It’s safe to say Berkeley barely survived this past weekend. What was originally a scheduled opportunity for “alt-right” groups to spew hate and harassment became a symphonic outcry of liberal resistance dominating the pianissimo turnout of the “alt-right.” Yet the grand demonstration of “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” was undermined by Antifa’s violent, discordant contribution to the progressive cause.
Reporting at the rally Aug. 27, I saw people fearful of white supremacists, especially after the recent incidents at Charlottesville. But members of Antifa, short for “anti-fascists,” ironically caused just as much – if not more – fear when they showed up.
At the start of the protest, police blocked off the entrance to Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, seemingly to separate the “No to Marxism in America” protesters from the counterprotesters. When the police left the security line unattended, the floodgates were opened and a storm of people rushed into the park, with Antifa members and individual counterprotesters alike marching to the rhythm of snare drums and trumpeting fanfare.
Antifa, however, quickly began to delineate from peaceful chanting and picket-signing. As soon as a black-masked member identified one individual who they deemed a “white nationalist,” swarms of Antifa followers circled around them, either pushing them back or beating them up, often screaming in their faces, “Leave our park!”
“The violence was equivalent to a group of bullies at a public high school, tormenting a miniscule kid, with everyone else watching on the sidelines.”
I followed one group of Antifa members chasing two individuals straight out of the park and into the Berkeley Police Station. Another group singled out one white man, like an army of black ants descending on a tiny caterpillar, before the police dragged him out of the melee.
The violence was equivalent to a group of bullies at a public high school, tormenting a miniscule kid, with everyone else watching on the sidelines. Some people stared, while others turned their heads away, scared at what would happen to them if they got close.
The irony is that while Antifa members proclaim they are doing good, they seem to know what they’re doing is unlawful, possibly even morally wrong. They try to separate their actions as Antifa members from their normal, day-to-day personas. They wear black masks to hide their true identities and cover phone cameras as soon as people get close. One Antifa member grabbed a too-close-for-comfort DSLR camera, throwing it five feet up in the air before it smashed on the ground.
My commentary, mainly directed towards Antifa, does not mean I support the “alt-right,” or white nationalist groups. But commentary that only condemns the “alt-right” for their history of terrorizing minorities or misinterpreting the real meaning behind “free speech,” while disregarding Antifa’s violence due to their liberal message is hypocritical. Both groups do not understand what it means to protest or what it means to bring insightful change — they only know how to incite violence and cause a shitshow. No one benefits, and society doesn’t move forward.
Given our country’s current state of political disparity, the majority of the population doesn’t know what to do, caught between the media-sensationalized “alt-right” and “far left.” This rage-inspired reaction has appeared in history time and time again, dividing groups and participation between people who want improvement violently versus nonviolently.
“Commentary that only condemns the “alt-right” for their history of terrorizing minorities or misinterpreting the real meaning behind “free speech,” while disregarding Antifa’s violence due to their liberal message is hypocritical.”
Berkeley protesters use both the campus’s and the city of Berkeley’s name and history as a hotspot to draw attention toward liberal values and ideologies. Since the violent protests against Milo Yiannopoulos’s scheduled appearance on Feb. 1, however, white supremacists have jumped at the chance to denounce Berkeley and its residents for their brutality.
With the actions of groups like Antifa or By Any Means Necessary fueling the anti-liberal agenda of Breitbart News and Fox News, their liberal goals result in nothing more than pepper-sprayed eyes, bloody bodies and a lost cause.