In light of recent events, there has been a resurgence of the belief that in order for a protest to be effective, it must also be nonviolent. This belief especially plagues liberals, who are talented in drafting long Facebook posts about how they are down with the cause, but not really because windows were broken and some white nationalists got their asses beat. Here’s looking at you, Berkeley.
I’m here to explain to this particular segment of the “jolted from a coma, but went back to bed” crowd that they are wrong. Listen closely, because if I have to hear this flawed, problematic and deeply cowardly line of reasoning the next time some people invite a violent fascist-endorsing hate monger to UC Berkeley, we’re fighting.
To those campus personalities who made their bread, butter and following by campaigning for ASUC offices and who now feel the need to misinform their constituents by using their glorified platforms, I have news for you. You have a lot to learn about protesting and how it works.
First, no protest is nonviolent. You are laboring under the assumption that protesters are coming into a peaceful atmosphere and disrupting it through chanting, song and broken windows. This, of course, is a misrepresentation of our society and its treatment of the marginalized. For the sake of this brief explanation, let’s fuck the broken windows and get straight to the reason so many students were compelled to protest Milo Yiannopoulos’ event. From the outset, marginalized student communities have been extremely vocal about the violent impact of Yiannopoulos’ appearances and his consistent abuse of platforms. He was banned from Twitter for “participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals.” He outed a trans woman during an appearance at UW Milwaukee, an act that placed this individual’s life in danger. And he had plans to name undocumented students in our community as part of his appearance at UC Berkeley, an act that, in the time of Donald Trump, places our classmates at an even greater risk of being attacked. This is violence. If I know that you are planning to attack me, I’ll do all I can to throw the first punch.
Let’s move on and discuss the atmospheres created during protests, when police are invited to monitor citizens practicing their right to assembly. I don’t care what Breitbart article or liberal bullshit listicle you’ve read, or what your experiences in white suburbia might have taught you — police are violent agents of the state. They carry weapons, enforce laws that place our communities in danger and use excessive force in order to subdue and “protect.” Often, the people protesting are the same people who are at most risk for being violated by the police. Thus, the presence of police officers in riot gear — armed with less-than-lethal weapons they are more than happy to use on protesters — creates an atmosphere that perpetuates violence on community members.
Look — no one actually wants to protest. The decision arose in the face of the fact that the student body was not taken seriously when it said, repeatedly, a million times over, that inviting Yiannopoulos to campus was probably a bad idea. From where I was standing, there was no actual dialogue about why Yiannopoulos should be invited to campus, despite his violent actions and despite the fact that — as evidenced by recent events — most of the student body didn’t want him there. (Besides, can you really have meaningful dialogue with people who, at their core, want to eliminate you? The answer is no.) And if Berkeley College Republicans really wanted him – and it really did – well, he came. But for every action, there is a reaction. Just as you all claim that he should be allowed a platform on campus (under the guise of weird misrepresentation of plurality of ideas or whatever), students are allowed to protest him.
To Milo: I’m sorry that you were too scared to stand your ground during a routine Berkeley protest. Hopefully, you’ll think twice now about recruiting at my alma mater, where hate speech may be allowed a platform by the administration but will never be tolerated by the student body. Here’s a big fuck you from the descendants of people who survived genocides by killing Nazis and people just like them.
To people with platforms who decide when a protest should and should not be violent: You speak from a place of immense privilege. As I recently wrote in a tirade against this brand of idiocy, asking people to maintain peaceful dialogue with those who legitimately do not think their lives matter is a violent act. Putting #LoveTrumpsHate at the end of a post is a privilege that many of you take advantage of, especially when there are those of us who know that our grandparents and parents survived hate only through the grace of violent action. No offense.
Read more opinion coverage on the use of violence in protests here.