Hundreds march through UC Berkeley protesting police presence at canceled ‘Free Speech Week’ event

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Kayla Brown/Staff

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Despite the cancellation of “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley, about 200 people marched from Crescent Lawn to Wheeler Hall on Monday afternoon to protest militarization and police presence on campus.

Roughly 100 people — a crowd composed of UC Berkeley staff members, librarians and local activist groups such as By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN — gathered at Crescent Lawn about noon for the “Berkeley Rally Against White Supremacy.”

The demonstration was initially organized to protest the scheduled appearances of Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon, among others, on the UC Berkeley campus for Free Speech Week, but organizers moved forward with the rally despite the event’s abrupt cancellation, which was announced Saturday. Yiannopoulos also briefly appeared on campus Sunday despite the cancellation of Free Speech Week, speaking to a crowd of roughly 50 people for approximately 20 minutes.

Security costs in connection with his appearance will amount to an estimated $800,000 for UC Berkeley, and UCPD received assistance from at least 14 other law enforcement agencies, including Berkeley Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Oakland Police Department and Stanford University Police Department.

Monday’s protest remained largely peaceful in spite of some tension between members of the crowd. Several attendees, including Michael Cohen, a campus African American studies professor, addressed the crowd during the event. Cohen called it a “beautiful sight” to see so many different people and groups at the protest. He said to the crowd that it was both a tragedy and a humiliation that people such as Yiannopoulos caused the campus to spend so much money, and he thanked people for attending the peaceful protest Sunday.

“We are the people that drove Milo out for the second time now,” Cohen said to the crowd.

Other speakers at the protest addressed Free Speech Week as well, emphasizing the difference between speech and hate speech.

“I’m not interested in shutting down free speech,” said Alborz Ghandehari, a UC San Diego graduate student who is part of the UC Student-Workers Union, to the crowd. “I’m interested in shutting down a platform for white nationalists.”

Several reporters from Infowars also attended the protest, but they were largely blocked off by protesters. Some protesters shouted phrases at the Infowars staff members such as “Bigot, bigot, out, out, out.”

The crowd soon grew to 200 people and began to march toward campus about 1 p.m. As the protesters entered Wheeler Hall and students began leaving the Wheeler Auditorium, a fire alarm was pulled in the building, resulting in police officers organizing an evacuation of the area.

UCPD issued a Nixle alert about 1:26 p.m., advising the community to “use caution in the area” near Wheeler Hall because roughly 200 people were occupying the steps and the inside of the building.

The activist groups at the protest include BAMN, Antifa, Socialist Alternative, Refuse Fascism and International Socialist Organization, Bay Area District.

Throughout the protest, police officers followed protesters to monitor the situation. By 1:40 p.m., about 100 protesters remained on the steps of Wheeler Hall, holding banners and chanting phrases such as “They say get back, we say fight back.” Some protesters inside Wheeler Hall hung a banner out the window that said, “Cops off campus.”

Campus sophomore Nathan Blair, however, said he disagreed with the protesters’ method to express their views because it disrupted his classes.

“I don’t think they’re getting anyone on their side by doing this,” Blair said. “I came here to learn — to get an education. They should do this in administration’s buildings.”

UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich said UCPD arrested one person who has no affiliation to the campus at the protest. The suspect is named Russell Bates, a 70-year-old Berkeley resident, and he was cited in connection with wearing a mask to conceal his identity at Wheeler Hall and was later released, according to Reich.

Protesters started to disperse about 2 p.m. UCPD released a Nixle alert about 2:20 p.m. confirming that Wheeler Hall had been cleared and that protesters had left the building. Classes in Wheeler Hall will proceed as scheduled, the alert stated.

Staff writers Adrianna Buenviaje, Chantelle Lee, Malini Ramaiyer, Anjali Shrivastava, Harini Shyamsundar and Ani Vahradyan contributed to this report.

Contact The Daily Californian News Staff at [email protected].

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  • Grandpa Dino

    Get these snowflakes to chip in $20 a piece. That might help.

  • Killer Marmot

    “I’m not interested in shutting down free speech,” said Alborz Ghandehari, a UC San Diego graduate student who is part of the UC Student-Workers Union, to the crowd. “I’m interested in shutting down a platform for white nationalists.”

    This is why the far left is to be feared. There is no evidence that Yiannopoulos is a white nationalist. This is a guy who dates black men.

    But the far left will find reasons to shut down speech they don’t like even if they have to make stuff up. Their commitment to the truth is as thin as rice paper.

    • FreedomFan

      “Dates”? Is that what the kids call it nowdays?

      • Killer Marmot

        Trying to keep it family viewing.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    How dare those awful police show up to protect people! We’ll show them!

  • roccolore

    Fascist Democrats hate cops…then beg for police to protect their terror mosques and anti-cop rallies.

  • Rana Maneri

    Trump needs to build the fence around UC Berkeley first. This is so distracting it’s never going to be the Harvard of the west with all these crazy people shooting out big nothings and costing all this money and time. GO home get a job stay out of Berkeley.

  • FreedomFan

    The police are necessary to prevent the feral animals from physically assaulting and beating random conservatives and journalists. Sorry, Dims.

  • zzz

    “The activist groups at the protest
    include BAMN, Antifa, Socialist Alternative, Refuse Fascism and
    International Socialist Organization, Bay Area District.”

    Let me get this straight, socialists and communists opposed to a police state?

  • SMH

    ………….

    MILO YIANNOPOULOS HAS MADE A **FOOL** OF THE UC BERKELEY CHANCELLOR & THE ENTIRE UNIVERSITY IN THE UNIVERSITY’S SPENDING OF **$800,000** TO **$1,000,000** FOR MILO’S SMUG SELF-SERVING 20 MINUTE PHOTO-OP & AUTOGRAPH SESSION.

    BUT IT *DOES* SHOW THAT THE CHANCELLOR CAN COME UP WITH SUCH MONEY WHEN THE CHANCELLOR *WANTS* TO DO SO — MONEY THAT COULD GO TO ETHNIC STUDIES & OTHER DIVERSITY *ENRICHMENT* EDUCATIONAL / ACADEMIC PROGRAMS, INSTEAD OF EDUCATIONAL / ACADEMIC CUTS OR SHORTCOMINGS.

    ………….

    • SMH

      ………….

      And, actually, the TV news said it was only 15 minutes!

      $800,000/15minutes = over **$53,000** per **minute**!!

      $1,000,000/15 minute = almost **$67,000** per **minute**!!

      ………….

      • the devil

        Yes, being stupid is very expensive.

  • lspanker

    UCPD spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Reich said UCPD arrested one person, who has no affiliation to the campus, at the protest. The suspect is named Russell Bates, a 70-year-old Berkeley resident, and he was cited in connection with wearing a mask to conceal his identity at Wheeler Hall and later released

    Just another 1960’s hippie holdover who refuses to grow up: https://twitter.com/crustyrustymad?lang=en

    • Clark Sullivan

      I resent your comment. Russ is a volunteer with the National Lawyer’s Guild and is usually there, wearing a bright green cap, defending your right to protest.

      • lspanker

        He’s an Antifa supporter – Antifa doesn’t care about anyone’s rights but their own.

      • 1/2Black_1/4Mexican_1/4White

        Is he part of Antifa? If so, maybe he is one of the good ones, but I’m not sure why he would be wearing a mask to conceal his identity if the your statement is true. Can you explain? He looks like a nice guy in the pictures :)

  • lspanker

    Protesting police presence because they want free rein to beat up people they don’t agree with…

    • No worries.

    • zzz

      The communists and socialists run wild and then complain about the repercussions of their actions.