Freedom absent at Berkeley


Photo credit: Briana Mcdaniel

It takes patience. It takes maturity. It takes well-rounded beliefs to support and prove that a protest is necessary. At this point in American culture, colleges should consider offering a crash course: Revolting 101.

The riots at UC Berkeley were more of an ostentatious display for attention than a revolutionary statement. What started as a peaceful event against hate speech on campus turned into unjust violence. The event concluded in more damage than one flamboyant alt-right journalist could have stirred up.

As a student and supporter of the anti-fascist movement, I am embarrassed by my fellow campus.

Although the mobs were not solely composed of students, I question the motives of students and faculty who joined the “black bloc.”

The day prior to the riots, UC Berkeley’s student-run newspaper published an article encouraging students to join the protest Jan. 31.

The article does not state that violence is condoned, but does use the terminology, “The first step is coming out en masse to kick Yiannopoulos and his hateful bile off of our campus.”

Milo Yiannopoulos has an equal right to freedom of speech just as the people who were vandalizing property. Yiannopoulos had to be removed from the premises in a bullet-proof vest. Supporters of our new president were beaten and pepper sprayed during these protests.

This event is both ironic and repulsive considering Berkeley’s rich history of peaceful protests such as the Freedom of Speech movement in 1964.

In the past month, our country’s new administration has clearly made downward progressions in areas that our society has been working on for years. It is not only natural but imperative to be concerned.

This regression is something to revolt about. However, as ‘well informed’ individuals, we cannot deface property and promote violence on other humans and think it’s the answer.

Since the protests, the Daily Californian has published follow-up op-eds in defense of the violent protests such as “Condemning protesters same as condoning hate speech” and “Check your privilege when it comes to talking about protests.”

The author of the article “Black bloc did what campus should have” spoke to me directly. Columnist Neil Lawrence expresses that activists have already trialed all nonviolent efforts.

“But when you consider everything that activists already tried,” Lawrence says, “union grievances and peaceful demonstrations don’t work, when the nonviolent tactics have been exhausted — what is left?”

Without a doubt, the speech prepared by Milo Yiannopoulos for UC Berkeley would was offensive to many. The journalist has a history of homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, sexism and racism. Under our country’s current amendments, however, he is allowed on your campus.

The journalists who rioted had the ability to attend this seminar. They could have explained to this man and his supporters how desensitizing and threatening their beliefs are. Nevertheless, because of how the event unfolded, that option was taken away.

As long as there is freedom of speech within our country, we are going to have dangerous ideas exposed upon us. The correct way to revolt is to combat these dangerous ideas with better, more progressive and more compassionate ideas.

Don’t let hate blind us from the true definition of unity. Rather than using violence, choose to express our thoughts and channel them into progress.

Nicole Henson can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.