This week, a portion of the Editorial Board dissented with the majority opinion. Read the dissenting editorial here.
Black and white. Good and evil. These dichotomies make it easier for an audience to pick a side to root for. But with the recent protests in Berkeley, the national media has taken to sensationalizing and oversimplifying the event to a debate over free speech and Trump.
The event, as it is being covered, was a battle that pitted pro-Trump against anti-Trump, free-speech advocates against masked assailants. This narrative is especially appealing, considering it happened in the city of Berkeley — a sizzling cauldron for protests — and centered on a contentious president. This characterization, however, waters down the circumstances of this event in an attempt to fit it into a national argument.
The national media oversimplification largely skims over the fact that neo-Nazis and white nationalists were involved in the Free Speech Rally. People carried signs with anti-Semitic messages and performed Nazi salutes. Members of the alt-right, white-nationalist groups Identity Evropa and Proud Boys were arrested amid the violence.
Antifa did not come solely to protest Trump supporters. Similar to its presence during the Milo Yiannopoulos protests on campus in February, Antifa came as a reaction to white supremacism. It has just so happened that at both events, hate-groups and Trump supporters overlapped.
Whether its tactics were morally right or wrong, and whether it instigated the resulting violence or not, Antifa should not be equated to the groups it came to protest. The net consequences of its actions were that neo-Nazis and white-supremacist groups with violent rhetoric were denied a platform to speak in the city of Berkeley. Had it not taken action, neo-Nazis would be free to roam the streets of Berkeley and be considered a legitimate voice that can force communities to live in fear.
Antifa was the most visible opponent at the rally to defend communities under attack. The type of violence that hate groups represent is a constant presence in the lives of people of color, transgender people and so many other marginalized communities. Allowing them to come to our city only propagates that brand of violence further and puts already marginalized communities in further danger. But by challenging their ability to deliberately spread hate, Antifa was able to protect people, albeit by using violence itself.
Passive protests, legislation, votes and think pieces have not deterred nationalists from organizing and have failed to remedy the seemingly impenetrable ideological disconnect in this country. For that, at the very least, the Antifa group should be commended.
If this event had to be oversimplified in any way, it should be viewed as the conflict between violence as a means to protect versus violence as a means to further attack and harass certain communities. It is the outcome of a system that has regularly failed to protect the communities most in need, that has elected Trump into office and that has allowed white nationalists and neo-Nazis to propagate hate.