On Monday, several activists — who were not affiliated with UC Berkeley or the Berkeley College Republicans — built a wall out of cardboard bricks on Sproul Plaza, inciting a protest led by undocumented students.
BCR has been protested in the past, but this year, the club has been targeted for displaying a cut-out of Donald Trump when tabling on Sproul Plaza. Tensions spilled over into Monday’s protest, when activists built a mock wall and were immediately met with backlash.
About 11 a.m., approximately 17 students, led by members of Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, chanted “Undocumented, unafraid!” and “Not one more!” Joining hands, protesters faced a crowd of approximately 45 that accumulated at Sather Gate, where the unaffiliated activists held up a cut-out of the Republican presidential nominee and chanted, “Build a wall!”
The two people building the cardboard wall were later revealed to be connected with Project Veritas and were not BCR members, according to BCR External Vice President Claire Chiara. Project Veritas was created by James O’Keefe, a conservative activist who was undercover as a UC Berkeley doctoral student supporting Trump during the protest.
UCPD officers present said the protest had been relatively peaceful, with no reports of physical injury.
Pieter Sittler, internal vice president of BCR, said individuals tried to rip the club’s cut-out last Wednesday and successfully ripped it last Thursday. Both times, BCR members called UCPD, who responded and stood near the table for an hour or two. On Friday, one member was “sucker-punched,” according to Sittler.
“I think it’s saddening that people don’t want to accept our views or they feel the need to tear apart our property,” Sittler said. “I think if that’s where civil discourse is going, it’s a little frightening, but I’ll do everything in my power to make sure everyone can speak freely.”
Several students have spoken out about the vandalism. Ismael Chamu, a campus third-year student, responded to BCR’s argument that their freedom of speech was attacked.
“It’s not an attack on freedom of speech, it’s a retaliation to an attack on identity,” Chamu said. “Trump expels toxic rhetoric. BCR needs to acknowledge that there are limits to what kind of rhetoric you support.”
Chamu went on to express concern over the possibility of escalated violence in the future, citing “toxic rhetoric” as the primary factor in increasing violence. He encouraged a productive and constructive discussion between the two groups in order to address the grievances of both sides.
In a Facebook post, ASUC Senator Ian Bullitt stated that he did not support Trump, accusing the candidate of being sexist, racist and ableist. Bullitt also said in his post that alleged “harassment, yelling, destruction of property” and violence against Berkeley College Republicans was “completely unacceptable.”
Bullitt said he made the Facebook posts in a bid for transparency, and to improve what he sees as an increasingly polarized campus climate.
“On the one hand you have students who feel their voices have been silenced because of Donald Trump,” Bullitt said. “But at the same time, I fully support BCR’s right to table peacefully on campus without harassment, without violence.”