Berkeley has been all over the news this spring, and for all the wrong reasons. As an alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley, I can almost physically feel the value of my degree deflate as I read the headlines.
In February, a scheduled speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley was cancelled at the last minute because a riot on campus broke out resulting in broken windows, a fire, and thousands of dollars worth in property damage. In March and April, two pro-Trump rallies in downtown Berkeley ended in bloodshed as fights broke out between antifa agitators and alt-right goons — what has become known at the “Battle of Berkeley.” Finally, this week, UC Berkeley has once again given another conservative speaker the run-around, cancelling and then inconveniently rescheduling a speech by Ann Coulter, citing safety concerns.
The Onion perfectly satirized the free speech crisis at Berkeley with a story yesterday: “Berkeley Campus On Lockdown After Loose Pages From ‘Wall Street Journal’ Found On Park Bench.”
So much can and has been said about each one of these incidents. As always, it’s disturbing how little respect many Berkeley students and community members have for free speech. However, it’s unsurprising. The regressive left has been a powerful force in the California town I once called home for decades, earning its nickname — “The People’s Republic of Berkeley.”
However, what’s really scary is how little the authorities have done to keep the mob at bay. The police essentially stood aside in both the Milo incident and Battle of Berkeley, allowing mob violence to rampage unfettered. In fact, Berkeley’s police chief has even gone so far as to defend his department’s passive presence.
The Coulter incident this week has confirmed what many free speech defenders have long suspected: Berkeley authorities are kowtowing to the mob.
When the riots on Feb. 1 ended a planned speech by former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley, we condemned the violence. However, we tried to be cautious in our statements about the actions of the Berkeley administration, as it seemed plausible that the campus police were simply overwhelmed by the number of protesters and the intensity and scale of the violence. But in the weeks following the incident, Berkeley appears to have done nothing to prevent events like the Feb. 1 riots from happening again.
Should any violence or even threat of violence should from a conservative event, the modus operandi of Berkeley police and the UC Berkeley administration has been to sit aside and watch their town burn.
This passivity is an assault not just to free speech and property rights, but the very rule of law itself — the fundamental value of a free society. If order is not enforced at any threat of violence, we are not living in a society governed by laws, but by the ruthless will of thugs.
Ann Coulter has refused to reschedule her speech, vowing to come to campus on April 27 as stated and signed in her contract. Berkeley now has a choice — to finally defend a free society or take a final bow to mob rule. This is a choice that must be made by the UC Berkeley administration, University of California Police Department and Berkeley Police Department together.
Coulter and other conservatives have made her choice to not stay silent when their rights are under threat. The question is now, will Berkeley authorities be ready this time to defend them?