Protests

Hey, Berkeley Mayor: Do Your Job and Protect Free Speech in Your City

The possibility of violent reactions should not be used to call for censorship.

|

Berkeley protest
Emily Molli/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/Newscom

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin has had enough of violence bursting from protests of right-wing speakers in his city and at University of California Berkeley. So in order to end it, he wants the speakers to shut up, go away, and go bother somebody else.

Weekend violence from black-clad antifascist provocateurs disrupted a "Rally Against Hate" in Berkeley, and 13 people have been arrested. After the protest, Arreguin decided to buckle under the threat of the "thug's veto" and asked U.C. Berkeley to cancel an upcoming Free Speech Week at the college in September, where people like Milo Yiannopoulos are scheduled to speak.

"I'm very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it's just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street," Arreguin said.

Yes, there is clearly some sort of trap being set here. There are an unknown number of people on each side in this ongoing public political battle especially invested in turning speech into violence. In this particular case, it seems most likely that violence is going to originate from the self-described "antifascist" side, as it has previously.

But let's be clear here. It is the job of Arreguin, the city government of Berkeley, and its police to protect the right of people within its borders to speak without facing violent responses. This is not some sort of additional source of frustration and labor for the city. One of the primary expectations of a city government is to protect the civil liberties of the people within its borders, and the right to speak freely and demonstrate peacefully are among those liberties.

Arreguin is hardly the only mayor to attempt to use violence as an excuse to abandon the responsibility to protect freedom. The mayor of Portland did the exact same thing in May when an apparently unstable man turned violent on a train and stabbed and killed two people. It was clearly a bizarre, isolated incident, yet Mayor Ted Wheeler made a huge performance out of trying to ban right wing protests in the city as a result.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also just banned demonstrations temporarily at a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond while the state comes up with more regulations over the correct way they'll allow citizens to protest.

U.C. Berkeley should resist Arreguin's request, and Americans should reject the idea that violent reactions can be used as a justification for giving up on free speech. Instead, citizens need to be demanding that cities do a better job of both protecting protesters and holding individuals who engage in acts of violence criminally responsible.

It may be messy and it may not be easy (people intent on violence are masking their faces for a reason), but it's nevertheless the only real way of working through this current phase of public political resistance and coming out the other side with our rights intact. If Arreguin is not up for the job of protecting the people in his city from violence, he should consider whether he should be mayor.

He did propose another solution, one that is also terrible. He wants to possibly classify "Antifa" violent activists as a "gang." Such a proposition shows either an unwillingness or inability to hold individuals responsible for their own behavior and attempts to establish collective guilt. It would use California law as a tool to suppress the freedom of association rights of people who are classified as being in a gang rather than to punish actual criminal conduct.

And California's gang law enforcement is a mess as it is. A state audit in 2016 found very poor oversight and accountability within the system, resulting in people being added to the gang member database without supporting evidence that they should be there. You better believe that if California classified "Antifa" as a gang, there'd be some police officers looking to declare any mouthy protester who engaged in even nonviolent civil disobedience to be a member.

NEXT: Donald Trump's Prescription for Impoverishing America

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Yeah the mayor is a BAMN sympathizer, you might as well ask Trump to believe in free trade and globalism if you are asking for a radical left loon to defend free speech.

    Just wait until Ben Shapiro goes there next month

    1. Him and NYC mayor Deblasio are two peas in a pod – radicals who have mastered the art of “fitting in” while still chipping away at civilized society one “reform” at a time.

      1. Not Radicals….COMMIES!!!

        1. Do any of them use inappropriately deadpan “parody” to defend “free speech”? If so, they should be arrested and prosecuted pursuant to the precedent set by America’s leading criminal “satire” case. See the documentation at:

          https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  2. I want all the commenters I disagree with to shut up. For their own protection.

    1. I want to classify all commenters I disagree with as a “gang.”

      1. Let’s fix this, shall we?

        “I want to classify all people who gang up to beat the hell out of people they disagree with, burn the property of people they disagree with, burn the property of people they don’t know, all with the intent of scaring them into silence and compliance, a terroristic gang.”

        There, now that’s a statement that reflects reality.

        See how it’s done? You start with facts, and stick to them.

        1. Here is some more reality: THY SHOULD ENFORCE THE LAW & ARREST THEM & CONVICT THEM!!!!….& stop telling police to stand down, so Conservatives, Libertarians, & Trump as usual get blamed for anything that that happens!

    2. I’m not disagreeing with you, you’re disagreeing with me.

      1. To quote the Buffalo Springfield, circa 1966:

        “Nobody’s right when everybody’s wrong!”

    3. I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right to shut your dumb face up.

    4. Really, I just believe that everyone should be silenced and that the earth should sink into the sun.

  3. What an idiot. If a right-wing locality was using violence by right-wing people against BLM protesters as a pretext for shutting down BLM rallies, I’m sure he (and his cohort) would be singing a different tune. Of course, their reply would be “BLM = Good, these people = bad” but regardless it’s entirely beside the point. The whole point of the First Amendment is that people’s right to speak isn’t dependent on the whims of the majority and what they believe is good and appropriate.

    1. Indeed, and if anything they are teaching those very so-called ‘right wingers’ that the way to get what they want is to be violent. I’m not sure that’s a precedent they really want to be setting here.

      1. Some group has promised to riot if we hold elections, so we have decided to cancel elections for your safety.

        1. That’s a win/win for politicians.

  4. After the protest, Arreguin decided to buckle under the threat of the “thug’s veto”

    How much did he resist before buckling, I wonder? I suspect he used the “thug’s veto” as an excuse to do what he wanted to do anyway: shut down political speech he disagrees with.

    1. CA-
      Yeah, there’s a difference between “buckle under” and “grab like a lifeline”, and I have a strong guess as to how the mayor views it.

      1. He’s also tied to notorious antifa shit brick Yvette Falarca, a woman who has been condemned by the BERKELEY school districts and her own union for being overly political in her classes.

  5. I’ve got to hand it to Milo and Coulter – holding a “free speech” event at the center of “free speech” smugness (but is actually anything but) is a stroke of genius.

    1. Has “free speech” been added to the list of racist code words and dog whistles yet?

      1. Absolutely. MSM outlets are putting it in scare quotes when it’s used by anyone other than a leftist.

      2. I think yes; if you tried holding a “free speech” rally somewhere, I’m sure Antifa hoodlums would descend on you, in the name of stopping “fascism” and “racism” of course.

      3. I know many people who talk about it quite derisively. Usually going with the Hihnesque rationalization of verbal disagreement = verbal aggression = real violence.

      4. Yes.
        The proggies believe free speech an anathema to their Ministry of Truth’s objectives.

      5. Are they still mocking the concept by spelling it “freeze peach” or has that little bit of nonsense fallen out of fashion?

  6. Berkley, Portland, New York…these politicians view the “antifa” as, if not actually “good” guys, then at least being on the “right side” of events. This shutting down speech that conflicts with their view and political aspirations is exactly what they want, just using cynical excuses to rationalize it.

    1. They would never conscience shutting down anything sponsored by BLM or BAMN and similar ilk for these reasons; instead they would be calling out the national guard under the guise of “protecting free speech” that aligns with their own political futures.

  7. We have decided the best way to prevent further terrorism is to do what the terrorists want.

  8. I really don’t have a problem with classifying antifa as a gang. It is, after all, a crime to participate in a conspiracy to foment violence, and that pretty much what antifa is all about. Even though antifa is really just a testosterone-fueled LARP group, they do intend upon threatening and carrying out violence to silence their political adversaries.

    1. I suspect the good mayor has no intention to follow through on that particular threat. Those are his peeps.

    2. Dude. Have you seen the physiognomy of those protesters/antifa pussys? They DEFINITELY are NOT fueled by testosterone.

  9. SPLC will be right on it after the boss gets out of the pool and gets dressed.

    1. Ooops. In reply to:
      “I really don’t have a problem with classifying antifa as a gang.”

      1. I’m increasingly non-trusting of any gang designation.

  10. “I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street,”

    That comment from any Republican would be labeled as racist. Where is Pelosi when you need her?

    1. Pelosi has said more negative things about antifa today than the fucking Republican Party has to date.

      1. It’s not that she actually has a problem with them – she’s just starting to draw attention.

      2. That’s because the GOP is a bunch of gutless wonders.
        They’re afraid someone might call them names if they repealed Obamacare and deregulated the healthcare industry.
        The republican party will probably continue spending our tax dollars like a drunken sailor on shore leave and whiff at any real tax reforms for fear of being unpopular.

      3. Probably because any member of the GOP that said anything negative about the media darling Antifa would be labeled a racist nazi. Much better to step aside and let antifa act out on live TV and have media personalities unmask themselves. Not the bravest stance but probably the only one that doesn’t see them run out of town by fake outrage.

  11. “Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin has had enough of violence bursting from protests of right-wing speakers in his city and at University of California Berkeley.”
    Those “right-wing speakers” are actually left-wing speakers advocating big government furthering their agendas.

  12. “I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street,” Arreguin said.

    Using his logic, Selma should’ve stopped the civil rights march as the KKK might have come out and roughed some folks up.

  13. Stop calling them “antifa.” They are black bloc, or anarchists.

    1. They are Marxist terrorosts.

    2. Well don’t call them anarchists either.

      1. Yes. I’m an anarchist, and I hate those fucks.

  14. RE: Hey, Berkeley Mayor: Do Your Job and Protect Free Speech in Your City
    The possibility of violent reactions should not be used to call for censorship.

    Nothing could further from the truth.
    Free speech is only for leftists who want to turn the USA into a politically correct socialist slave state.
    Disseminating alternative views only confuses the unenlightened masses which may cause questioning and doubting of our glorious ruling elitists policies.
    Such speech is therefore, correctly stated, not only intolerable but dangerous for our beloved slavers who take the time and trouble to enslave us all.
    You would’ve thought Reason would have figured this one out by now.

  15. I again say Trump should Federalize the National Guard and send them out to protect those who wish to exercise their civil rights from violent thugs unrestrained by the local authorities.

    1. ? Should have been done long ago…. ?

  16. Re: “Instead, citizens need to be demanding that cities do a better job of both protecting protesters and holding individuals who engage in acts of violence criminally responsible.”

    Speaking as a liberal, that’s fine with me. But that entails taxing the polity at a sufficient level to pay for enough police, and enough police training, to handle the job that is being asked of them. And what libertarian wants to pay more money for any government service, let alone for the police?

  17. > He did propose another solution, one that is also terrible. He wants to possibly classify “Antifa” violent activists as a “gang.” Such a proposition shows either an unwillingness or inability to hold individuals responsible for their own behavior and attempts to establish collective guilt. It would use California law as a tool to suppress the freedom of association rights of people who are classified as being in a gang rather than to punish actual criminal conduct.

    I’ll happily go along with that if we can also classify the police as a gang. (Hint: the word “uniform” means “the same”)

  18. Have we become so divided as a people that the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can only be achieved peacefully as a result of becoming 2 separate sovereign nations, allowing the population of each to create governments acceptable to their citizen inhabitants?
    Exercising ones rights to think and speak without application or threat of bodily harm to another does not impose force upon another or others to agree or listen. Those who disagree, Left or Right, should be equally allowed to think and speak separately and by law be prohibited from disrupting one another. Anyone who initiates violence as a result of spoken or written words by another or others should be dealt with harshly by the law.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.