UC Berkeley chancellor and Berkeley mayor should stop obstructing anti-racist speech

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Xinyu Li/Senior Staff

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On Aug. 27, about 7,000 people came out in Berkeley at several rallies and marches to oppose white supremacy and the far right’s latest attempt to use Berkeley as a staging ground for their campaigns of hate. This is a sea change. While 1,500 protested against Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley in February, attendance at similar protests waned over the course of last semester, as they increasingly devolved into street fights between far right thugs and masked antifascists. After a year of right-wing provocations under the false guise of free speech, the Aug. 27 demonstrations against hate represented a successful turn of tables in favor of progressive protest.

This massive showing is doubly impressive given the concerted attempts to prevent anti-racist protests. Amber Cummings, after canceling her “No to Marxism in America” rally, tried to play the victim card by claiming she had “grave concerns for the safety” of attendees, a typical right-wing maneuver to vilify and dampen counter-protests. But far more damaging than right-wing propaganda have been the repeated attacks on anti-racists’ free speech by powerful liberals like UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and the Berkeley City Council, including Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

The Berkeley City Council advised people to “stay away” from all of Downtown Berkeley, specifically criticizing any attempts to create “alternative events … even if peaceful.” Arreguín adopted the same position, rejecting peaceful protest and advising that the best way to respond to white supremacy is by “turning your back” to it. Perhaps sensing that his meek advice was going to be rejected by thousands of Berkeley residents fed up with right-wing hate, Arreguín then took a politically opportunist turn to promote and distribute thousands of “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” posters. A large protest would be a great way to show a united stand, but Arreguín recommended that people just place the posters “in their windows or in their yards.” After all of this passivity, Arreguín had the gall to show up at the rally Aug. 27 and ask to speak on the stage; Jeremy Tully, an organizer of that day’s Bay Area Rally Against Hate, says Arreguín was not permitted to do so.

Meanwhile, in a widely publicized statement on free speech, Chancellor Carol Christ defended the repeated invitations by student groups of far-right provocateurs to UC Berkeley campus, arguing that “it is critical that the Berkeley community come together once again to protect this right (to free speech).” This defense, however, did not extend to anti-racists. Just two days after that flowery statement, Christ publicly endorsed the City Council’s advice to not protest in downtown Berkeley.

Not content with simply arguing that Berkeley residents shouldn’t exercise their right to free speech, these powerful liberals then attacked that right itself. With the amazingly dubious excuse that police do not have enough authority on public sidewalks and streets, City Council passed an urgency ordinance giving the unelected city manager broad powers to regulate protests. For any sizeable “street event” that does not have a permit, including all of the demonstrations against hate on Sunday, the city manager can take “actions as are necessary” to preserve public safety. The very same manager, of course, gets to decide what is necessary. The ordinance includes prohibiting items such as weapons, but this is actually an illustration, not a restriction, on the manager’s new powers. These powers will last through the rest of the year, beyond the scope of last Sunday’s rallies.

Then, with a mere 24 hours notice, UCPD barricaded West Crescent Lawn, where the Bay Area Rally Against Hate was supposed to take place. Unite for Freedom from Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area, a coalition of numerous community and labor organizations, spent months planning a safe rally in that space, as a respite from right-wing provocation but still an opportunity to stand united against hate. By effectively pushing protesters off Crescent Lawn, UCPD subjected thousands of protestors to the dangers of the adjacent Oxford Street, one of the busier streets in the city of Berkeley. Opportunistically, Christ now claims that she aimed to “protect our campus and community” and applauds “the thousands who protested peacefully in Berkeley”. Those thousands were in fact protected by a large volunteer security team, trained in advance by the rally organizers, according to Tully, who also helped manage the rally’s safety team.

The right-wing has spent the last year using “free speech” as a cover for their provocations and violence, and powerful liberals have given cover for this nonsense. It is a relief that on Aug. 27, 7,000 people in Berkeley showed us the actual value of the right to free speech. If Mayor Arreguín and Chancellor Christ actually care about defending that right or fighting white supremacy, they need to get out of the way and let the ordinary people of this town show them how it’s done.

Mukund Rathi is a law student at UC Berkeley.

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  • garyfouse

    In contrast to Charlottesville, the SF and Berkeley events last month were not organized by KKK and neo-Nazis. Now the fascists of Antifa want to shut down Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. Neither of them are neo-Nazis, KKK or white supremacists-just conservatives.

    No doubt the masked marauders will turn out again to “show them how its done” as the writer says. I can only hope that police are out in force and this time enforce the law and people’s right to speak.

  • FreedomFan

    Leftists pretend speech they don’t like is “violent”…in order to justify their own physically violent attacks on peaceful people. A predator always dehumanizes his victims in order to rationalize his violent behavior towards them. So Leftists smear their victims as “racists” and “fascists”.

    If we follow this author’s advice, then we don’t need all the laws he studies. All we need is the law of the jungle. In other words, progressives want to “progress” backward a few centuries.

    It sad that so many young people are unable to think critically any more.

  • Man with Axe

    There is a lot wrong with this essay, and from a law student it is kind of embarrassing.

    On the facts: The author whitewashes the Aug. 27 protest. It was violent, with ordinary Trump supporters, not Nazis, being assaulted by leftwing protesters. The only reason the violence was fairly limited (14 people arrested) was because there weren’t enough Trump supporters for all the violent leftists to beat up. He refers to “street fights between far right thugs and masked antifascists,” but he would have been more accurate to call the latter group “far left thugs.” They are antifascists in name only, as they engage in fascist tactics on a regular basis. The only things they are “anti” are capitalism and the US government, which their repetitive chants make clear. Their masks, weapons, and physical confrontation are exactly how one would expect fascists to operate.

    On the law: The author thinks it strange that the city and college officials would try to exercise their power to avoid civil unrest of the sort they had witnessed previously, as large numbers of violent leftists attacked peaceful lecture attendees, threw molotov cocktails, broke windows, and generally rioted and vandalized the community these officials are duty-bound to protect. The author believes that because he doesn’t like the politics of such speakers or protesters he can label their speech “hate-speech,” call them “provocateurs,” and thus justify his own side’s actual violence against them. He believes that the best way to avoid these hateful politics is for the public officials, and the police, “to get out of the way and let the ordinary people of this town show them how it’s done.” So he wants civil war.

    And he thinks he should be a lawyer. Thanks for the laugh.

    • Rollie

      “They are antifascists in name only, as they engage in fascist tactics on a regular basis”

      You couldn’t be more right about this. Even many in the media, who ought to know better, accept at face value Antifa’s absurd claim to be oppose fascism. Theirs is an MTV-grade understanding of the term. Mussolini must be giggling in his grave.

  • lspanker

    The right-wing has spent the last year using “free speech” as a cover for their provocations and violence

    The “right-wing” weren’t the ones beating up Trump supporters at his rallies last year, nor were they the ones who rioted when Trump was elected or when Milo gave his speech at Cal earlier this year. The right wing weren’t the ones who marched around with a big banner declaring THIS IS WAR, making an open challenge to others to engage in violence. Mukund Rathi has been peddling this Orwellian BS for way too long now, too bad the reality-challenged children running the Daily Cal these days feel compelled to provide him with a forum.

  • roccolore

    If liberals really were against racism, they would not be supporting the Mexican supremacists and black supremacists.

  • Ian Benton

    The rapid and dangerous radicalization of Europeans during the 20s and 30s began as a fringe back-and-forth, he-said-she-said game that became increasingly mainstream and increasingly violent. This happens to societies all the time, has played a major part in WWII and several major revolutions (Russian and French especially) and we are on the SAME course. I hope the author takes another look at his views in that context. To what extent does apologism for bad behavior you think is justified escalate what is acceptable from both sides? Everyone needs to chill out. We live at a great time and place in history. There’s a new Blade Runner movie coming out. In four months you’ll be able to walk into a store and buy weed. Football starts in 2 days. Stop handwringing about a few racist buttholes, ignore them and they’ll go away like they always have.

    • DrSox

      This is a completely inaccurate reading of history, and this “great time and place in history” is not so great for the vast majority of people.

      • Ian Benton

        I’d be happy to have this discussion if you’d give some details about why you think that reading is inaccurate. If you can handle nuance it could be interesting. Obviously each of those eras had their own structural issues that helped exacerbate the situation and accelerate the turn to violence, but the unjustifiable forces of radicalization and instability are always present. The fact that we don’t (yet) have mass participation in hyper-partisan violence, despite the tools available to those forces, is a pretty good indicator that people are doing just fine, and they’re content to let the immature and mentally unstable pretend they’re revolutionaries and hit each other with sticks. Football starts tomorrow!

        • Nunya Beeswax

          DrSox has no details, just appeals to emotion and vague generalizations. He’s all pathos and no logos.

        • DrSox

          The first problem with your reading is that you treat history as a game of debate, and only belatedly recognize “structural issues.” Secondly, the specific elements of the rise of the far right in Europe were not a question of a debate between two “fringes.”

          Probably the most important error in your argument, though, is that you think that there is not mass violence all around us every day, and that people are doing just fine. Maybe get out of your protected bubble a little bit.

          • Ian Benton

            You’re delusional if you think the far right in Germany didn’t feed off the rise of Communism among the German lower classes. It was absolutely critical to their message gaining traction. When I say “structural issues” I mean those larger problems that allow what should ordinarily be the fringe to become mainstream because people are desperate. In Germany, that was hyperinflation, disarmament, loss of national pride, the Depression all leading to people literally starving. In France it was a decade of famine and crippling national debt stemming from the 7 Years War and the American Revolution, plus an ineffectual monarch, all leading to people literally starving. In Russia it was uncompromising autocracy, rural poverty and food shortages, all leading to you guessed it. Your suggestion that “the vast majority of people” are experiencing anything close to these issues–problems which MIGHT justify playing dress-up and beating people with sticks–is obviously ridiculous. Unemployment is almost 4%, more than 90% of people have health insurance, our retirement accounts went up by 12% last year, all media is basically free and you can buy a giant TV for like $400, and despite the best efforts of Buzzfeed, CNN, Maxine Waters, etc. to insist otherwise, most people get along pretty well with each other. There’s “mass violence” only in the uptick of violent crime in urban areas, but I’d argue that’s a social and cultural problem more than a political or economic one. Again I say, there’s no need for all this radicalization and insanity. You get outside your bubble. Go to Iowa or something.

  • Killer Marmot

    Rathi claims Chancellor Christ has made “repeated attacks on anti-racists’ free speech”.

    And what did Christ do? She apparently advised people to stay away from a demonstration, presumably (and correctly) thinking it would turn violent. Giving advice, which people are free to ignore, is an attack on speech? By whose dictionary?

    She also, apparently, defended the right of conservatives to invite speakers to campus, but did not do so for progressives. Now why would she do that? Could it be because no one has argued that progressive speakers should not be invited onto campus, while many have argued that conservative speakers should not?

    Astonishingly weak, Rathi. I hope you make better arguments than that in your law classes.

    • zzz

      Angela Davis and Luis Farrakhan are easily as ridiculous as many on the fringe right, no one shows up to riot when they speak on campus.

      Angela Davis was an apologist and rationalizer of Soviet and East German human rights abuses, no one cares that she speaks to college buffoons about America.

      The whole article was just weird, it reminded me of the movie Thanks for Smoking, a lawyer muddle.

    • DrSox

      If you are willing to claim outing students at risk of deportation as “conservative speech,” then your true colors are showing. This isn’t speech, it is an attack on a community.

      • Killer Marmot

        Your post is suspiciously void of details. The idea that a speaker is going to come to Berkeley in order to explicitly name people who are in the country illegally is far fetched.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          Yiannopoulos has done this in other public appearances; it’s not beyond possibility that he might do it at Berkeley, too.

          I don’t think that justifies rioting to prevent him from appearing, but there you go.

          • Killer Marmot

            No, Yiannopoulos has never done this. There was a rumor that he was going to do this at his canceled talk at Berkeley last February, but it was just that — a rumor. Yiannopoulos denied it.

            In other words, it’s fake news that caused immense damage.

          • DrSox
          • Killer Marmot

            So I take it that you have abandoned the claim that speakers have named illegal aliens on stage.

            Baby steps.

          • DrSox

            I didn’t claim that speakers have done that–they didn’t, because they were prevented from doing so. Baby steps.

            https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/just-in/2017-02-07/do-milos-intentions-matter

          • Killer Marmot

            I didn’t claim that speakers have done that–they didn’t, because they were prevented from doing so.

            It’s clear that Yiannopoulos was not going to do that. It was a rumour that was likely started to inspire people to shut down the event.

            And you’re still using the rumour to inspire people to shut down future events.

            But what you’re doing is called “prior restraint” – trying to prevent people from speaking because of what they might say. It has no place in a free society.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            OK, I searched fairly extensively and didn’t find any examples of his doxxing illegal entrants. There seemed to be a widespread impression that he was going to do so, though who knows where that came from.

          • DrSox

            It came from Milo’s cooperation with David Horowitz, which was likely to result in the outing of students at Berkeley. https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/just-in/2017-02-07/do-milos-intentions-matter

          • Rowenna

            Having read the article, as well as the articles it linked to as ‘support’ for its assertions there is absolutely nothing there other than rumour and speculation.

            If rumour and speculation were all that was required to make someone the ‘bad guy’ and shut down speech / events then there would be no freedom of speech.

            There is absolutely no objective reason to believe that Milo was going to do as claimed… it sounds like Berkeley is teaching its students the art of inducing mass hysteria rather than critical thinking and objectivity.

          • Killer Marmot

            The idea was put forward in a letter from the Office of Student Affairs. Where they got the idea I don’t know.

      • lspanker

        If you are willing to claim outing students at risk of deportation as “conservative speech,”

        Who would be deported except for people who are breaking the law by being in this country illegally? The contortions you go through to justify your position are laughable.

        • DrSox

          People who were brought here as children, for one? Your lack of compassion is disgusting.

          • lspanker

            I have plenty of compassion for for those who are here LEGALLY. Why don’t you try explaining to some native taxpaying citizen (or legal resident immigrant) why his or her daughter can’t get into college or get a scholarship because some illegal alien is getting a free ride courtesy of this country’s taxpayers?

  • zzz

    Are we becoming a nation of intellectual and emotional basket cases? My vote is yes.

    • DrSox

      These are the people coming to Berkeley to rep the right wing. They aren’t welcome here. https://medium.com/@ZarinaZabrisky/how-alt-right-trolled-america-67354108268a

      • zzz

        So you are opposed to “creeping authoritarianism?”

        So you are owning intellectual and emotional basket case?

      • lspanker

        These are the people coming to Berkeley to rep the right wing.

        And you and your fellow travelers are having a collective hissy-fit because you have never learned how to grow up and deal with opposing points of view as thinking, mature adults. Whatever flaws those on the so-called “alt-right” may have, they have successfully exposed the immaturity, hypocrisy, autocratic and violent tendencies of the Left.

        • DrSox

          Advocacy for genocide is not an “opposing point of view.”

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Not all fascists support genocide. Not all racists support genocide either. You’re
            using the hot-button term “genocide” as a stalking horse to cover your
            real intentions, which are to suppress any speech that contradicts your
            own political views.

          • DrSox

            No, my intention is to point out the threat of a rising fascist movement, based in white supremacy. I have no problem with conservative speech, except that I disagree with the ideas. But it is naive and dangerous to presume that, for example, the marchers at Charlottesville are just engaged in a “marketplace of ideas.” They are not interested in debate and persuasion. We must not allow such a movement to grow and have more power than it already does.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            So what exactly about Brandenburg v. Ohio do you find confusing?

          • lspanker

            No, my intention is to point out the threat of a rising fascist movement,

            You’re channeling the fascists 100% when you advocate violence against those who disagree with you.

          • Rollie

            One, you evidently don’t understand what fascism is, but maybe you’ll get there eventually. Two, it is exceedingly more dangerous to suppress speech that worries you, than to allow it. Let the clowns in bedsheets march, let the neo-confederates try to convince us that the South will rise again, and let David Duke have his periodic burst of publicity. And have some faith that decent people—and that’s most of us—will see for ourselves what fools they all are, without needing people like you to hide information from us. But silence those you oppose, and you send them into the shadows where their sense of persecution, now partially validated by your censorship, festers and incubates into something truly threatening. By the way, being censored helps recruitment too.

          • lspanker

            I have read enough of your childish drivel to know that you simply make up such outrageous smears to justify violence on your part.

      • roccolore

        Your side hates America.

      • Man with Axe

        “They aren’t welcome here.” Says who? Do you own Berkeley? There is a constitutional right to travel under the 14th amendment. You can’t keep people out because you don’t like their politics. You especially can’t use violence to do so. This “you are not welcome here” business is fascism. You might as well dress in brown shirts and beat up all those whom you don’t want to enter your fair city.

        • DrSox

          Read about Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

          • zzz

            Why? Please explain.

            I’ve read a a couple of books on him and many where he is mentioned, for example Rebbecca Wests the Meaning of Treason. She also did a follow up the New Meaning of Treason where she does the Cambridge Spy’s. Your point escapes. Mosley went from one dumb idea to the next losing followers, by the time he founded the fascists he was more or less a joke.

            Your posts have a singular standard.

          • DrSox

            You need to read some more then. Mosley’s movement had MPs, Lords, and other powerful people behind it. It was a rising threat, and antifa was one ingredient in what stopped it. Thank god they did.

          • Rollie

            Once again, you’re mistaken in connecting today’s antifa with those in the past who went by that name and really did oppose doctrinal fascism. For today’s antifa, a “fascist” is simply anyone whose opinion the group doesn’t like. The little blackshirts really should read a book or two to gain some understanding of the term that they throw around so loosely, or else just pick another term altogether. Hey, maybe since they like violent censorship so much, “profa” would do the trick! ( I didn’t invent this new term, I read it somewhere. But I like it.)

          • Nunya Beeswax

            The Battle of Cable Street was not a significant factor in stopping the BUF. The fact that Mosley’s party was willing to fight in the streets and the turn of the party toward anti-Semitism in 1934 alienated much of their popular support (at its high-water mark, some 20,000 people). The most decisive move, however, was the government’s outlawing of the party and its interning of Mosley and a number of other members for the duration of WWII.

            Just-so stories and historical revisionism might work with a different crowd, but not this one.

      • Killer Marmot

        They aren’t welcome here.

        You sound like a southern sheriff with mirrored sunglasses telling some northern trouble maker to keep moving right out of town, all the while chewing gum and tapping his riot stick.

  • Rollie

    Rathi, you clearly don’t understand what free speech is, nor what constitutes its suppression or defense. If the weenie mayor of Berkeley advised counter-protesters to stay away from an event, then that was merely his silly, unenforceable recommendation, and it stopped no one from doing the opposite. If the university chancellor defended the free speech rights of far-right speakers, then that does not hamper those whom you call “anti-racists,” but in fact bolsters their own rights. That’s how free speech works—it is either for everyone or for no one, and Christ’s voice is the first one from Berkeley in years to deliver that important message with conviction.

    None of the violence occurring at recent events has been the product of the exercise of free speech, nor to the contrary, of its suppression. One hundred percent of the violence has been caused by shitheads who come itching for a physical fight, and yet despite this, you seem to object to the prohibition of “…items such as weapons.” And the fact that you attribute the violence exclusively to the “right-wing” (however you define that term) and not to the more numerous Antifa/BAMN/black-bloc gangsters as well, shows that you are either ignoring a very large part of the problem, or simply don’t comprehend it.

    You wrote: “It is a relief that on Aug. 27, 7,000 people in Berkeley showed us the actual value of the right to free speech.” You make no effort to separate out the obvious thuggery perpetrated by a portion of those 7,000 people. From this I can only assume that you consider their violence to be free speech.

  • Kizmet Paradigm

    ITS ABOUT THE SUPPRESSION OF CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED FREE SPEECH. WHICH IS THE MOST HATED THING LEFT WING FASCISM BELIEVES IN! YOUR NOT FIGHTING NAZIS IDIOTS! YOUR EXTINGUISHING FREE SPEECH! LIBERAL FASCISM! IS BEN SHAPIRO A NAZI?

  • Pietro Gambadilegno

    This is a crazy argument. The excuse in not dubious, because it is a fact that police have the authority to prevent people from carrying weapons in parks but not on the streets. The ordinance was used to prevent people from carrying weapons, not to interfere with free speech.

    “With the amazingly dubious excuse that police do not have enough authority on public sidewalks and streets, City Council passed an urgency ordinance giving the unelected city manager broad powers to regulate protests. For any sizeable “street event”
    that does not have a permit, including all of the demonstrations
    against hate on Sunday, the city manager can take “actions as are
    necessary” to preserve public safety.”

    • DrSox

      Such policies have a very long history of misapplication and creeping authoritarianism. Forgive us if we don’t trust authorities to use undemocratic powers for good.

      • zzz

        What cracks me up is that you are a fan of Mark Bray, an authoritarian sociopath.

      • Nunya Beeswax

        Right, and using weapons and vandalism to silence people has practically no history of misapplication and creeping authoritarianism. Fascist tactics don’t become right just because your team uses them, cupcake.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Oh, so throwing things is “speech” now?

    • lspanker

      Note how the hard left type have been trying to equate what they call “hate speech” (which is apparently just about everything they disagree with) with violence. Their convoluted reasoning is used to justify their own real violence in terms of “defending” themselves.

    • DrSox

      Read about Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and the community response.

      • Man with Axe

        I know about Mosley, I am also familiar with Roderick Spode, his fictional alter ego.

        If we ever go to war against a nation of fascists we should consider how we deal with our own fellow travelers. Or if we go to war against North Korea we should consider how we deal with communists like the various worker’s parties that always seem to show up in protests against conservative speakers.

        • DrSox

          If you’re familiar with it, then you know that antifa acted to stop a rising fascist movement in 1930s England, which is what is happening again today.

          • Man with Axe

            The “fascist movement” of today is hardly rising. There are practically no fascists compared to the rather large number of violent (sociopathic) communists who call themselves Antifa.

      • Nunya Beeswax

        Non sequitur.