The anarchists tore down metal police barriers and used them along with clubs and hammers to break plate glass windows. They toppled a portable lighting fixture and set it on fire. Fireworks were aimed at police, who responded with “nonlethal” projectiles. Some of the hundreds of curious onlookers who had gathered nearby were hit by the police fire.
Many protesters cheered when campus officials soon announced that the meeting to hear Yiannopoulos, an editor at the conservative Breitbart News, was cancelled. Many other students who were opposed to the violence left the scene not long after the anarchists appeared.
Claiming that Yiannopoulos is a “white supremacist” who engages in “hate speech” while touring college campuses, the Berkeley Against Trump Coalition organized to prevent him from speaking at the meeting sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans.
The coalition — formerly called the J20 Coalition for the date of President Donald Trump’s inauguration — was involved in earlier actions protesting the results of the November election.
Some of the demonstrators carried “Punch a Nazi” posters, encouraging thuggery. One woman wearing a Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face as she was interviewed by a TV reporter. Others who had lined up to hear Yiannopoulos were assaulted.
More windows were broken and fireworks shot at police after the meeting was called off. After repeated orders to disperse, campus and Berkeley police, joined by cops from Oakland and elsewhere, cleared everyone out of the plaza by the student center. U.C. officials imposed a “shelter in place” lockdown on the entire campus.
Some of the protesters joined anarchists in rampaging through nearby streets, trashing banks and other businesses.
Two days later, students were discussing what lessons should be drawn.
“I supported the protest but don’t agree with what the anarchists did,” said Landon Sorci, an economics major who left when the action turned violent. Yiannopoulos got what he wanted, Sorci said, becoming “a free speech martyr.” Referring to Yiannopoulos’ campaign against the liberals’ “political correctness,” Sorci said, “You do have a kind of forced liberalism here at Cal.”
Rudra Reddy, whose family is from India, was one of those gathered at the campus Republicans table. He said he disagrees with Yiannopoulos but wanted to hear him speak. Reddy said he was most upset when he saw some of the student protesters egging on the anarchists.
Jordan, a political science major who asked not to have his last name used, told the Militant, “I don’t agree with demeaning people,” citing Yiannopoulos’ crudities and reactionary insults aimed at Muslims and others. But, he added, “Silence one person and anyone can be silenced.”
Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class
Anarchist ‘black bloc’ politics pose threat to working class
Fascism rises when capital must crush working class
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home