Berkeley’s status as the epicenter of the Free Speech Movement has become a dark joke. Instead, modern Berkeley has been more appropriately saddled with the archetype of the No Free Speech Movement.
In the wake of a second violent attempt to eliminate conservative thought in the notoriously liberal college town, it has become clear that Berkeley’s leadership in academia, local politics, and even the police department all but endorse riotous tactics.
That is, if you still believe the adage that actions speak to somebody’s true intentions and beliefs more than words ever could.
In the wake of a brick-throwing, fire-starting “protest” that resulted in the cancellation of an on-campus speech by Milo Yiannopoulos in February, Berkeley administrators said most of the right things.
A university spokesman lamented what was, “not a proud night for this campus, the home of the free speech movement.” He said they were reviewing policing tactics, discussing how to counter the tactics of this violent “black bloc” of agitators in the future.
Antifa (short for anti-fascism), the masked group which is the primary culprit in the majority of these violent anti-right, anti-free speech riots, has shown a willingness to throw anything from bricks to Molotov cocktails. They are a monolithic threat unified in their dedication to causing harm to humans and property alike- under the guise of combatting fascism. Yes, a group using violent means to suppress dissenting thought is doing so in the name of fighting fascism. You can’t make this stuff up.
But even with their disregard for conservative life, Antifa is nothing that the police can’t handle. In fact, manhandling a scrawny protestor or seven is the sort of professional fantasy that surely helps keep Berkeley police officers heartened enough to show up to work.
But, in Berkeley, the idea of enforcing the law upon those who throw explosives and smash windows remains merely a fantasy.
Conservative personality Lauren Southern was in attendance at a free speech rally in Berkeley this past Saturday. She describes a scene that is so Berkeley it is almost comical. If it weren’t so darn unbelievable and alarming, that is.
“The police assured myself and the organizers that there would be an impressive presence there, that the left wouldn’t be able to shut it down this time. But it was under one condition…that everyone that went into this protected zone by the police disarm (themselves),” Southern said.
The “protected” zone she speaks of was a mesh fence, the sort you would see flailing in the wind to mark off a roadside construction site. Because in Berkeley, it is the ones who peacefully advocate for free speech that must be corralled into a specially designated area. It’s the group who has a long-established history of truly peaceful protest that must be disarmed.
Again, I don’t have to explain the irony of a designated zone for free speech in America.
On cue, Antifa showed up, surrounding the free speech pen. And, seeing that the free speech advocates were unarmed, the masked anarchists smelled blood in the water. According to Southern, powerful firecrackers known as M-80s were thrown.
Antifa came closer. This is where, in most American cities, the police maintain their barrier between the combatants and their targets, using necessary force to ensure safety while rounding up those who commit visible acts of crime.
Nein. Not in Berkeley.
In Berkeley, when Antifa begins to get riled up, the police begin to stand down. And they stay down.
One journalist asked an idle policeman why they weren’t doing their job. The response, with a hint of rage: “Well, that would be a question for our boss, wouldn’t it?”
So the threatened defended themselves, using their fists and unparalleled passion for the Constitution to fight their way through Antifa, running them out of the downtown Berkeley area and sending a message: this silencing through violence has to stop.
The police, no matter how much they desired to do their job, could only watch. So much for the review of policing tactics that were promised in the wake of the February riot.
Because, in Berkeley, preserving the liberal ideal, no matter how twisted a form it takes, is more important than protecting human life. Politicians and university presidents may condemn the violence, but ultimately those that have chosen to live and work in Berkeley understand one underlying truth: the right represents everything Berkeley stands against, and resistance against conservative thought- violent or otherwise- must not be condemned.
There was never a chance of police intervention in this foreseeable conflict. “Policing tactics” were not addressed, obviously. Unless you count a mesh fence and the disarmament of those most likely to be harmed as an improvement in policing tactics.
Ann Coulter is aware of how Berkeley and its string-pullers operate. So, she pledged to follow through with her scheduled appearance in the city on April 27th, despite the university urging her to reconsider. If she insisted, Berkeley was going to set some caveats.
The speech would have to be conducted during the afternoon, with only students allowed to attend and the venue announced only at the last minute. Restrictive, but all justifiable measures.
Coulter agreed, but she had two reasonable requests, also pertinent to safety concerns:
1) The chief of Oakland police be told by the Cal-Berkeley Chancellor not to have his men stand down, as had been the case in the past, as recently on Saturday.
2) That the university announce that any students caught engaging in violence, mayhem, or heckling be expelled.
In other words, two things that should have been done in the first place. Two things that most universities (even today) would not bat an eye at.
By most accounts, if Coulter had merely accepted Berkeley’s terms, the event would still be a go. Instead, Berkeley announced the cancellation of the event. Nothing had changed in the meantime besides Coulter’s counter-proposal, one that should have been honored.
Berkeley chose to side with Antifa, free speech be damned. Aside from the whooping doled out on Saturday, the perpetrators of violence and enemies of democracy win again, without even a slap on the wrist from law enforcement or local officials.
Yes, the liberal idea is alive and well, one just has to look at Berkeley, California to see what it looks like.