UC Berkeley Violence Defiled the Campus Free Speech Movement
by Stephen Lendman
Academic, press and speech freedoms are the most important of all rights. Societies can’t be free without them.
Voltaire once said he might disagree with what was said, but would defend to the death the right to say it.
In the 1960s, anti-war and civil rights activism inspired Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM), beginning in 1964. UC Berkeley students protested against banned on-campus political activity.
They demanded academic and free expression rights. Unprecedented student activism followed.
FSM was a student initiative. Faculty, administration and local government officials joined it. UC Berkeley students earlier protested against House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC: 1947 – 1975) anti-communist witch hunts.
Berkeley’s 1964 fall term included several dozen students returning from Mississippi’s “Freedom Summer.” Racially motivated discrimination and violence horrified them.
They bonded with other student activists. Berkeley’s SLATE (1958 – 1966) was FSM’s precursor. Civil rights and International Workers of the World (IWW) leaders supported it. So did Joan Baez and Bettina Aptheker, later becoming UC Santa Cruz Professor of Feminist Studies.
Nonviolent activism is traditional at Berkeley. It began long before FSM. Iconoclasts and free-thinkers challenged hidebound societal notions and practices.
Muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens studied at Berkeley. Long ago, I took my graduate entrance exam there while on active duty in the military.
Agitators behind last Wednesday’s violence, shutting down a scheduled speech by right-wing Breitbart News senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos, defiled the letter and spirit of Berkeley’s FSM, along with assaulting Trump supporters and committing vandalism, causing about $100,000 in damage.
George Soros funded Refuse Fascism and perhaps likeminded extremist elements were behind Berkeley’s violence, disrupting Yiannopoulos’ right to speak, like or dislike him, RF claiming he’s “not engaging in ‘free speech.’ ”
He’s “part of a larger rapidly escalating society-wide fascist assault on” on America. The ideology has roots in the nation going back decades, headquartered in Washington. Present-day bipartisan neocons reflect it.
Refuse Fascism called Trump’s election “illegitimate,” even though he won convincingly. Its adherents apparently want their views alone heard, ones they disagree with shut out, using disruptive violence to assert their demands.
Trump responded, tweeting “(i)f UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
University officials didn’t incite violence. They supported the invited speaker’s right to have his say even though his “views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to those of the campus,” according to chancellor Nicholas Dirks, adding:
UC Berkeley supports “free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective.” He and other university officials condemned unacceptable violence and vandalism.
Trump should have praised them, including for letting one of his extremist supporters speak on campus in the spirit of free expression.
Throughout his campaign, post-election and after his inauguration, orchestrated protests dogged him, continuing in various US cities.
A previous article explained he’s not the problem. Nationwide protests should rage against America’s system, a one-party state with two right wings, exclusively serving wealth, power and privilege, no matter who holds top posts – a bipartisan conspiracy against governance of, by and for everyone equitably, a longstanding scheme to keep the nation permanently at war on humanity at home and abroad.
That’s what people nationwide should protest peacefully against – not an extremist’s right to speak freely like everyone else.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
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