This week, a portion of the Editorial Board dissented with the majority opinion. Read the majority editorial here.
The country enters a dangerous territory when it overlooks the intricate facets of Saturday’s Free Speech Rally (or any protest) and its causes, as well as its ramifications for progression past the nation’s most precarious ideological divides.
White supremacists flocked to Berkeley, a sanctuary city famous for its liberal values. The fact that the supremacist ideology exists at all is repulsive, and the use of violence to defend such beliefs is even more vile. But the most visible resistance to such an abhorrent philosophy often manifests in counter-violence, further ingraining a stubborn righteousness into every point of view in the muddled equation.
Supremacists at the rally instigated the same kinds of over-the-top vicious tactics the alt-right criticizes Antifa for using, in turn demonstrating the hypocrisy that’s become normalized in American political polarization. The seemingly irreconcilable “sides” of the spectrum fail to understand that violence inflicted under the radicalized guise of “protecting free speech” or “protecting citizens from fascism” doesn’t just reflect poorly on their political platforms — it also perpetuates a cycle of fight after fight. Violence at such protests has become the immediate tactic to which opponents default, though it does little to produce long-term, net-positive change.
The violence that erupted Saturday is not novel in Berkeley — we saw it on campus when Milo Yiannopoulos came to speak, and we saw it March 4 when Trump supporters organized a rally. But all that the clashes have managed to promote is media sensationalism and widespread generalities about who “liberals” and “conservatives” ostensibly are. No one shifted their ideology after the clashes Saturday, no matter how many rocks were hurled. Instead, people continued to deny their complicity in the nation’s tumult.
But pointing fingers — at Antifa, at Republicans, at any of the other forces present at the Saturday rally — isn’t working. It makes it harder to fight against supremacists like the ones who showed up Saturday and the systems of oppression they openly tout. It makes it harder for voices from all parts of the political spectrum to truly exercise free speech. And peaceful protests, think pieces, votes and legislation have all largely failed to permanently remedy the impenetrable disconnect in this country as well, or we wouldn’t have neo-Nazis in our park.
When fists become a substitute for rational dialogue, though, we need to reflect on the productivity of stagnant hatred in lieu of intellectualism. While history shows that violence is not morally wrong or ineffective in every social movement, it proved a fruitless tool Saturday for promoting the enduring change that anti-fascists desire.