Milo Yiannopolous Protest hijacked by ‘150 masked agitators’

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Sproul Steps

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Sproul Steps

On February 1, controversial alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopolous’ final stop of his book tour, at University of California, Berkeley (UCB), was cancelled due to violent protests.

Protestors gathered on Sproul Plaza at 5pm, outside the MLK Student Union building where Yiannopolous was due to speak at 8pm. A resistance dance party were playing live music, there were peaceful student protestors and onlookers, as well as anti-fascist protestors dressed in Black Bloc attire.

By 6pm the Black Bloc protestors began throwing rocks and firecrackers at the building, as well as tearing down barricades, in an attempt to prevent Yiannopolous from speaking.

At 6.15pm the UCB Twitter feed announced that Yiannopolous’ event was cancelled. They later released a statement confirming the UCPD cancelled the event for safety reasons.

Berkeley College Republicans, who had invited Yiannopolous to speak, posted this statement via their Facebook page, “Today, the Berkeley College Republicans’ constitutional right to free speech was silenced by criminals and thugs seeking to cancel Milo Yiannopoulos’ tour…It is tragic that the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement is also its final resting place.”

Despite the cancellation, the crowds did not disperse and the police fired rubber bullets from the balcony above and issued multiple dispersal orders.

The Black Bloc protestors proceeded to knock over a flood light outside the building and lit it on fire, this caught onto a nearby tree. The windows of the Amazon Student store were also smashed and covered in paint.

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Smashed windows at the Amazon store.

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Smashed windows at the Amazon store.

 The University have since released a statement that night blaming the violence on “150 masked agitators”.

“Agitators also attacked some members of the crowd who were rescued by police. UCPD reported no major injuries and about a half dozen minor injuries. Mutual aid officers from the city of Oakland and from Alameda County arrived at Berkeley around 7:45 p.m. to assist UCPD and Berkeley city police”, the statement said.

According to Patrick, a Junior, UCB medical students came to Sproul with medical gear to assist their fellow students.

Joe, a UCB J-School Grad student, saw multiple people being attacked by the Black Bloc protestors.

“The Protestors seemed to have no want for a peaceful protest. On four different occasions I picked people up off the ground and deterred violent aggressions. I even helped a young woman who was maced”, he said.

Many have criticised the protestors for shutting down the event, particularly in light of Berkeley’s long history with free speech.

Lisa, a UCB student, was holding a sign ‘UCB the home of Free Speech since 1964’. “I strongly oppose this talk that’s going on, its spreading racist propaganda”, she said.

When asked why she was holding that particular sign and did she believe the right of free speech applied to Milo she said, “not when its spreading hateful ideology and perpetuating violence”.

Ben, a 21-year-old UCB student, had purchased tickets to see Yiannopoulos. Watching the protest unfold, he explained, “He has a different viewpoint to what you normally see at Berkeley and I wanted to hear what he had to say. By reacting this way, the protestors are just giving him a platform on mainstream news”.

“Hypocrisy! That’s all I have to say”, Ben’s friend chimed in. “They all preach free speech and tolerance but look at this”, he continued.

When asked if he would pay to see Milo come back to Berkeley again, Ben said he would.

On January 26, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks released a statement supporting the decision to allow Yiannopolous  to speak on campus.

“While UC Berkeley does not endorse Yiannopoulos’ controversial views or tactics, the campus would continue to uphold the values of the Free Speech Movement by sanctioning Yiannopoulos’ presence and protecting his freedom of expression”, he said.

But this decision attracted vast controversy and condemnation, with 12 Faculty members writing a letter to Dirks requesting Yiannopolous’ invitation be rescinded.

The crowds on Sproul had calmed considerably by 7pm, but the atmosphere was still tense. After the crowd did not heed the dispersal orders, police in riot gear approached the northern entrance of Sproul at Sather Gate at 7.45pm.

Protestors then began marching out of campus, down Telegraph Ave and into Berkeley. Along the route they smashed ATMs outside the Bank of America, lit fires in waste bins and littered the streets.

Shallom said she was not proud to be a Berkeley student today, “Protestors haven’t acted with the love and acceptance that we preach. This isn’t the right way to react, violence wont defeat violence”.

The protestors were soon blocking the roads. At the Durant and Telegraph intersection, a white BMW tried to drive through crowd, but as it came out the other side someone was clinging onto the hood. Rather than stopping it continued at speed up Durant Ave.

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Durant and Telegraph intersection

Photo: Lizzie Roberts. Durant and Telegraph intersection

The march split in two at this point, with some chasing the car up Durant and others heading towards Shattuck – the main shopping thoroughfare in Berkeley. Those who proceeded to Shattuck smashed windows, set flares off inside a bank and looted a Starbucks.

Around 200-300 protestors continued North towards University Ave and back onto campus, but were met by a line of police in riot gear, a line blocking the south entrance to Sproul was also formed. With their way obstructed the protestors turned back and eventually began to disperse. The protest ended by 10.30pm.

President Trump tweeted the following day threatening to withhold federal funds from UC Berkeley for failing to practice free speech.

Yet, the co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, Gary Orfield, has stated that the executive branch does not have the authority to do so. President Trump can withhold federal funding from public institutions if they violate civil rights – as Obama threatened in May 2016 over transgender student rights – but this rule does not apply to free speech.

“This was necessary”, UCB student Riley told me, “Hate speech is not the same as free speech, this wouldn’t have happened if they had just shut him down in the first place.”

“From day one of Trump’s inauguration people have marched and protested like this. It’s going to remain tense over the next four years, but we need things like this, we need to continue struggling for what we believe in”, Patrick added.

 

** Some names have been changed at individuals requests to protect identities. **

 

Advertisements

Two weeks in Trump’s America

img_2062

Pier 39 – San Francisco

Dario, a native Brazilian, was the first person I met when I landed in the United States two weeks ago. “I have been learning English for 1 month and been living in America for 4 months” he told me, as he drove me from SFO airport, through Oakland and up to Berkeley, where I will be studying for the next 6 months. We exchanged some broken English and I learnt about his 15-year-old son who recently enrolled in High School.

The second friendly face I met was my house mate, Manisha, Indian born, she emigrated with her family here 20 years ago. After graduating a year early from college she is now working hard at a San Francisco start-up. I often hear her on the phone to her parents switching between English and her native language with ease.

Ali, a local coffee shop owner, welcomed me with a beaming smile and a handshake when I bought a coffee before my first class on the following Monday. “I don’t know what is happening with Mr Trump, it’s concerning” he said, as he asked me about my studies, Brexit and told me I was always welcome in his café.

In the introduction meetings for other visiting student researchers I met people from all over the globe, Iran, Turkey, Germany, the Philippines and the Netherlands – to name just a few. We conversed in speculation about what Trump will do in his presidency, but felt assured that as we had arrived before the inauguration, we had lucked out.

I watched the inauguration on my first Friday in the US, I winced at Trump’s hypocritical message and wondered how long it took his speech writer to plagiarise lines from Avatar, Bane and Bee Movie. But I still held onto some level of optimism that he wouldn’t be able to do anything that disastrous – at least not right away.

I had always planned on attending the San Francisco Women’s March on the Saturday. Not necessarily to join in with the chants and voice my grievances, but I could tell it was going to be historic and I wanted to be a part of it.

The 15-minute queue just to get out of the Bart station confirmed my suspicions and by 5.30pm I was marching down the road, in the pouring rain, with 100,000 women, men and children. The various signs demonstrated the diverse reasons why people were there; reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, immigrants’ rights.

Women's march San Francisco 21/1/2017

Women’s march San Francisco 21/1/2017

With over 2 million people marching in the US alone, I don’t think anyone went to sleep that night without feeling emboldened that there was a strong force against what Trump stood for and planned to initiate.

Yet, that feeling of optimism and unity took a knock the following Monday, when Trump signed an executive order to block federal funds being used to “provide or promote abortions”.

The five days following that first executive order have been tumultuous. Protests have taken place nearly every day, particularly in neighbouring Oakland, and everyone you speak to has no idea what’s coming next.

When the news broke on Friday that Trump’s latest executive order, banning all refugees for 120 days and immigrants from 7 Muslim majority countries for 90 days, had come into effect my mind immediately turned to the people I met when I first arrived.

Though they are all citizens, Trumps actions are surely enough to make any non-Anglo-Saxon feel unwelcome or uneasy.

America is a nation of immigrants and the often used term “melting pot” couldn’t be more accurate. According to Pew research, today 14% of Americans are foreign born, compared to 5% in 1965, in the last 50 years 59 million immigrants have arrived here and by 2055 the US will not have a single racial or ethnic majority.

When you’re in a country surrounded by people from all ethnicities, nationalities and creeds, it boggles the mind to see what Trump is doing. Despite his election win suggesting the majority of Americans would agree on his immigration stance, 57% say “having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes the United States a better place to live”.

On Saturday I received an emergency email from UC Berkeley’s International Office. “For the near future, Berkeley International Office recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of the new administration’s policies on visas and U.S. entry.” Signalling this could only be the beginning of what’s to come.

Over drinks with some fellow international students we discussed the email and what the next six months could have instore for us as visiting immigrants. One student from Turkey said, “At least he’s honest. At least we know what his game is.”

As a journalism student I can’t help but feel a pang of excitement for what I am witnessing and the opportunities before me. But as a human being, I am also scared and anxious for those who have already begun to feel the effects Trump’s Presidency.

What even is the EU?

europe-253311

When 23rd June finally rolls around we will all be ten times as bored of hearing the words EU and Brexit, as we are now. But the problem which has already become starkly apparent, and I am sure will not be resolved by that date, is that it appears the majority of the UK hasn’t got a clue what the European Union really is – and as a result whether or not to vote to leave or remain.

Many of us may have read an opinion piece, listened to a news headline, watched a 3 minute viral video, had a Facebook debate or even none or all of the above – but has any of this really made us the wiser? From topical debate shows, to news broadcasts and general chat to friends and work colleagues, it’s clear the referendum is being dropped from a heavy height on the public, with little or no independent facts being provided.

As a history and politics graduate, I’m not ashamed to say I don’t know the full facts or functions of the EU, so how does the Government expect the entire British public to be clued up on the inner workings of this multi-national organisation?

Mystified by the media

The media is churning out all kinds of think pieces from independent experts and political analysts, but it seems there is an obvious gap in their reporting. I have seen little to no basic, uniform and unbiased media explaining in layman’s terms what the EU actually is and what is does – rather than the endless pro and against lists.

This article isn’t here to tell you how to vote, because that’s not what the discourse around the debate should be. No one should be telling others how to vote, rather we must all be helping each other make informed and accurate decisions. Yet so far, both the leave and stay campaigns (which encompass all sides of the political spectrum) have done nothing except add to the already muddied confusion of Britain’s relationship with the EU.

Despite the Government’s recent attempt to educate the public with a leaflet stating why we should remain, this has faced further backlash. The leaflets cost the tax payer £9million to produce which has angered many, and not just those on the out campaign. But wouldn’t we all be just as angry if they produced nothing, and instead left the debate to the vast array of pro and against groups which have sprung up in the last year?

Clearly there is no logical answer on how a country should stage and execute a referendum of such high importance. But one thing is clear, there needed to be more independent information on what this multi-national institution even is, before the public is supposed to vote on our future within it.

What is the EU?

Essentially the EU is group of states across the European continent who combined together to ensure economic prosperity, security and peace. The concept began after WWII in an effort to prevent further wars, and in 1957 the European Economic Community (EEC) was created which became the foundation for the EU today.

The UK joined in 1973 under conservative PM Edward Heath and today the Union has 28 member states with a total population of over 500 million.

The point of this collective of countries is to create economic co-operation – which means that countries which trade together, stay together (or at least are less likely to go to war with one another).

The other main principle of the EU is that it is a single market, which entails goods and people are able to freely move around the member states, as if we were one country – similar to the UK with England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for example.

Each member country contributes different amounts every year to be part of the EU, in 2015 the budget was 145bn euros. Germany contributed 21.36% of this and the UK 12.57%, approximately £8.5bn. It has been estimated the cost of being part of the EU is just £260 per house hold, per annum.

How does it work?

Like a country the EU has a number of institutions which keep it running, the four main ones are:

The European Commission:  Similar to the UK civil service, the Commission makes the whole EU tick. It is headed by 28 Commissioners, one from each country, who propose and enforce laws, set objectives and priorities for action, manage policies and the EU budget, as well as representing the EU outside of Europe.

The European Parliament: The parliament is directly-elected by EU voters every 5 years, we last voted in 2014. Similarly to the Commission, the 751 MEPs have legislative, supervisory and budgetary responsibilities. Effectively, it is the Westminster of Europe, you can see a full break down of what it does here.

The European Council: This is where governments of the member countries have their say and define the general political direction and the goals of the EU. Heads of state meet at the council to make deals, compromises and hold summits, for example this is where Cameron made his deal about the UK’s new relationship with the EU.

The Court of JusticeThe court essentially ensures everyone sticks to the rules and follows laws set out by the EU, particularly that they are interpreted and applied the same way in every country. It also settles any arguments and legal disputes between governments and EU institutions.

How does it affect you?

The EU has an influence on all kinds of issues which affect the UK as a whole, as well as us as individuals, here are just a few aspects the EU has influenced in the UK.

Jobs: The EU has ensured as workers we have universal rights in the UK. From fair and equal pay, to the right not be discriminated against, to fair working hours, rights for working parents, the right to paid holidays and a regular lunch break. Moreover, it has been estimated that as many as 3 million British jobs are linked to the EU, due to our exports.

Economy: The EU is the UK’s single biggest export market, where around half of the goods produced in the UK are sent. This means being part of the EU helps our economy to grow here at home, making the UK better off financially. If we were to leave the Union these export deals would have to be renegotiated, which could potentially result in damage to our economy.

Environment: One of the most significant aspects of EU legislation in recent decades has been their influence on the environment, the EU has the strongest wildlife protection policies in the world and has enhanced animal welfare in food production. Moreover, as part of the EU UK companies must conform to certain regulations regarding pollution and waste management, which benefits the environment.

Consumer protection: The EU Charter for Fundamental Rights ensures all shoppers receive fair treatment as buyers, their products meet acceptable standards and we have the right to return items if something goes wrong.

Food labeling: The EU has also been instrumental in ensuring that food producers correctly label their products. This relates allergy information, nutritional information, as well as origin information of where food is produced.

This article didn’t set out to tell you how to vote, but simply to remind you that we all have an important decision to make. Ensure you’re going to the polls as an informed citizen on June 23rd, not having been swayed by Nigel Farage’s “the immigrants are coming” sound bites, or David Cameron’s power trip speeches. It must be a decision you have reached on your own accord, don’t let a few make a decision for the many.

For more comprehensive articles detailing what the EU has done for the UK and how it affects us please look here, here and here