Berkeley CR members allegedly hounded for political views
Members of the University of California, Berkeley College Republicans claim that merely belonging to the group makes them targets for harassment by campus leftists.
Most recently, a blog post titled “The Kids are Alt-Right: The UC Berkeley Republican Students Behind the Milo Event” singled out five students to accuse them of harboring white supremacist sentiments and publicize their personal information because of their alleged involvement in inviting conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to campus for an event on February 1.
“These are violent, physical attempts to silence and suppress the beliefs of others.”
All five of the students, however, have denied playing any role in the decision to invite Yiannopoulos, with one protesting indignantly that he is not even a member of College Republicans.
“While I am a member of the Berkeley College Republicans, I am only a freshman at Cal and have no formal position in the club,” Matt Ronnau, one of the students exposed in the blog post, told Campus Reform. “While I am excited for the chance to hear [Milo] speak, I had no part in arranging for his presence at the University.”
“I am not affiliated with any political organizations on campus,” stated Nick Winterer, a senior. “The author made no attempt to verify the accuracy of his information which makes it especially disgusting that he would single me out for harassment.”
Students say this isn’t the first time that CR members have been harassed, and even physically attacked, for belonging to the club, though.
In November, the College Republicans caught two leftist students on camera ripping down their posters in support of President-elect Donald Trump.
“Prior to the taped incident that Monday night before the election, we were posting Trump flyers in designated areas in response to Cal Dems' and other progressive political clubs' monopoly of political flyers around campus,” Naweed Tahmas, a member of the College Republicans, told Campus Reform. “As usual, their flyers never get pulled down. We spent a few hours posting our materials around campus and the next morning, all our materials were gone. Every flyer and poster—gone.”
Within hours of hanging the flyers, CR member Branden West encountered two Berkeley students in the process of removing the club’s posters and quickly started to film them in the act.
“You have to ask for my permission [to film me],” the unidentified student incorrectly claimed, before being informed by West that in a public space, he has every right to film as he chooses.
“As a student, I’m just really saddened that people think [ripping down posters is] morally justified,” West told the perpetrators.
“When you have someone who opposes literally a religion, a person’s own faith, [it’s unacceptable]” the leftist student replied, before trailing off and tangentially claiming that Trump’s previous call for a blanket ban on Muslim immigrants justified his destruction of the posters.
After several more minutes of debate with West, the student gave up on the Muslim argument,and claimed that by putting Trump stickers on a free speech bulletin board, the College Republicans were actually silencing the free speech of others.
Several hours after leaving the scene, the College Republicans discovered that someone had put up fake posters claiming that the College Republicans were hosting white supremacist Richard Spencer.
“The Berkeley College Republicans are proud to host the founder of the alt-right, Richard B. Spencer,” the posters erroneously claimed. “Join us...to implicitly explore what it means to be an uncucked white in the current year.”
"Seeing these two guys tear up Trump stickers the night before the election just made me feel so fed up with the absolute hatred Berkeley has for any views that disagree with its hyper-liberal dogma,” West told Campus Reform. “This is why I felt like I needed to confront these guys and show them that they can't just silence political discourse without being prepared to defend their actions.”
Events like these come on the heels of several other attacks against the Berkeley CRs, including incidents in which members have allegedly been punched in the face, pepper-sprayed in front of Berkeley security, and otherwise physically assaulted for their political beliefs.
“On election night, I was sucker-punched in the face,” Tahmas told Campus Reform. “We had one member punched twice in the face for just wearing a Trump hat; we’ve had one member pepper sprayed in the face in front of Berkeley security; we've had a group of students rush our table once and steal and rip apart our materials; we've also had drinks thrown at us, and people spitting on our materials.”
Tahmas argued that Berkeley’s now-disgraced Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, who recently announced his resignation, is largely to blame for the hostility towards Republican voices on campus.
“We also have a Chancellor who allows this behavior to continually occur, despite personal meetings with BCR’s leadership team promising to work to make campus safer for all students of all viewpoints,” Tahmas continued. “These are students who cannot restrain themselves at the sight of individuals expressing views different than their own. These are violent, physical attempts to silence and suppress the beliefs of others.”
He then pointed out the irony of the altercations, noting that Berkeley, after all, was the very place where the Free Speech Movement found a home, currently standing as the namesake of the plaza on campus where the College Republicans’ First Amendment right were suppressed.
“The Free Speech Movement was an amazing fight by students against a university that was suppressing free speech,” he continued. “That movement allowed for tabling on campus and ended the university's regulation on speech. We see the same fight again.”
He was discouraged, though, that “this time a majority of students are siding with authority, that being the administration.”
“It's incredibly interesting how Berkeley students, who are against all forms of authority, are siding with the administration instead of their fellow students,” Tahmas elaborated. “Given Berkeley’s progressive history, we don’t believe this environment will become more inclusive of conservative viewpoints any time soon.”
Campus Reform reached out to UC-Berkeley for comment on the students’ claims, but did not receive a response.