Political Divide Intensifies from UC Berkeley Protest

As if our nation has not experienced enough political turmoil and dysfunction lately, a recent protest at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley that took place on Wednesday night, Feb. 1, has the nation stirring. On this day, Milo Yiannopoulos, right-wing editor for Breitbar, the most read conservative news website in the United States, had a planned visit sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans to speak at the university.

Also a forthright supporter of President Donald Trump, Yiannopoulos is recognized as being racist and misogynistic; he is notorious for using his platform to deliver incendiary and controversial hate speech, specifically targeting Muslims, transgender individuals, feminists and the Black Lives Matter movement.

With all of that being said, it was inevitable that students would react to Yiannopoulos’s presence on campus, as UC Berkeley is a strikingly liberal environment. Students gathered at Sproul Plaza a few hours prior to his scheduled speech, equipped with signs and a goal to conduct a peaceful protest that would express their disgruntlement and disapproval.

A group of 150 non-student agitators in masks eventually joined the protest.  Unfortunately, these outsiders disrupted the placid movement by provoking a violent uprising in the streets, obviously drawing negative attention to the scene. The frustrated agitators ignited fires, smashed windows in the student union, and launched smoke bombs in several areas, which resulted in approximately $100,000 worth of damage to campus property. Two Berkeley College Republicans were even attacked during an interview the following morning.

Courtesy: The Tribune

We know from our history that no protest goes down without the involvement of police officials. Riot police used tear gas while they put the campus on lockdown. Sources have delivered varying information as far as arrests from the event; some say that one arrest was made, some say two, and others say that there were no arrests.

For both his safety and that of his audience, UC Berkeley was forced to cancel Yiannopoulos’s talk, which would not be the first time for the editor; his appearance was also called off last month at UC Davis.

Due to the Free Speech Movement having taken place at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, both conservatives and liberals are declaring this recent uproar “hypocritical,” insisting that Yiannopoulos’s presence to speak on campus is protected under the First Amendment. According to CNN, a liberal freshman at the university by the name of Shivam Patel spoke out against the protests.

“It’s a sad irony in the fact that the Free Speech Movement was founded here and tonight, someone’s free speech got shut down. It might have been hateful speech, but it’s still his right to speak,” he said. “It allows people on the right to say, ‘Look at all these liberal Berkeley snowflakes. They’re intolerant of speech’…I don’t think it’s productive at all. It does nothing to help this country.”

President Trump tweeted in response to the protests with the intention of potentially cutting off funding to the university.

Courtesy: Twitter

Luckily for UC Berkeley, he does not have the authority to decree such a drastic order on his own. Although the school is at stake, as it has allocated billions of dollars in funds specifically for research, President Trump’s administration would have to collectively determine whether federal law could allow it or not.

While there is something to be said about protesting one’s beliefs and getting involved with the community to make a change, violent acts like these steer us in the completely wrong direction. It was unfair to the peaceful protestors that the riotous agitators arrived to the scene, because it only furthered the stereotype that liberals do not conduct themselves in an orderly manner when trying to defend their beliefs.

 Courtesy: East Bay Times

As I have conveyed in a previous article of mine, such dramatic acts only serve to create a larger divide between the two opposing political parties and will make it that much more challenging to compromise for unity in the future. While it is disheartening to witness a man of such malevolent nature preach to your fellow peers on a campus that you call home, it is important to remain civil and to understand that freedom of speech is still a constitutional right. If you want other amendments to remain in effect, such as those respecting equality, you must respect all of them.

Because he could not speak on campus, Yiannopoulos discussed his feelings of frustration and spoke of self-defense and right to freedom of speech in a video that he posted on YouTube the same day of the protests.