“We won’t put up with the violent rhetoric of Milo, Trump or the fascistic alt-right,” said a Berkeley history student who declined to give his name. The student, who was dressed in black and wore a face mask, carried a banner that read “Queers bash back”. He said he identified with the “antifa” (anti-fascist) movement.
“We are willing to resist by any means necessary,” he added.
Why? Because it’s a “moral imperative.”
Lana Wachowski, another protester, defended using extreme tactics to deny Yiannopolous a platform. “The moral imperative is to win,” she said. “There’s something to be said for fighting according to a code, but if you lose, people are going to die. People are going to get deported.
“It’s absolutely acceptable to use violence. They are 100% certain to use it against us.”
When you’re “100% certain” that if you lose, people are going to die, best to kill them first, right? This is not being spread around the campus as a controversy. This is war.
The second thing is that University of California Chancellor Nicholas Dirks issued a statement regarding the riots.
UC Berkeley condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of individuals who invaded the campus, infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students and used violent tactics to close down the event. We deeply regret that the violence unleashed by this group undermined the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence.
Notably, Dirks calls the rioters “invaders” who “infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students.” The Guardian, on the other hand, disagrees, quoting a “Berkeley history student.” Regardless, the “peaceful” students cheered the violence.
Some cheered when the police announced the cancellation, but others continued to jeer and call for the police to send Milo out to face the crowd. “Milo isn’t here,” one police officer shouted amid the din. “Milo isn’t here.”
Dirks goes on:
The university went to extraordinary lengths to facilitate planning and preparation for this event, working in close concert with the Berkeley College Republicans. Dozens of police officers were brought in from UC campuses across the state. Numerous crowd-control measures were put in place. But, we could not plan for the unprecedented.
It’s true that prior Milo protests hadn’t been so extreme, so it may be that Dirks is correct that the degree of violence could not be anticipated. Then again, Dirks has exposed himself to criticism in the past, and the University of California (Davis) has had some problems with handling protests in the past, which may well have influenced its course.
For the campus police, the primary objective is always the safety and well-being of our students and the public. That is what informs their strategies and tactics. In that context we are relieved that, as of now, there have been no reports of serious injuries.
Then again, the campus police didn’t do much to help one student, who got a dose of OC for giving an interview. After all, when it’s a moral imperative, when it’s war, people can justify anything.
We are proud of our history and legacy as the home of the Free Speech Movement. While we have made clear our belief that the inflaming rhetoric and provocations of Mr. Yiannopoulos were in marked opposition to the basic values of the university, we respected his right to come to campus and speak once he was invited to do so by a legitimate student group.
For Gertrude fans, the equivalence here is plain.
The violence last night was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which stands for and helps to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation. We are now, and will remain in the future, completely committed to free speech as essential to our educational mission and a vital component of our identity at UC Berkeley.
What Dirks means by “completely committed to free speech” is a curiosity. When this was raised on the twitters, Conor Friedersdorf responded that “in defense of Berkeley, it sounds like they earnestly tried to protect event and underestimated resources needed.” And, indeed, that may very well be true. But is it sufficient?
Despite Dirks’ facile pronouncement that these violent invaders weren’t his students, thus absolving him from responsibility for both their violence, his school’s failure to inculcate respect for the Constitution and its contribution to the radicalization of students to the point where they believe they are entitled to go to war against the Constitution as a moral imperative, this doesn’t cut it. Spouting empty rhetoric may be sufficient palliative for some, but in the face of war, and wrapped up in Dirks’ deliberately mixed message, it’s well below tepid.
It’s understandable that many can’t stomach Milo Yiannopoulos, and ponder why anyone would invite him to speak anywhere. But free speech has invariably been tested by assholes, since the First Amendment isn’t needed to protect speech that makes us all happy. There are thus separate issues to address, the assault of the likes of Milo on the sensibilities of tender ears, and the assault on Free Speech by violence.
Nicholas Dirks says he is completely committed to Free Speech. Is he committed to stopping his Antifa students from going to war? It would appear not.