One wonders what Jack Weinberg, Michael Rossman, Brian Turner, Bettina Aptheker, Steve Weissman, Art Goldberg, Jackie Goldberg, George Barton and Mario Savio fought so desperately for given the recent blockade of Ann Coulter’s speech at UC Berkeley.
Fifty-four years ago these brave, bold, idealistic boys and girls come men and women, formed a political alliance known as the Free Speech Movement (FSM) and in the academic year of 1964-65 they protested the university’s administration to lift a ban that forfeited their rights to political speech and political action protected by the First Amendment.
Fast-forward 54 years and we find the UC Berkeley administration in almost the reverse predicament, because this time it is the students protesting to shut down political speech, and to shut down protections of the First Amendment that the FSM fought so hard for years ago. Back then, it took the university only one month to back down from their anti-political free speech policy. This followed the infamous sit-in that was staged by the FSM in December of ‘64. At that time the administration would not allow political activism. After the sit-in, however, by January 2, 1965, Martin Meyerson, the chancellor of UC Berkeley had established provisional rules for political activity on campus and allowed students their first amendment rights. All these years later the wheel seems to turn a whole lot slower.
Back then the majority of the campus was on the side of free speech. They protested their rights under the First Amendment. The chancellor had populism on his side and this made his decision a whole lot easier. Nowadays, although the administration may not have the numbers in their favour, they must still make the right decision to enforce everyone’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
This isn’t a debate. This is a freedom all Americans enjoy, and at the end of the day this requires leadership. As General Douglas MacArthur said:
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to become a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”
We now look to the administration and expect that the equality of their actions represent not only the liberal students, but the conservative ones as well. Alas this isn’t so—Ann Coulter being the most recent victim of this scourge on our freedoms.
In months gone by the college conservatives have invited such speakers as Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, Baked Alaska, Lauren Southern and most recently, Ann Coulter, all of whom have faced the backlash of the commie-come-lately domestic terrorist group known as Antifa, some of whom are UC Berkeley students. Most of them are not. This group of thugs garnered international attention earlier this year when they flooded the streets of Berkeley and caused over $100,000 worth of damage to the campus and local business. They did this in protest against Milos’ speech, and they were allowed to protest (peacefully) because of their First Amendment rights. It’s ironic that the very thing that gives them the freedom to perform such activism is also the thing they’re protesting against—the irony is clearly lost on them.
Unfortunately Milo’s talk was canceled at the last minute because of the extent of damage caused throughout campus and the surrounding area. Antifa set a cart on fire, smashed the college campus windows and threatened to breach the building and cause injury or worse to anyone in the theatre, including Milo himself. Interestingly enough, the police stood down and allowed this fascism to continue unabated. But this isn’t a police officer issue. I have no doubt that the police themselves wanted to intervene and control the crowd and let Milo perform his speech. Instead the local politicians ignored Milo’s rights. They apparently considers their authority to be above the Constitution and the Supreme Court. He chose not to defend Milo’s right to free speech.
Even Bill Maher, a staunch liberal and democrat, recently stated that this was UC Berkeley’s version of book burning. Again, the irony that the group a supposedly anti-fascistic group like Antifa conduct such fascistic actions as blocking anyone with an opinion even slightly different from theirs, is proof that this is not an organization of inclusion and openness. They are formed on fascism and oppression. Antifa don’t believe in free speech, they believe in silencing their opposition. They believe in closed dialogue, they believe their ideas are superior to everyone else, and that any opinions that challenge theirs are so abhorrent they don’t deserve a platform. This is totalitarian fascism at its worst. This isn’t a new subject. This has been tested and proved in the Supreme Court through Brandenburg vs Ohio. It’s been tested and proved on the steps of UC Berkeley itself.
None of this scares us. We’ve fought their type before, and anytime they stop a speech, or smash a Starbucks or pepper-spray a conservative girl wearing a “Make Bitcoin Great Again” cap.
It won’t deter us. It simply steels our resolve because we believe in the basic premise that although
“I may not agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it!”