According to the New York Times and SFGate, Milo Yiannopoulos’s scheduled appearance at the University of California at Berkeley last night, sponsored by the College Republicans, was canceled after initially peaceful protests turned violent. The situation isn’t completely clear, but it looks as if “outside agitators” (i.e., non-students) attacked police barricades, threw paint, and then went on a rampage. As I reported earlier, the Berkeley Chancellor had refused to cancel the event, calling for freedom of speech at the same time that he deplored Milo’s views.
A protest at UC Berkeley over a scheduled appearance by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos turned fiery and violent Wednesday night, prompting police to cancel the event and hustle the Breitbart News editor off campus.
But even after the event’s cancellation, hundreds of protesters spilled off campus into the city streets, where the violence continued as they confronted drivers, engaged in fights, smashed storefront windows and set fires.
The trouble began around 6 p.m., two hours before Yiannopoulos was to begin his speech inside the student union building on Sproul Plaza. Protesters outside the building began throwing fireworks and pulling down the metal barricades police set up to keep protesters from rushing inside. Windows were smashed and fires were set outside the building as masked protesters stormed it. Police quickly evacuated Yiannopoulos for his own safety.
Berkeley police said five people were injured and some people, including a man who said he had hoped to see Yiannopoulos speak, were seen with their faces bloodied. There were no arrests.
Police said protesters threw bricks and fireworks at police officers. University police locked down all buildings and told people inside them to shelter in place, and later fired pepper balls and paint balls into the crowd of protesters who defied orders to leave the area. Police called in support from nine of the 10 UC campuses and the Oakland Police Department and Alameda County sheriffs department.
On Berkeley’s city streets, protesters took their rage against construction sites and businesses, smashing windows at banks and stores. They also confronted motorists, and at one point a driver sped off with a protester on the car hood.
What the hell? Here’s a video of some of the protests, which, ironically, took place in Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement was born in the mid-Sixties.
And here’s a report I got last night from a reader who lived close by:
I live about a mile from the UC Berkeley campus, and beginning several hours ago, I’ve heard the sound of helicopters circling down that way. Had no idea why, could be anything. But just a few minutes ago, there was a radio report stating that Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech was canceled and there has been some violence, throwing smoke bombs and fireworks, a fire, a few people with blood on their faces. The report stated that at first the protest was peaceful, but some ‘black clad’ folks wearing masks arrived, crashed the party so to speak, and of a suddenly things got violent. (Surely these are the floating group of anarchist agitators who call themselves “Black Bloc” and violently co-op peaceful demonstrations here in the Bay Area and elsewhere). I’m not certain just what is happening but I now hear sirens. I don’t have a TV, so just found a live feed on the Internet. Reports that there are thousands of people and the entire campus is on lockdown. However, I’m also hearing on the radio that some of the protestors are trying to de-escalate the situation by playing music. The situation is fluid and lots of things going on.
Well, it’s all over now; move along folks, nothing to see here. Need I add that this violence by either anarchists or the Left, but certainly by opponents of Milo and Trump, is unconscionable? We’re supposed to be better than that, and yet here we are acting like thugs and goons. As one reader emailed me, “This is what happens when people start to believe that they are so morally superior that they can literally do anything and still be right. Ironically, they’re not a million miles away from fascism themselves anymore.” That’s exactly what Nick Cohen warned about in his book What’s Left? And, predictably, Trump has threatened to cut UC Berkeley’s funding.
What pains me as much as this violence is the excuse that the protestors had: they were exercising free speech, not suppressing it! Such is the Doublespeak of the Regressive Left. Here are two excerpts from the report above (my emphases):
Protesters argued that what Yiannopoulos specializes in is hate speech, and that it didn’t deserve to be protected.
“It’s not a question of free speech,” a protester said via megaphone, riling up the hundreds of protesters. “It’s about real human beings.”
Seriously? If speech is about real human beings, it’s not free speech? That’s something new to me.
Those who attend his appearances, [Yiannopoulos] said, include people who “don’t necessarily agree with me but just want to hear the other side. They were prevented from doing so this evening by violence from the left — the left that is terrified of anyone who they think might be persuasive or might be interesting or might take people with them.”
But UC Berkeley sophomore Jonathan Gow, 19, rejected Yiannopoulos’ insistence that free speech took a hit.
“The whole reason we’re here is for free speech,” Gow said. “Milo’s hate speech is not allowed here. When it’s hate speech, our free speech is to shut him down.”
Black is white! Clearly, whatever speech you don’t like isn’t free speech, but hate speech, which deserves to be censored. The problem, as always, is “who gets to define ‘hate speech'”? Some of what Milo says deserves discussion, and none of what Milo says contravenes “free speech” as interpreted by the courts.
What these protestors is doing is cutting the very heart out of the First Amendment. Hate speech is now seen as violence, although the only thing hurt are some people’s feelings. But that’s enough, for many, to justify censorship. It’s sad that even some Berkeley students are on board with this.
I’ll close with an excerpt from the report, quoting yet another UCB student:
UC Berkeley junior Fatima Ibrahim, 20, who clutched a “resist fear” sign with a red fist, said the timing of Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance stung.
“As a black Muslim woman, all three of those identities have been targeted throughout (Trump’s) campaign,” Ibrahim said. “To have someone like (Yiannopoulos) come into my campus and affirm those people’s beliefs, it’s very, very hurtful.”
Hours after the event was canceled, the College Republicans issued a statement declaring the Free Speech Movement dead. “It is tragic that the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement is also its final resting place,” the statement said.
I hate to agree with the College Republicans on this, but I do.
UPDATE: A PuffHo article that reports the riots (and, predictably, has a distinctly anti-Milo slant) is followed by a number of comments, many of which show that people just don’t understand what freedom of speech entails. Here’s a screenshot of some of the discussion: