While major news outlets have been focused on liberal activism surrounding police reform, UC Berkeley’s conservative students have taken to the internet to continue their activism amid the pandemic.
Augustus Doricko, founder of the campus chapter of America First Students, or AmFirst, said UC Berkeley’s “dissident tradition,” started by the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, is being preserved online. AmFirst is not just relying on a Facebook page, but has also started its own Instagram and TikTok accounts, hoping to rally its followers and include conservatives who cannot come to campus.
Perhaps campus’s most well-known conservative club, Berkeley College Republicans, is holding online debates, forums and meetings, according to External Vice President Alex Baptiste. BCR members are regularly participating in meetings held over Zoom and continue to use their Facebook group as a way to share new ideas and debate relevant political theory and discourse, Baptiste said.
“One of BCR’s main goals for Fall 2020 is to make sure Republicans on campus have an outlet to express their political viewpoints, whether this be in person or via Zoom,” Baptiste said in an email. “We always strive to support Republican candidates in local and national elections through phone banking and online conferencing or conventions.”
Similarly, Students for Life at Berkeley, a pro-life advocacy club, anticipates that the changes to the fall semester will hinder its activism, as much of it is conducted in person. Because 2020 is also an election year, however, Students for Life plans to spend time phone banking for pro-life candidates.
The organization’s leadership is deciding between moving meetings online and postponing them to spring 2021. Officers said the club will continue supporting pregnant and parenting students.
While the coronavirus has been disruptive and shifted the mediums of activism, Doricko said he sees the alleged “violent suppression of conservatism at Berkeley” as a bigger obstruction to his club than the pandemic is.
Regarding UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ’s decision to move UCPD out of Sproul Hall, Doricko said he is concerned this action will endanger more students.
Connor Kubeisy, a self-identified conservative student at UC Berkeley, said in his own activism, he avoids approaches that can lead to greater division and polarization, instead aiming to bring contrasting ideologies together.
“In light of the current protests, we all need to be open to considering opposing viewpoints,” Kubeisy said in an email.
In contrast, Doricko said he thinks these protests have taught conservatives that conceding to protesters does not work. Referring to protesters as “the mob,” he claimed that many of the recent protests were actually riots and called the violence he has seen “appalling.”
According to Baptiste, BCR acknowledges the reason why these protests are happening, yet disagrees with where the inequities behind protests originate from. He added that BCR members do not think the government’s role in regulating and adjusting such inequalities is something that should be viewed favorably.
Kubeisy said protests over the death of George Floyd were not inhibited by the pandemic.
“Impassioned students will likely find a way to still voice their opinions,” he said in the email.