Protesters break into Peter Thiel speaker event in Wheeler Hall

Kayla Baskevitch/Staff

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A group of about 50 protesters broke into Wheeler Auditorium as entrepreneur Peter Thiel spoke to an audience of UC Berkeley students and community members, cutting the event short.

Protesters had first gathered at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way about 7 p.m., after four nights of protests against police brutality and the decisions not to indict in the cases of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man shot by a white officer, and Eric Garner, who died after an officer put him in an apparent chokehold.

Protesters first pounded on locked doors then pushed their way inside the crowded auditorium.

“We honestly didn’t think the protests would interfere,” said Pierre Bourbonnais, president of the Berkeley Forum and former marketing manager at The Daily Californian. “It’s pretty unimaginable and unfortunate. I’m in support of free speech, but this is not the right venue for that. I’m very disappointed.”

Bourbonnais said he had received calls and emails preceding the event that asked if the protests would disrupt the address.

Thiel left with his handlers as the protesters entered the auditorium, according to Bourbonnais. Protesters shouted, “No police state — no NSA!” as they stormed the stage. Bourbonnais described the protesters’ entrance as a “tug-of-war battle” between Berkeley Forum members and protesters.

The doors of the auditorium were initially locked, but a member of the audience shouted an expletive and unlocked them as he was exiting the auditorium, at which point the protesters entered.

“I just walked out of the door — I didn’t know they were out there,” said Cameron Hearne, a UC Berkeley senior. “I was overwhelmed with the commentator and walked out.”

Thiel had already given his keynote address, and the event had moved on to a student-moderated discussion. When protesters broke into the auditorium, Thiel was answering a question about whether political activism was worth risking a decrease in productivity.

“I can’t believe that (the protesters) thought that this was a politically acceptable way (to protest),” said Jacob Bergquist, a UC Berkeley freshman. “It made me very angry, because some of the people (in the audience) came because they’re just trying to make an impact on the the world.”

Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal and was one of the first outside investors of Facebook.

“It’s not that a lot of the people here disagree with their mission statement — it’s that we feel that it was inappropriate for them to come in and disrupt an event,” said Jonathan Lin, a UC Berkeley junior. “It was disrespectful for them to disrupt Mr. Thiel.”

Contact Adrienne Shih at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.

A photo caption previously accompanying this article incorrectly identified the photo’s subject as Peter Thiel. In fact, it pictured Haas MBA student Orion Parrott.

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  • It’s a bit sloppy, but I have a video of this here:

  • Yeah. He lied to the pres so that the UC wouldn’t punish him for what he did.

    He was clearly a plant by the protesters to give them access to the building.

  • I’m sorry to disappoint the protesters, or the author of this article, but they weren’t talking to Peter Thiel on stage in the photo, they were talking to me. All I learned from talking to them is that they didn’t know what event they were interrupting so discussion of “why this event” are pretty moot. I thought Peter himself was pretty courageous. He wanted to stick around but his assistant advised him to take off. I think that was wise as the protestors quickly took to dismantling the prop setup, standing on the coffee table, and marching around with middle fingers raised to all of us bystanders. Not quite the set-up for further intellectual conversation.

  • Amg

    1) Did this article seek to ask a protester for comment? If not, that seems pretty one-sided.
    2) Does a rich white guy really need one MORE stage to speak on? It doesn’t really seem like a huge loss…

    • Gene Nelson

      Ah yes. Rights given according to race. Hitler would like you.

      • 1kenthomas

        Ah yes. Because National Socialism *denied* a stage to Aryans. Nice parallel metaphor you employ.

  • Teabone Bones

    Hello. Don’t recognize me? That’s OK; I

    My name was Antonio West. I was the 13-month
    old child who was shot in the face at point blank range by two black teens, who
    were attempting to rob my mother, who was also shot.

    I think my murder and my mommy’s wounding made
    the news for maybe a day, and then disappeared.

    A Grand Jury of my mommy’s peers from Brunswick
    , Georgia ruled the black teens who murdered me will not face the death
    penalty… too bad it was me who got the death sentence from my killers
    instead, because Mommy didn’t have the money they demanded.

    See, my family made the mistake of being white in a 73% non-white neighborhood,
    but my murder wasn’t ruled a ‘hate crime’.

    Oh, and President Obama didn’t take a single
    moment to acknowledge my murder. He couldn’t have any children who could
    possibly look like me – so why should he care?

    I’m one of the youngest murder victims in our great Nation’s history, but the
    media didn’t care to cover the story of my being killed in cold blood.

    There isn’t a white equivalent of Al Sharpton, because if there was he would be
    branded a ‘racist’. So no one’s rushing to Brunswick , Georgia to demonstrate
    and demand ‘justice’ for me. There’s no ‘White Panther’ party, either, to put a
    bounty on the lives of the two black teens who murdered me.

    I have no voice, I have no representation, and
    unlike those who shot me in the face while I sat innocently in my stroller – I
    no longer have my life.

    Isn’t this a great country?

    So while you’re out seeking ‘justice for Trayvon’ and Michael Brown, please
    remember to seek ‘justice’ for me. Tell your friends about me, tell you
    families, get tee-shirts with my face on them, and make the world pay
    attention, just like you did for Trayvon.

    I won’t hold my breath.

    I don’t have to anymore.

    • thompson_richard

      Mario Savio got 6 months in the slammer and as far as I know he didn’t shoot anyone.

      • Gene Nelson

        He also didn’t whine and ask for amnesty

      • Teabone Bones

        And the point being?

  • Gene Nelson

    Ah…the typical work of Felarca and BAMN. “Free speech means my speech and no one else’s.”

  • Borracha Linda

    Next up at the Berkeley Forum: our very own John Yoo.

    • thompson_richard

      Six former Guantánamo prisoners were flown to Uruguay last Sunday to begin new lives as refugees. The six – four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian – were never charged, and were cleared for release in 2009, but the US struggled to find countries willing to receive them until the Uruguayan president, José Mujica, agreed to accept them. One of the released men remains under medical supervision: Abu Wa’el Dhiab arrived in Montevideo in extremely frail condition after an estimated seven years protesting his detention through a hunger strike.

  • truthtellerjohn

    What silly, stupid people. This has little to do with protesting for justice and more to do with the search for identity by these confused children of privilege. We’ve seen this movie before; ten years from now they’ll be living their snotty upper middle class lives, tailgating and buying big houses.


    • thompson_richard

      I hope so; unfortunately I’m a Cal graduate w/o a big house (at 70 yrs. young).

  • Writenow

    Breitbart editor is reporting Theil was “expelled” instead of the more accurate, fled.
    The students comments are the kind of insane, privileged type, that prove one can be at a top university and still not have a clue. Priceless!

  • M2000

    Mob style Fascism at play, hey Berkeley does that represent freedom of speech or an abuse of it?

    • Gene Nelson

      It’s BAMN. Don’t condemn the University. That’d be like condemning all people who live in the south for the work of the KKK.

      • M2000

        Don’t you folks do that anyway about the south? Yet they’re upset whenever someone ridicules this behavior on your watch?

  • Spruce Cycle

    ““I can’t believe that (the protesters) thought that this was a
    politically acceptable way (to protest),” said Jacob Bergquist, a UC
    Berkeley freshman”, most budding authoritarians don’t.

    • nor do most decent citizens.

      • Spruce Cycle

        Most “decent” citizens would think cops murdering them would be worth a protest interruption or two. GTFO with ur natsec bootlicking your homosexual, Bilderberg pervert Theil deserves a lot worse than a mere shouting down.

  • Joseph Watkins

    Oh no!! We are losing more money!! Money which is completely misappropriated to administrators and the gap between growing economic disparity increases! Why would anyone ask such a damn question. How can protests be economically efficient? The mentality of the moderator sounds deplorable.

    • what?

      wanna see how much money is given to low income financial aid students? dip****. i click on your profile and the first thing i see is you bragging about being tackled by the police. liberal ****head. you talk about how protestors attempt to clean up after “A RELATIVE FEW” vandalize the businesses during the riots. How about the man who was bludgeoned over the head with a hammer while trying to stop fellow protestors from looting a radio shak. funny how you miss these kinds of reports during the rioting, but you are able to focus on the great people who clean up a pile of glass. Your sarcastic comments are biased and carry no weight, you tell fellow protestors to be safe, yet fail to cover those being beaten by fellow protestors. You blame law enforcement for attempting to contain these riots. you state ” Stop freaking calling people “illegal aliens”. Everyone is a living entity and human being.” well, their actions are either legal or illegal, and when their actions undermine those attempting to obtain LEGAL citizenship, and people like you undermine them, wouldn’t those who are attempting to obtain citizenship through legal channels question why they are doing that in the first place? You are a contrarian who paints a pretty picture for the liberal agenda, and are incapable of depicting fact from your own fantasy. Tell me, if you are student at UCB, and i see that you have participated in the movement against UC tuition hikes, what is your family’s combined annual income. Do you receive any financial aid? You endorse civil disobedience to the precipice of violence, yet you offer only one side of the story. If ANY race in the United States is feeling profiled, then I wholeheartedly agree that this issue needs to be addressed, but the way in which you propagate this anti – government agenda is truly disgusting. You offer no fact, only bias and sarcasm. You follow the daily californian and any person shouting on sproul as if it is your bible. Open your eyes, child, and think for yourself.

      • ecneloivetatsdne

        Name me the last time purely non-violent protests changed anything meaningful in the US. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

        And re: protestor getting hit with a hammer (or that other guy that lost some teeth) it’s pretty simple – you don’t get to tell others how they can resist/protest. The police don’t need your help doing that and if you try to be one of them, you’re going to be seen as part of the problem. Perhaps these two incidents will start making people realize this.

        You’re not going to agree 100% with everything that goes on at a protest, live with it. You can certainly voice your disapproval, but don’t attempt to physically intervene or you may find yourself injured or worse.

        • ThatLibertarianGuy

          There is so much bull s&$t contained in this comment, I really just don’t know where to start. Sigh….

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            Its 10 lines, two of which we’ve already addressed. I’m sure you can come up with something more constructive than “there’s so much BS….” for the last 8.

          • Gene Nelson

            When you start addressing ALL the responses to your question, then you can call out others who don’t answer. Until then — you are just like them.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            Strange rule to have there sir – I answer a bunch before someone answers one?

        • Fesoferbex

          “Name me the last time purely non-violent protests changed anything meaningful in the US. ”

          The right of women to vote.

          • Gene Nelson

            Also the Philippines overthrow of Marcos. Not one shot fired.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            US only, which is why I originally ignored (to address your other comment).

          • Gene Nelson

            wow you are getting desperate.
            sorry troll — if you are just gonna post bs, it’s not worth dealing with you.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            I said US only in the original comment, not like the goal posts are suddenly moving. Not my problem if you didn’t read it properly.

            You could provide a reasonable response as to why the limitation is not valid.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            We seem to have landed on the moon so not sure how the opposition to the Apollo program applies here.

            There were numerous instances of violence leading to the New Deal (note: not arguing whether or not it played a major role).

            Woman’s Suffrage sure was so we’re talking ~100 years since the last instance of *purely* non-violent.

            Violence is an acceptable tool but it does not need to be the dominant one in all cases, that at least we agree on.

          • Fesoferbex

            In the relative scale of human history, I’d argue that 100 years is pretty recent. :P

            I only pointed to Apollo as an example of a large scale human effort that had a significant amount of opposition but ultimately everything worked out in a non-violent fashion. I guess I was pointing out with the New Deal and Apollo that uphill battle politics can still be a form of non-violent protest. But perhaps I’m just being pedantic with definitions, *shrug*.

            Don’t worry, as a Marine vet, I certainly can appreciate that violence is a tool. And just like a tool that has no true force-of-will of it’s own, it can be misused.

            No matter what the cause, I always recommend violence as the last of tools to be accessed. However, that’s just my opinion. YMMV

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            Relatively recently when viewed as all of humanity. But I’d tend to view it through human lifespan timeline with things like rights, abuse, etc. If an entire lifetime of a generation/group is spent suffering with X, that’s bad and we should feel a bit more urgency than we do.

            Not pedantic, just not the point I was necessarily making (and it may not have been clear). Just pointing out that many of the popular movements we think of have had violence involved. Not necessarily the predominant theme of them though.

            Agreed that we shouldn’t just default to a violent response in every instance but while this issue’s popularity is new, the issue isn’t and I’d say its time for some destruction. I’m quite aware that most aren’t there yet and many will never be.

            And just because your vet comment made me think of it (not attributing the following to you though) – I find it interesting the people who will be fine with deadly skybots and laser bombs and all that and call that a legitimate response but smashing up a Chase bank or a 711, thats just wrong.

          • Gene Nelson

            Convenient how you avoid discussing Marcos. You can add Equal Marriage to the non-violent list. But you don’t care. You are just a troll trying to start trouble and if your questions backfire, you just avoid the issues that caused the backfire. Nice work.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            Gay rights = Stonewall.

        • Gene Nelson

          Tell me what Haviland Commons did. That one faded when faced with missing a turkey dinner, the “committed” activists all went home to mommy and daddy. Tell me what all the OCCUPY camps did besides provide a place to sleep for the homeless.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            Relatively non-violent movements that were ineffective. Perhaps they could have used a bit more and had a different outcome, perhaps not. No time machine so we’ll never know.

        • Gene Nelson

          You were given examples. Now we wait for you, but we don’t expect you to answer. You got punked and now you are hiding. So admirable.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            Despite the petty insult, I’ll reply. I do not receive alerts when a reply is posted and I’m certainly not going to be checking this thing every 5 minutes. I hope my excuse is acceptable to you sir.

        • what?

          So how does looting encourage political reform or police reform. you suggest that I should just “live with it”??? So, I should simply live with and accept that a man was hit over the head with a hammer by FELLOW protesters the second he tried to stop them from looting a business? If you honestly think that this is acceptable behavior, then I would only believe that this type of incident would encourage onlookers of the protest to sympathize with the police, and if anything, sanction any force utilized by the police. The lines you draw are black and white, and therefore by nature narrow and closed minded. the semantics of your writing demonstrate this:

          “…and if you try to be one of them, you’re going to be seen as part of the problem”
          “You can certainly voice your disapproval, but don’t attempt to physically intervene or you may find yourself injured or worse.”

          So according to you, if i oppose this movement and its protests, then i am only limited to voicing my disapproval of it? but if i decided to phsyically go and protest against this current movement, i should understand and accept it as just that i could be physically injured, or worse? Why should one group be allowed to violently protest to the point of looting and have it justified under the name of “meaningful change”, while those who oppose it should accept violence as a fact and should not “attempt to physically intervene”?

          I understand their rights to protest, but what i do not understand is your “ethical” justification of a man being hit over the head with a hammer.

          • ecneloivetatsdne

            And while this doesn’t address the hammer to the head, it does address the looting/destruction point.


            If you don’t have 9 min, at least check out the summary.

            Excerpt to illustrate my point:

            “…violence played another pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement, for it was the violence associated with the likes of Malcolm X that made Martin Luther King, Jr.’s demands seem both moderate and reasonable…”

    • ThatLibertarianGuy

      And here kids is a perfect example of a commenter that claims to be from the part of the political spectrum of open-mindedness and accepting of differing views from his own, but instead embodies that word we all know from the dictionary = hypocrite.

  • Joe

    Perhaps because the moderator’s question was: “… a few of the direct consequences of this protest have been a decrease in the overall productivity of our campus. Faculty has been sent home early, traffic has been disrupted… and of course students are distracted from their studies. So, in your opinion, do you think that political activism, or working for a political cause that you believe in is really worth lower levels of productivity in the traditional sense?” I think he was overwhelmed because the moderator asked if Peter thinks that political activism is worth “lower levels of productivity”, when there is so much racism and police abusing their power.

  • It is not that he is only “the co-founder of PayPal and was one of the first outside investors of Facebook”, but also a co-founder and chairman of Palantir, which products:

    Palantir Gotham is used by counter-terrorism analysts at offices in the United States Intelligence Community and United States Department of Defense, fraud investigators at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, and cyber analysts at Information Warfare Monitor (responsible for the GhostNet and the Shadow Network investigation). Palantir Metropolis is used by hedge funds, banks, and financial services firms.[5][6][25][26]

    U.S. military intelligence used the Palantir product to improve their ability to predict locations of improvised explosive devices in its war in Afghanistan. A small number of practitioners reported it to be more useful than the U.S. Army’s program of record, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A). California Congressman Duncan D. Hunter complained of US DoD obstacles to its wider use in 2012.[27]


    So, somebody protesting the police state might see a connection.

    • Guest

      that’s no excuse for poor behavior and hooliganism and showing such disrespect to a guest of the university

      • Writenow

        BWAHHAAAA. Unlike the more refined gunning down unarmed people. Some in their homes, minding their own business.

    • U.S. military intelligence used the Palantir product to improve their
      ability to predict locations of improvised explosive devices in its war
      in Afghanistan

      Why is this bad?

  • Godot

    “I didn’t know they were out there.”
    There were loud bangings on the door and chants outside that was interrupting the talk.
    Poor excuse for a sorry person.

  • And this is why we can’t have nice things…

  • Prosper

    All ounce of respect I have for these protestors pretty much up and got carried away by the winds of the impending storm. It’d be pretty awesome if these protestors wrote a letter of sincere apology to Mr. Thiel. Come on, you guys had 5 consecutive days of attention…please redeem yourselves for ruining this event.

    • Writenow

      Theil could have stuck around. His original comment was, “This is cool” but spineless wonder boy, booked it out of there. Too bad. But at least students had the opportunity to learn when the words and actions don’t match the proof is in the action.

      • I think he has better things to do than be cussed at by unwashed gutter punks and racists.

    • Amg

      A good thing to remember: “these protesters” change from event to event. Try not to judge the people at the next protest by what happened at this one.

    • 1kenthomas

      Because your previous comments on these threads, made it clear that you had so much respect… and of course, that you’ve bothered to engage in a close reading of what happened…