Home/Rod Dreher/Berzerkeley Riot

Berzerkeley Riot

Berkeley campus restaurant where they decide what you are allowed to eat (gary yim/Shutterstock)

Milo Yiannopoulos got no-platformed last night at UC-Berkeley, home of the so-called Free Speech Movement from the 1960s. Here’s what happened:

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets after police demanded that they leave Sproul Plaza, where they had taken down barricades and pelted police with firecrackers and bricks earlier in the evening while storming the student union building to protest a scheduled appearance by right-wing Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

Protesters used the Yiannopoulos event to protest against what they called his hate speech, President Trump’s policies, including his vow to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and his ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.

As protesters moved through the streets of Berkeley, they left in their wake signs of their anger: toppled over trash cans and profane graffiti on local businesses.


Protesters hurled smoke bombs, broke windows and sparked a massive bonfire Wednesday night, prompting University of California, Berkeley, officials to cancel a talk by a polarizing editor of Breitbart News out of safety concerns.

The decision was made two hours before the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos  because a crowd of more than 1,500 had gathered outside the venue, the university said in a statement.

But officials said it was a smaller group of protesters dressed in black and in hooded sweatshirts that showed up as night fell to break windows with metal barricades, throw smoke bombs and flares and start a large bonfire outside the building with a diesel generator.

“This was a group of agitators who were masked up, throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers,” said UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennet.

Last month, Milo’s scheduled appearance at UC-Davis was scuttled because of violent protesters.

I watched some of the Berkeley protests last night. Some of the rioters carried a big banner that read “BECOME UNGOVERNABLE”.

Well. When rioters at two separate universities prevent someone from giving a speech on campus, we have a crisis. This is outrageous and unacceptable in the United States of America. Protest what Milo has to say all you like; that’s the American way. But to prevent him from speaking, and even to riot over the prospect that he would appear on campus and say words that you find offensive? That is a kind of fascism.

I think we all know that if right-wing student mobs at Ole Miss had prevented a Planned Parenthood activist from speaking there, in part by having riots in downtown Oxford, the media would treat it like a national crisis. And in a way, it would be. As much as I hate what Planned Parenthood stands for, activists for that cause ought to be permitted to come to a university campus and make their case in peace. That’s what a university is for.

And not only on campus, but a Planned Parenthood activist ought to be able to stand on any streetcorner in America and make their argument, as long as they don’t advocate violence. So should Milo Yiannopoulos. So should you. But if this precious First Amendment right is not safe on university campuses, where is it safe?

The First Amendment doesn’t have teeth when it comes to popular speech. It has teeth when it bites back against those who would silence unpopular speech. It is incredible that this lesson is lost on the students of Berkeley, given its Free Speech Movement history, but here we are.

Trump is threatening this morning to take federal funding away from UC Berkeley because of all this. He’s just blustering, I think, but I would not mind seeing legislation that would punish universities that don’t take a hard line to protect free speech on campus. If universities would start arresting and expelling from school students who attempt to no-platform speakers by disrupting their speeches or free access to their speeches, this would stop. The SJWs would learn that there are consequences to their behavior.

Among the many amazing things about stories like this is the idea that these SJWs think that behaving like this will win others to their cause. There is nothing more likely to help Donald Trump than scenes like last night’s Berkeley riot. 

Do parents really want to send their children to universities where freedom of speech is restricted by campus culture, including fear of mob action? There’s no way in hell I would want my kids to go to school at Berkeley. After the Christakis fracas at Yale, I decided that a university where two professors could be railroaded by an SJW mob supported by many faculty members is not one where I would want my adult children to study. Don’t get me wrong: I want my kids to have their opinions and convictions tested in college. But a university where angry mobs decide what can and cannot be said on campus has failed in a fundamental way, and deserves stigma.

UPDATE.2:Video of peaceful woman in Trump hat being pepper-sprayed by a Berkeley protestor.  Can anybody think of a time in American history where film and photographs of fanatical mobs  using violent tactics on non-violent protesters led to a national change of heart in which a majority of people got behind government efforts to suppress the mob and give the protesters what they were asking for?

UPDATE.3: Sam M.:

See the way it’s being covered? Here’s is Slate’s coverage from the night of the riot:


Is spends time complaining about Yiannopoulos’s book deal, the headline calls him a bigot and it characterizes the riot this way: “Some protesters broke windows, appeared to throw rocks at police, and lit firecrackers.”

That sound like an accurate version of the events you saw?

Today an article at Slate, discussing “the resistance,” is titled: “Americans are putting up a pretty good fight so far.” No mention of the riots.

Trump adds to this, no doubt. But make no mistake. What those rioters say they want is a world with no borders at all. Anything short of completely opening to all immigrants for any reason is equally racists. And they will not stand for racism.

At some point people will be forced to choose between these Antifa people or Trump. There will be no middle ground.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

leave a comment

Latest Articles