Cal Berkeley Democrats host speakers, open space to counter Coulter speech

Nina Narahari/Staff

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Cal Berkeley Democrats hosted an event Wednesday evening in the genetics and plant biology building to counter conservative author Ann Coulter’s speech on campus.

The event, named “UC Berkeley United Against Hate, was an alternate space for students to speak about their experiences dealing with white supremacy and hate on campus and was created in an effort to prioritize students’ safety, according to the event’s press release. With more than 50 people in attendance, the event was also organized to urge campus administration to prioritize and uplift marginalized communities.

Campus organizations, such as the Muslim Student Association, the Middle Eastern North African Recruitment and Retention Center, the Mixed @ Berkeley Recruitment and Retention Center and the Student Environmental Resource Center, among others, participated in the event, according to the press release.

“I want to be clear that we are prioritizing students’ safety over event turnout,” said Teddy Lake, campus senior and ASUC campus organizing co-director. “We were actively encouraging students to stay off campus. This event is mainly here as a space for students who are on campus. … Our intention was never really to organize a counterprotest.”

The speakers at the event included campus ethnic studies lecturer Hatem Bazian and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s chief of staff Jacquelyn McCormick.

McCormick expressed that safety was a big concern, especially after protests following the 2016 presidential election and conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’ event in February 2017.

Campus senior Dante Gonzales questioned the efficiency of these counterprotests when many community members do not want to be involved.

“We have these movements coming out in an attempt to stand up to white supremacy. … but when your most targeted communities are saying they don’t want these counterprotests because it ensues more violence, I really wonder what the point of it is,” Gonzales said at the event.

Speakers at the event discussed the discrimination they felt as marginalized members of the community and how the campus can support these communities.

Bazian discussed white supremacy’s rise in the United States and the discrimination felt by Muslims. According to Bazian, Islamophobia is the “new signpost for overt racism.” He added that combating Islamophobia is a collective civil society responsibility.

According to Ahmad Mahmuod, a Black Muslim student organizer and campus sophomore, the best way to support communities of color and other marginalized groups is to donate to organizations that support these communities.

Yara Mawad, a campus junior, said she visited the space because she did not want to contribute to any violent protests but still wanted to make her disagreement heard. She added that these counterprotests do not appear to change people’s views.

“With everything that’s going on recently … it is important to become educated with what our allied communities are going through,” said campus sophomore Qazi Ahmad at the event. “I think it is important for me to understand the experiences that other communities are going through, so I can better understand how we as a collective group can help each other and support each other.”

Contact Nina Narahari at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly called the event a “rally.” In fact, the event was intended to be a safe, on-campus location for students.