As we previously reported, the violence that broke out at UC Berkeley this week in protest of a Milo Yiannopoulos’ sold out event on campus was very uncharacteristic of the school which prides itself on its reputation as the “home of free speech”. While most protesting the event were UC Berkeley students doing so peacefully, it was rumored that the few who instigated violence were not from campus but perhaps hired help from the Alt-Right to discredit those protesting non-violently and to cast doubt on just how tolerant the school really is. Not only did students and those on the ground express these sentiments, but at least one professor believes the same.
As Alexandra Rosenmann for Alternet writes:
In the wake of a University of California Berkeley protest that saw demonstrators burn campus lights and a sign for Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos in effigy, Donald Trump has threatened to cut federal funding from public colleges infringing on free speech.
But at least one Berkeley professor believes the so-called alt-right may have instigated the violence.
“I was there for part of last night and I know what I saw. Those people were not Berkeley students,” former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich told CNN’s Don Lemon, reiterating the statement issued by the university regarding the incident. “Those people were outsiders, agitators. I’ve never seen them before. There’s rumors that they actually were right-wingers. They were a part of a group that were organized and ready to create the kind of tumult and danger you saw that forced the police to cancel the event.”
Turning to Trump’s remarks, Reich highlighted Berkeley’s history as the “home of free speech.”
“Donald Trump, when he says Berkeley doesn’t respect free speech rights, that’s a complete distortion of the truth. I mean, Berkeley opened its biggest auditorium to this right-wing Breitbart News character, this hateful, odious person. They said, ‘Free speech is the most important thing we stand for,’ and it was these outsiders who caused the police to finally come in and have to cancel it,” Reich pointed out.
Unlike Trump, Berkeley has invited those with differing values to come to campus and express themselves. The fact that Trump is finger pointing at who is violating the first amendment is ironic coming from a man who places gag orders on scientists and federal agencies who are seeking to tell the public the truth. It is only too convenient that the president has the power to defund the school for seemingly lashing out against someone with similar views as his. Do you think he would do the same if violence erupted at a pro-life event on campus, or that for LGBT rights, or anti-Islamophobia? Probably not.
“You think it’s a strategy by Yiannopoulos, or right-wingers?” asked Lemon. “They put this on in an effort to show there’s no free speech on a college campus like UC Berkeley?”
“I wouldn’t bet against it, Don,” Reich told him. “Again, I saw these people. They all looked almost paramilitary. They were not from the campus. And I’ve heard — again, I don’t want to say factually, but I’ve heard there was some relationship here between these people and the right wing and the right-wing movement that is affiliated with Breitbart News.”
What are your thoughts about the violence that erupted at UC Berkeley? Do you think it was just a raw response to the presence of Yiannopoulos by angry students, or do you buy Riech’s theory that those who instigated violence were actually members of the Alt-Right working to discredit Berkeley’s longstanding reputation for being the “home of free speech”? Let us know what you think and discuss in the comments below.
Watch Reich’s exchange with Lemon below, and draw your own conclusion.
(Article By Tasha Sharifa)