The kick-off event for the far right’s “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley fizzled as white supremacist Milo Yiannopoulos and his supporters were outnumbered by anti-fascist protesters on Sunday. Communities Against Racism & Fascism (CARF), along with other community groups and individuals, came out to take a stand against the misogyny, transphobia, Islamophobia, and racism spewed by the former Breitbart editor and his followers.
A day earlier, Berkeley Patriots, the student group sponsoring the week, canceled their events. However, when Yiannopoulos said he would make an appearance to speak about “Feminism Awareness,” with the belief that “feminism is cancer,” CARF and others came out to show direct opposition to the bigotry. When he showed up and tried to speak to a few dozen of his supporters, Yiannopoulos couldn’t be heard over the chants of anti-fascists. The opposition to his misogyny and racism would have been louder if the police had not used their security checkpoint to delay entrance of hundreds of counter-demonstrators into the campus’s Sproul Plaza. As it played out, Yiannopoulos stayed for about 20 minutes, then left.
“As a working woman, I need real, grassroots feminism which respects my rights. These bigots support the misogynist president, want to defund healthcare for women, and kick immigrants out of the U.S. Immigrants aren’t attacking my healthcare, the government and the bosses are!” argued public educator and feminist Norma Gallegos.
While Berkeley has become a symbolic battleground for the far right, the city government and campus administration authorized mutual aid where Berkeley police were joined by law enforcement from around the Bay Area and outlying areas. “The police want to terrorize people from coming out and are there to protect the fascists. When a bicyclist intentionally ran into a counter-protester and then tried to repeatedly spit on us, the cops did nothing. They were more concerned with confiscating our megaphones than addressing physical assaults and right wing provocateurs,” said Claudia Li of CARF.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ allocated $800,000 for policing to accommodate the neo-fascists, whose message is to scapegoat and terrorize immigrants, Muslims, people of color, queers and women. According to 20-year campus worker, Toni Mendicino, “UC is laying off staff and raising tuition, which it blames on budget deficits. I’m exercising my free speech to take a stand against fascism and bigotry, as well as the misuse of valuable campus resources to stifle the protests of those who oppose white supremacy.”
CARF member Sam Rubin said, “We were at MLK Jr. Civic Center Park last month. We were here today, and we will organize and mobilize as many people as we can to stand up to these neo-fascist thugs. Our strength is in our numbers as a united front. All those who are targeted now, and all those who will be targeted next, and everyone who opposes racism and fascism is welcome and needs to join our ranks. We can defeat the ultra-right, but no one can do it alone. We can stand up as a community and stand up for one another.”