Free Speech Rally featuring controversial alt-right speakers scheduled for Saturday

Aslesha Kumar/File

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Members of the Berkeley community are preparing for a Free Speech Rally set to take place in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Saturday that will feature several divisive far-right speakers and has prompted a counter-demonstration supported by Berkeley Antifa.

The rally is organized by Rich Black, who was also behind the “March 4 Trump” rally that took place last month and erupted in violence, resulting in seven people being evaluated for injuries and at least 10 arrests. Berkeley Police Department is aware of both upcoming events and has scheduled to have additional officers in the area, according to BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel.

The Free Speech Rally is set to feature several controversial far-right speakers, including Brittany Pettibone, a contributor to, and Kyle Chapman, who rose to internet fame under the moniker “Based Stick Man” after he was arrested for allegedly hitting a violent counter-protester over the head with a stick at the “March 4 Trump” rally. Many attending the event, however, do not identify as members of the alt-right.

In light of the upcoming rally, the Ecology Center has canceled its Downtown Berkeley Farmers’ Market for Saturday to ensure public safety, according to its Executive Director Martin Bourque.

“We are deeply saddened that political confrontations have escalated this far,” Bourque said in the statement. “In a peace-loving city with such a long nonviolent tradition, it is terrible that the only responsible course of action is to close market this Saturday. It is disturbing, as a lifelong resident of Berkeley, that this confrontation will take place in front of Berkeley’s Peace Wall.”

In February, violent protests resulted in the cancellation of controversial conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance on campus and garnered national attention. Chris Tilton, a Sacramento resident planning to attend the Free Speech Rally, said his decision to demonstrate in Berkeley is influenced by the campus’s response to the Yiannopoulos event.

“There have been lots of attempts to shut down or silence people,” Tilton said. “I’m a normal dude that happens to have a different opinion.”

Tilton — who also attended the march last month — said he does not expect the Free Speech Rally to become violent. He said the organizers for the event are better organized this time and have a clearer vision of nonviolence, though they cannot account for the violence they might face from counter-protesters.

The Defend the Bay! Bloc Party & Cookout counter-demonstration is scheduled to take place two hours before the Free Speech Rally in the same location and is billed as a potluck featuring music. The goal of the event, according to its Facebook page, is to shut down the Free Speech Rally before it begins.

Campus student and former Daily Californian columnist Neil Lawrence, who will attend the counter-demonstration, said in an email that he hopes to show through the event that alt-right elements are unwelcome in Berkeley.

“I’m exhausted from looking over my shoulder,” Lawrence said in an email. “They bill themselves as a “free speech rally,” but if the people organizing this event (and those aligned with them) cared about free speech, I wouldn’t have received so many death threats for exercising my first amendment rights and expressing my opinions about Milo in the press.”

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.

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  • Killer Marmot

    “I’m exhausted from looking over my shoulder,” Lawrence said in an email. “They bill themselves as a “free speech rally,” but if the people organizing this event (and those aligned with them) cared about free speech, I wouldn’t have received so many death threats for exercising my first amendment rights and expressing my opinions about Milo in the press.”

    But here’s another quote from Lawrence from February 14:

    But after the Berkeley College Republicans announced controversial Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos would be speaking on campus, Lawrence decided it was time for a more aggressive form of protest. “It became clear to me and my close friends that the tone of living in America is changing, and in order to stop being scared, we started organizing,” he says. “I, a transgender Jew, don’t have a problem with violence against fascists.”

    I love the way Lawrence complains about his rights being violated, but has no problems violating the rights of others. A major-league hypocrite.

  • roccolore

    Free speech is a foreign concept to left-wing fascists.

  • Melinda Pacificar

    To me the most worrying is how the main stream media is spinning this. They do not mention Antifa or Bamn instead they make it seem as if it is some kind of hard right wing group is causing all the mayhem but the opposite is the truth. This intentional misrepresentation by mainstream media is its servitude to political correctness,

    The dangerous problem with post modernism

    The left is no longer liberal

    All this being said there is clear political problem in the City of Berkley which appears ideologically possessed too, its not just a university. This may be unique to the City of Berkley for now,

    • Jay Beswick

      The CHP in Sacramento just finished their investigation in to the Sacramento Riots last June and I hear BAMN is getting credit, Yvette did one to many interviews. Doing an Interview with FOX News was great! CHP report is 2,000 pages, not deep enough if you read social media. It could be 10,000 pages! BAMN members BAMN Donors & Unions THE MOST AMAZING LIST OF SPONSORS

  • Dave Doleshal

    Very sorry to see there have been even MORE injuries today over all of this. All of those injured deserve our support, compassion and sympathy – regardless of their political affiliations, beliefs, or ideology. Likewise, all of those who actually perpetrated the violence should be arrested, prosecuted, and punished appropriately for their violent behavior – regardless of their political affiliations, beliefs, and ideologies. All people, including those with unpopular, eccentric, or extreme views have the right to freedom of speech – and that includes the right to express their views without being subject to violence, harassment, suppression, or oppression. This same principle applies to the alt-right as it does to the alt-left – and to everyone else as well.

  • comment

    I would invite everyone to read Neil Lawrence’s column “Black bloc did what campus should have”, to get a sense of his own views about free speech and violence, and to put his quotes in this article into the sort of context that the author of this present article neglected to.

    Neil himself, in his column “Black bloc did what campus should have”, neglected to mention the documented* physical violence that took place outside of the Milo speech, in at least two instances targeting a woman who in no way instigated the protesters, which in my estimation targeted her specifically because she is a woman, as a show of mettle on the part of Antifa to demonstrate the lengths they will go, and the social conventions they are willing to break, to in order to injure people and get their way through violence.

    I in no way condone the threats on either side, but this article’s portrayal of Neil as a true champion of free-speech and non-violence is misleading, and probably deliberately so as his column appears on this same website. And it is this sort of deliberate mendaciousness on the part of established journalistic outlets that underscores the importance of free speech for everyone.

    * This can be found in the videos “Female MILO Fan Pepper-Sprayed At UC Berkeley” and “Anti-Milo protesters smash a girl over the head then pepper spray her”.

  • straycat

    Neil Lawrence. Your full of crap. You think your the only one who gets threatened? It’s your portion of Berkeley violence that brought this upon themselves. You don’t like the opinions of the alt right and don’t want them in Berkeley? Since when did you decide it’s your city?

    • C Bierbauer78

      “your”. ESL? Straycat sounds like a dreamer.

  • Steve

    Death threats??? Liberals have been known to create their own Drama to further their cause(s). Twana Brawly, anyone… Duke Lacrosse team, anyone… Rolling Stone article about campus rapes, anyone…

  • Steve

    Leftists are proven Frauds when they claim they are for peaceful protests. Their actions have proven otherwise whether it’s today or the 1960s.

  • EBGuy

    The headliner (if that’s possible in a Free Speech Open Dialogue event) will be Canadian commentator Lauren Southern. Last week she posted a video critical of the recent Syrian missile strikes. Maybe she’ll find some common ground with the Potluck Picnic. Hopefully the free for all won’t result in an international incident.

  • C Bierbauer78

    Tom lies, Tom lies all the time.

    • lspanker

      But YOU never lie, huh? A quick review of your Disqus profile makes it clear that lying and distorting the facts are your stock in trade.

    • Lucci Botto

      you lie so much you do not know the truth. because…to you, the truth is relative to which brand of cornflakes you eat in the morning

      • C Bierbauer78

        “The truth is relative” is an indicator of an ethical relativist. Never turn your back on one, they can rationalizing doing anything to you including murder.

  • TaiFood

    I’m surprised with all the Antifa/BAMN domestic terrorism (legally defined) flyers the Patriotic rally gets pessimistic, and negative exposure.

    In the picture The Daily Cal portrays the person’s on the left as wearing a white mask when the vast majority of black mask wearing thugs were encroaching upon the rally goers.

    90% of those arrested were not part of the lawful rally attendees for example.

    The lone exception was exonerated, via video, and even The Daily Cal states Kyle was being attacked. Why didn’t the author use the correct term Self-Defense?

    Why aren’t the police asking for National Guard assistance to prevent violence?

    What aren’t the local businesses, represented through the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, inviting visitors to spend money locally?

    Where is the public relations statement from the Mayor?

    Why are the Patriots forced to find ways to prevent violence from the Antifa/BAMN violent domestic terrorists?

    The web site from so called anti-protests calls for night of rioting suggesting Molotov cocktails similarly used in Oakland on Nov. 10th of last year!

    “Unwanted”?? Who does not want patriotic lawful and friendly citizens, residents, & visitors as guests in a public venue?

    These visitors are courageous and Patriotic in the best character of the Land of the Brave and Home of the Free!

    • C Bierbauer78

      Word Salad and limp and stale word salad as well.

      • TaiFood

        Home Ec is your thing!

        That’s so stunning and brave!

        If I can improve my communications I assign questions as your homework assignment.

      • “and I will at your throat in a second”
        What is that supposed to mean? Dummy. I’ll finish in your mouth.



    • ElDooderino

      Oh looky! The pathetic lil’ troll up-voted himself! How sweet!

      • straycat


  • Bants1234

    >in a peace loving city
    The police refuse to arrest the violent protesters (this goes back way before Milo), and the anarchist/communist locals plan to become violent in response to people who simply voted for the other candidate. They declare them “nazis from out of town” even though a million people in the Bay Area voted for Trump. Calling it peace loving a strange way to put it, similar to calling to dropping bombs “dropping democracy”.

    Overall a fair article though. I just hope the police decide to do their jobs this time, otherwise this will turn into a shooting war, and guess who has all the guns and all three branches of government.

  • Tom_in_SFCA

    Neil Lawrence makes no sense. Even if he’s really getting death threats, how is it reasonable for him to blame these alleged threats on the attitude toward free speech held by the conservative rally organizers? It is the leftists who use violence to silence those with different opinions, not conservatives.

    • Bants1234

      It’s unfortunate if he in fact got death threats, but it’s irrelevant talk and could even be sent by a liberal. When republicans rally with US flags it’s never violent. When democrats rally in black masks it’s always violent. Black bloc is the face of the Democratic Party since democrats have allowed them to exist.

      • Tizzie Lish

        You are assuming the black masks are liberals. People don’t really know who the black masks are. I think they are paid agitators and paid by people from the right. I think they hire paid, masked agitators to confuse, incite, garner attention and bring accusations of violence on the left.

        • Bants1234

          If they are really right wing agitators, why don’t the residents demand the police arrest them and expose them? Without arrests and proof, what you have is a conspiracy theory with some plausibility, but no proof.

          The fact is black bloc is only allowed to exist in liberal areas, and liberals freely associate with them like on March 4. Whether they are liberal or not is irrelevant – they are seen by the country as the activists of berkeley, and berkeley is a liberal place, and that’s all there is to it. Liberals need to separate themselves from black bloc and other agitators to give a clear view of them (to film them, but ideally to prevent violence), or else they will continue to drag berkeley’s image through the mud.

          • basedb0b

            How many times has Donald Trump been asked to disavow various people who are completely unrelated to him? Kyle Chapman has also disavowed white supremacists multiple times and was harassed by the “alt-right” for not being a racist. Meanwhile Jesse Arreguin pals around with BAMN on Facebook and approved of the violent shut down of the Milo event on TV and slandered Milo as a white supremacist, much like these agitators are doing here once again.

            I also really appreciate having my comment relating a personal story relevant to this article being removed for no apparent reason, what rule did I break?

          • Bants1234

            I don’t even care about who people are associated with in this context, but it’s wrong to resort to mindless chanting and shouting, and completely unacceptable to use unprovoked violence as they have been doing. The comparison to the civil rights movement is ironically correct. Antifa would be the people chasing all the black people out of town for being different.

            I don’t know why they removed your comment.

          • straycat

            It’s already mud. I have no respect for that city.

        • lspanker

          You are assuming the black masks are liberals.

          If you’re referring to the anti-Milo thugs, it’s a safe assumption, given lefties have a reputation of fighting, setting fires, and breaking things whenever they don’t get their way. In addition, even you fellow liberals at Berkeleyside admitted that the Antifa/BAMN crowd was responsible for the vast majority of the violence, and (gasp!) said the UCPD and BPD need to step up to the plate and start arresting them when they engage in this sort of behavior. Why are you still peddling this charade that the left has no role in this…

        • Lucci Botto

          check out the people facing felony riot charges in DC. these people were not paid. look at the two that were arrested at the last riot, they were not paid. saying what you want to say is a first amendment right. people may not like what they say but they have the right to say it. as i look from afar…and i was sds…it appears that antifa may be further right than any group i have seen in my time.

          • C Bierbauer78

            Lucci the Liar Botto is paid by Counterintelpro.

        • straycat

          So, you just don’t know.

        • roccolore

          Fascist Democrats like you never take responsibility for your actions.

  • basedb0b

    “I’m exhausted from looking over my shoulder,” Lawrence said in an email. “They bill themselves as a “free speech rally,” but if the people organizing this event (and those aligned with them) cared about free speech, I wouldn’t have received so many death threats for exercising my first amendment rights and expressing my opinions about Milo in the press.”

    Funny, a bunch of thugs brandishing knives and skateboards tried to jump while Kyle Chapman and his cameramen while they were filming a promo video on the opposite side of the park from them. Neil wrote an article justifying playing Brownshirt and shutting down Milo’s rally, he has no room to talk about free speech.