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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Education & Student Activism | Racial Justice
Behind Every Fascist, A Liberal: Report From Students At UC Berkeley
The safety and dignity of marginalized folx is not guaranteed by the university and will not be given through negotiation; they will only be demanded and taken through collective direct action.
The so-called United States of America’s roots are planted firmly in white supremacy. Incepted through genocide of indigenous communities, enslavement of African people, and multigenerational exploitation of the poor and working class, academic institutions offer preferential treatment to people and groups that reinforce existing racial and economic hierarchy. UC Berkeley has become a case study that exemplifies that whiteness itself is the ultimate form of “affirmative action” on college campuses. The university has allocated disproportionate resources to students and events that put others at risk and promote white nationalism. The safety and dignity of marginalized folx is not guaranteed by the university and will not be given through negotiation; they will only be demanded and taken through collective direct action.
A self proclaimed sanctuary, Cal has become the front line of a right wing campaign to subvert the standard of permissible self expression. Evoking the falsehood of “free speech”, a concept that has never truly protected meaningful dissent, a small number of right-wing students have put the community at large in danger. They have repeatedly invited inflammatory speakers, catalyzing a series of events which have targeted communities of color, as well as trans/queer communities, and empowered overly militarized police.
The Berkeley College Republicans, a student group desperately scrambling to rebrand themselves in the wake of antifascist Heather Heyer’s murder in Charlottesville, claim to have hosted Milo Yiannopoulos in February in order to “broaden discourse” on campus. Milo’s intention to expose undocumented students and humiliate trans students was explicit and well known, and they hosted him nonetheless. Undocumented and trans folx survive each day despite being targeted openly by a racist and patriarchal federal government. In response to this heightened threat, the Bay Area pushed back with a militant display of solidarity that was as much about shutting Milo down as it was about keeping our communities safe from further structural harm.
Berkeley College Republicans’ Troy Worden poses with violent white nationalist Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman
Milo’s words may not have the power to harm people on their own, but they stoke the coals of bigotry that manifest into both laws and white supremacist vigilante terror. Instead of leveraging their power to create solutions that keep people targeted by such rhetoric safe, local government, police, and the school’s administration seized the opportunity to clamp down on resistance- targeting anarchists and other autonomous demonstrators who cast aside respectability politics. Enforcing unreasonable bans and snatching anyone who falls into their reductionist understanding of what is now being labeled as “antifa,” the collusion between the state and the Alt-Right has cleared a path for dangerously out of touch white nationalists like Kyle Chapman to perpetuate delusional myths of white genocide to justify racist attacks and harassment.
The twisted irony of the right wing co-optation of “free speech” is that it is costing UC Berkeley millions, funds which come from the very students and community members that are put at risk when these events are allowed to take place. As the UC system files a symbolic lawsuit they claim is meant to support Dreamers, Berkeley College Republicans harass tables that offer support to DACA students, filming and photographing students they perceive as undocumented. Meanwhile, the school has dissolved two head coordinator positions for the Bridges student group, an organization that helps enroll, support and retain students of color. One of the best funded public universities in the country, UC Berkeley can’t seem to afford to staff such on campus resources. Nor does it fund spaces for queer student groups, but it was ready to shell out almost a million dollars to provide security for an event explicitly designed to undermine feminism and diversity.
The attempt of an autonomous group of students unaffiliated with campus organizations to occupy Wheeler Hall on Monday was a way to reclaim our agency and our education. Understanding that the university will never be able to grant our demand for liberation, we sought to facilitate a space that was free of fascism in all its forms; from swastika wielding neo-Nazis to the legitimized fascist gang known as the Berkeley Police who protect them, as well as the toxic academics whose eurocentric ideas exclude the rich and diverse histories of nonwhite and non cismale people.
Leading up to the crash and burn disaster that Free Speech Week became, the same right-wing students who claim that these events are about “inclusivity” were seen chalking racist statements onto the ground and hanging sexist posters on campus, baiting students in order to film and doxx them. Occupying space is our way to reclaim our community on campus and it gives us the freedom to express solidarity with other antifascists like Scout Schultz, who was murdered by campus police in Georgia. The power of the university hinges on our participation, though we have been taught to conform in such a way that forfeits the leverage we have in the interest of the capitalist state. The university is always in crisis, budget or otherwise. Crises are a consequence of capitalism, which as individuals we have no part in creating. With such an emphasis on individualistic success, it’s easy to forget the depth of resources and knowledge available to us from our communities. We believe in an education that blurs the line between the university and the community in which it resides, and in using the resources available to us to create the kind of world we wish to see.
Although the occupation failed, (the day’s narrative almost immediately hijacked by socialist groups that claimed to support the students while refusing to allow us to speak with our identities concealed), we believe that disruption is a necessary mechanism by which we can halt the daily routine of indoctrination. We will meet the militarized policing of the campus and our communities with our own collective militancy and mutual aid. If they’re expecting a black bloc, we will work to remain unpredictable and use whatever innovative tactics we see as necessary.
The Berkeley College Republicans, Berkeley Patriot and Young Americans Foundation have the material advantage of the elite they will one day replace. Protesting their events does not infringe on their rights regardless of the ways in which they are shut down since the events that they organize are designed to uphold the existing hierarchy. To our insurrectionary comrades, some lessons we learned are to establish trust and strong bonds before undertaking an action, guard the action from groups and individuals who don’t respect autonomy, and move fast and without hesitation. Whether an action is successful or incomplete, it can strengthen skills, capacity and the formation of friendships needed for the long fight ahead. As anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist and autonomous individuals, we are all we got, and we will continue to fight the fascist creep in all its forms, on and off campus, through protest, disruption and community support and self defense.
Students at UC Berkeley drop a banner in solidarity with Scout Schultz. Cops off Campus!