Berkeley students want to fight fascism by banning speech
Conservative columnist, author, and provocateur Milo Yiannopolous is set to speak at University of California, Berkeley in February, and many on campus aren’t happy.
Because of some his more extreme positions, Yiannopolous’ speeches have historically garnered protests and backlash like those at University of Miami, Clemson University, and New York University, to name just a few.
“We will gather the community for a mass counter-protest and shut down that event.”
The response to Yiannopoulos at Berkeley has been similarly caustic.
One UC Berkeley group, named Berkeley Antifa, created a Facebook event dedicated to disrupting and cancelling Milo’s event. The initiative, titled “No Fascists on Campus: Shut Down Milo at UC Berkeley,” urges students to contact school administrators and encourage them to cancel Yiannopoulos’ appearance.
“Given the recent increase in fascist activity both on and around the UC Berkeley campus, we feel that the university's willingness to provide a platform to Milo Yiannopoulos and his views is unacceptable, and we intend to shut this event down,” the group explains in the event description. “We are inviting all allies and the Berkeley community to join us in making UC Berkeley a fascist-free zone.”
Due to the protests and unrest that follow Yiannopoulos from school to school, The Daily Californian reports that the UC Berkeley College Republicans were required to raise around $10,000 for security for the event.
Posted in Berkeley Antifa’s event page is a Google Document that guides students on how to take action against the Yiannopoulos event.
Titled “Keep Milo Out,” the document outlines numerous courses of action that students can take, including tweeting at university Twitter accounts, submitting a letter-to-the-editor of the student newspaper, contacting organizers who have successfully shut down Yiannopoulos in the past, signing up to travel to University of California, Davis to shut down an upcoming Yiannopoulos speech, and several more.
Also contained in the document are various email scripts for students to utilize when emailing school administrators.
The scripts emphasize Yiannopoulos’ supposed sexism, racism, xenophobia, and transphobia while simultaneously claiming that the event poses a physical and emotional threat to Berkeley students, citing an incident at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in which Yiannopoulos called out a transgender student by name during his speech.
Another Berkeley group, the Berkeley Socialist Students, is sponsoring a separate effort dedicated to banning Milo from the UC Berkeley campus.
Their event, titled “No Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley,” has attracted a large amount of online attention—at press time, roughly 1,600 people had expressed interest in the event, 550 had committed to actually attending, and according to Facebook, the event has been shared with nearly 2,000 people.
“We will come together to fight oppression and prevent them from having a platform in our universities,” the event description states. “Join us and unite against oppression and against a corporate political system that relies on this right-wing, divide-and-conquer rhetoric...If the UC fails to do [sic] close Yiannopoulos down, or if he moves to an off-campus venue, we will gather the community for a mass counter-protest and shut down that event.”
Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for UC Berkeley, provided Campus Reform with the university’s response to student letters received by Mogulof or other school administrators, in which Mogulof makes clear that UC Berkeley in no way endorses Yiannopoulos or his opinions, but also concedes that the school has a commitment to the Constitution and therefore cannot ban Yiannopoulos from visiting.
“While we realize that the presence of certain speakers is likely to upset some members of our campus community, the U.S. Constitution, and thus University policy, prevent administration of a public university from barring invited speakers from campus, or from charging differential fees, based on the viewpoints those speakers may express,” the statement explains. “While it is true that some of Mr. Yiannopoulos's planned campus speaking engagements have been cancelled, none of these cancellations is a precedent for a public university banning his appearance.”
“Finally, I can assure you that the University and UCPD are highly attentive to safety concerns and will not hesitate to act to ensure the security and protection of campus community members, as well as the public at large, but we may not cancel a speaking engagement based on concern that a speaker's message may trigger disruptions,” Mogulof concludes.
Both Berkeley Antifa and Berkeley Socialist Students were contacted by Campus Reform, but neither had responded in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ChrisNuelle