Jim Clark: What to do with a public university defying the Constitution (opinion)
Headline: “Rioting on UC Berkeley Campus to protest (fill in the blank).” In the past a story like that might qualify for a position on the 5th page of the second section of the typical newspaper.
When I was a student at Berkeley, over a half century ago, the big story was the great panty raid of 1957. There were absolutely no political implications but there sure was a lot of lingerie.
Starting in the 1960s, led by Mario Savio’s misnamed Free Speech Movement, UC’s Sproul Plaza became world headquarters for dissent by left wingers with loud voices. Al Capp, the author of the comic strip “Li’l Abner,” foretold these developments when he invented the group Students Wildly Indignant About Nearly Everything (“SWINE”) for his strip.
On Wednesday, February 1, however, any lightheartedness about Berkeley’s soap box reputation was destroyed. The Berkeley College Republicans had scheduled a presentation by conservative Breitbart Editor Milo Yannopoulos. UC required the speaker to pay $6,000 for security.
According to NBC News, one Ronald Cruz organized a protest, firing up students in opposition to what he claimed would be Yannopoulos’ “hateful rhetoric.” “He’s a neo-fascist who has notoriously fostered a lynch mob mentality in his audiences,” Cruz told NBC.
Mere suppression of speech by a fired up mob of liberal students would have been nothing unusual at Berkeley. Unfortunately on this occasion the “wildly indignant students” were, according to UC Berkeley, accompanied “by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.”
The university called off the event. CNN TV coverage showed a number of masked participants wearing black clothes and hurling commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails that ignited fires. CNN reported that “they also smashed windows of the student union center … where the … event was to be held.”
At least six people were injured. “Some were attacked by the agitators who are part of an anarchist group known as the ‘Black Bloc’ that has been causing problems in Oakland for years,” according to UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. One woman wearing a red Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face while being interviewed by local TV Station KGO.
“As police dispersed the crowd from campus, protestors moved to downtown Berkeley and smashed windows at several banks,” according to CNN.
UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett told NBC News she was “not aware of any arrests by the department. Officers used pepper balls and marking paint balls, but no tear gas was used. I believe our officers exercised tremendous restraint.”
The following day, President Donald Trump tweeted: “If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
California Lt. Governor (and candidate for governor) Gavin Newsom tweeted in response: “As a UC Regent I’m appalled at your willingness to deprive over 38,000 students access to an education because of the actions of a few.”
Regent Newsom needs some introspection. UC regents and their predecessors are guilty of stifling debate for over fifty years by allowing “snowflakes” … students who can’t handle ideas they disagree with … to monopolize public speech by mob rule.
Additionally UC doubled down on its First Amendment violations by assessing the speaker security costs (prohibited by the US Supreme Court [Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, 505 US 123 (1992]). Finally, having illegally extracted the speaker’s money UC failed to provide security.
There was no plan for dealing with riotous students and their co-conspirators; Berkeley and adjacent Oakland have over 1,000 uniformed police but the campus police chief failed to call on them for support; no arrests were made despite at least six cases of personal injury plus appreciable property damage.
A public university that violates the U.S. Constitution deserves to have federal funding curtailed.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.