A national debate on freedom of speech has sparked since the night of Feb. 1, when a Breitbart hatemonger’s speech was cancelled because of radical acts against replaceable property at my school, UC Berkeley.
Most of the arguments across the nation attempt to have a conversation on freedom of speech on college campuses, with President Trump threatening to cut UC Berkeley’s federal funding if it does not allow all opinions to be shared. The irony that the president is threatening the freedom of speech of these protesters is just further proof that he’s inept for his position. Never mind that the campus itself was not bold enough to stand against hate and cancel the speech and is therefore not responsible for its cancellation.
Arguments on campus, on the other hand, revolve around students defying the acts the AntiFas — an anarchist and anti-fascist group that uses black bloc techniques to meet its ends — took that night. They want to ensure that there is a distinction between the rioters and the students who were there to protest peacefully.
Well, I’m here to thank the radical measures the AntiFas took to ensure my safety. It has been reported by numerous sources that Breitbart’s mascot planned on launching a campaign against undocumented students and sanctuary campuses. More disturbing was the possibility of him outing and targeting specific undocumented students on campus, much like he did to a trans student at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
As an outspoken undocumented student at UC Berkeley, this frightened me. I walked around campus constantly looking over my shoulder that day, uncertain whether the doxing of my online profile had already placed a target on me. Now, I’ve been the victim of doxing before. The right-wing site Heat St. once erroneously accused me of organizing a blockade that — again, wrongfully — supposedly kept white students from entering campus.
But this was different.
The doxing the Breitbart editor attempted to do was a malicious outing of some of my peers to a physical and online audience of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and alternative right fascists. Though he has attempted to keep his name away from these gangs of extremists, it’s not difficult to associate him with them given that they utilize his events to recruit and organize the most hateful group of white men they can gather. Given that a radicalized white man had recently committed acts of terrorism against the Muslim community at a Mosque in Quebec, and another shot an anti-Fascist protester at the University of Washington, placing our private information on their hands shook me to my core.
Coming out of the shadows is a way by which many undocumented immigrants take control of the narratives being molded by the mass media. We share our stories and provide insight to the reality of the flawed immigration system. To out us is to remove that agency from us. It allows those with power — for example, those with a million followers — to twist our stories against us.
To me, the argument should not revolve just around freedom of speech but also around the hate speech that fails to respect the humanity of undocumented people. This speaker has never provided an insightful look at conservatism nor provided intellectual debate to the arena. He has fabricated a tool to sensationalize himself with while providing a platform for white supremacists to come together. He, in fact, wanted to use the power of the state (immigration officers) to deport some of the most outspoken of us, therefore threatening our freedom of speech with the power of the state.
My campus did nothing to stand between my undocumented community and the hateful hands of radicalized white men — the AntiFas did. A peaceful protest was not going to cancel that event, just like numerous letters from faculty, staff, Free Speech Movement veterans and even donors did not cancel the event. Only the destruction of glass and shooting of fireworks did that. The so-called “violence” against private property that the media seems so concerned with stopped white supremacy from organizing itself against my community.
Everything else was an act of passive acceptance to the hate speech that was about to take place on our campus.
Read more opinion coverage on the use of violence in protests here.