Eber: Berkeley protests diagnosed poorly by left and right

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By Richard Eber, California Political News and Views,  2/7/17

As if we need any more things to be upset about in the news these days. Students who were physically there are reporting that “anarchists” came and erupted chaos when protests were otherwise peaceful until their arrival. I believe the student accounts because the UC Berkeley student body I’ve come to know and love has repeatedly shown deep respect for free speech, no matter the message. As a collective body, we are known for peaceful protests and honoring the right to freedom of speech, not violence. Sharing this because there seems to be misinformation spewing around the internet about what happened at UC Berkeley tonight

Whitney Flores (On her Facebook page)

Unlike her Dad, my daughter Whitney isn’t very political.  As a senior studying English Literature major at UC Berkeley, she has spent more than a decade being a wife, mother of two daughters, Director of Birthright, and being active in community affairs. While doing this Whitney has fought her way thru junior college to be set for graduation in May.

Even though her values as a family person are more conservative than the norm at leftist Berkeley, she loves the freedom of expression and ideas that have distinguished this institution of higher learning in the past.  Whitney is concerned that her school that spawned the Free Speech Movement more than half a century ago is being blamed for the antics of ANTIFA, an anarchist group who claims to be anti-fascist.

It has been stated that as an open campus, nothing prevented this extremist organization from coming in with their violent protest that not only prevented the appearance of. Milo Yiannopoulos, conservative senior editor of Breitbart News. The rioters did a considerable amount of damage to campus buildings including broken windows at the Martin Luther King Student Center.

In view of the actions brought forth by the 150 rioters, most of who have been involved with other violent demonstrations in the past, the administration at UC Berkeley was put in a difficult situation.  Should they physically confront the anarchist group or cancel the appearance by Yiannopoulos?

In the end they made the wise decision of sacrificing the rights of free speech for the safety of their students.  In a statement UC issued they clearly stated:

“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.”

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. Last night the Berkeley campus was invaded by more than 100 armed individuals clad in Ninja-like uniforms who utilized paramilitary tactics to engage in violent destructive behavior designed to shut the event down. At that point the University of California Police Department concluded that the speaker had to be evacuated from campus for his own safety, thereby bringing the event to an end.

What was not in mentioned in the UC administrations press release is that their Chancellor Dirks stated “The planned speaker is a troll and provocateur who has been rightfully condemned for engaging in hate speech.”  While it is not a leap of faith to agree with this harsh assessment, the same criteria could be used for a wide array of political speakers who appear at UC. Singling out a conservative such as Milo Yiannopoulos was arguably questionable at best.

Even taking into account what Dirks said, It must be asked if the comments made by the UC Administration sounds like a bunch of co-dependents for ANTIFA and being against following the edicts of the first Amendment. The answer is emphatically “no” The administration of UC was put in a Hopson’s Choice position of either physically confronting the rioters or calling off the event to the detriment of free speech.

As might be expected following what occurred on the UC campus, “Twitter World” was alive with uninformed opinions from trolls of every persuasion and flavor.

The leftist political establishment gleefully cheered on what had transpired. In their minds the ends justify the means even if they are supporting an organization that says,  “ANTIFA combines radical left-wing and anarchist politics, revulsion at racists, sexists, homophobes, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes, with the international anti-fascist culture of taking the streets and physically confronting the brown shirts of white supremacy, whoever they may be,”

Unwittingly, the extreme left including several Democratic leaders in Congress are being sucked into giving tacit support to an organization that exhibits the characteristics of classic fascism.  Does their hatred of Donald Trump extend to such unimaginable places to vent their opinions? Unfortunately, in this case the answer is unfortunately affirmative.

On the other side of the political ledger the knee jerk reaction of President Trump was little better than his progressive rivals.  Right after learning what transpired in Berkeley, the defacto leader of the free world commented on his Twitter feed:

“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

In effect the President blamed the policies of UC for encouraging the canceling of the appearance of the right wing journalist.  Would he prefer there to be a blood bath where innocent victims might have been injured or even killed?  Should the police have physically confronted the protestors under the cause of protecting the First Amendment?

In a word what Donald Trump said on Twitter was not very Presidential. He made a terrible mistake in condemning the University’s actions and threatening to take away their Federal funds without knowing what actually happened on the campus.  A parallel to this could be found with President Obama condemning the police officer in Ferguson before it was learned he was blameless in defending himself against an African American assailant.

Whatever happened to the concept of “look before you leap” when it concerns the comments made by American Presidents?

Perhaps there is a place voicing opinions on Twitter but Donald Trump, in his executive capacity, should not be sending Tweets when all the facts are not known about what went down in Berkeley. In this case he should apologize and take back his threats of reprisal against the school and hopefully learn a lesson from it.

In my mind just the knowledge that such a punitive action is being put on the table is as much a threat to American Democracy as the wacko violent protestors posed in preventing the 1st amendment from being adhered to.

In saying this I am avidly supporting the views of my daughter Whitney.  She is rightfully dismayed by both the unfortunate extinguishing of free speech at her school and the ramifications of being threatened from what has occurred.  How do verbalize this is not an easy task as she is not poisoned yet from the current vitriolic political atmosphere in this country.

To this I can only say we need the sanity proposed by Rodney King during the Watts riots who asked, “Why can’t we all get along?”

 

Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and fwas ormer city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.


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William Hicks

Mr. Eber:

I appreciate your opinion, although from my comments you can see my concern with some of what you’ve said here. I’m 71 years old and have been seeing the 1960’s anarchist activities being repeated about every decade. They are further encouraged by left leaning politicians. That doesn’t excuse The Presidents “knee-jerk” comments, but it certainly doesn’t approach the vitriolic and violent anarchist’s and their co-conspirators. Would it be reasonable, in the future, to anticipate anarchist activity and be better prepared in order to ensure 1st amendment rights on Berkeley Campus, or will the campus be considered a non-free speech zone?

William Hicks

“Wise decision sacrificing the rights of free speech?” Just ponder on that thought for a few minutes. Does that encourage or discourage future anarchist activity? The free speech of the anarchist’s was not sacrificed. THEY WERE LOUD AND CLEAR. Remember what you are willing to put up with today, expect to be repeated in the future.

William Hicks

All this may be true, but why only one arrest? Who’s either siding with, or sympathetic to, ANTIFA? Someone had to direct the police to not enforce the law. Maybe this should be brought up at the Berkeley City Council for answers; that is, if the College Campus is really a free speech advocate.