists.

"We are not a white supremacism movement but an 'America First' movement," said Beverly Welch, 56, a health assistant protesting against illegal immigration. "We're trying to save our country."

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Police later declared the remaining protesters an unlawful assembly and forced them to disperse. They made three arrests.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people protested in Boston against a "free speech" rally featuring far-right speakers. (Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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