“The Free Speech Movement is dead.”
So said the Berkeley College Republicans after violence Wednesday night forced cancelation of a sold-out speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, the Greek-born British author, now a senior editor at Breitbart News. The reference, of course, is to the University of California’s history as a haven for free expression dating back to the 1960s.
Protests of the event gave way to
- people beaten up on the streets,
- rocks and bricks and Molotov cocktails hurled at police,
- a young woman with a “Make America Great Again” parody hat pepper-sprayed in the face,
- fires set, windows smashed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, along with
- an estimated $100,000 of property damage.
CNN dubbed the “inflammatory” Yiannopoulos a “professional provocateur.” He has also been labeled a racist, which he denies, and a homophobe, even though he’s gay. Pushing the envelope against political correctness, for his part, Milo calls “college campuses . . . cancerous and toxic to free expression.”
Regardless of label, Yiannopoulos’s right to speak and the right of others to listen are constitutionally protected. And violence to block a peacefully expressed point of view is never justified.
Asked about the tactics used, one unnamed young protestor** explained, “Although, you know, it could get violent or whatever, with the fire, that’s what caused Milo to leave. We succeeded.”
The young woman added, “And next is Trump.”
Either we defend civilization against speech-squelching violence, or inherit an ugly silence.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
*More arrests may be forthcoming. The Washington Post reported that, “University police rescued many people in the crowd who were being attacked, trapped or injured . . . and are collecting video to try to identify suspects.”
** The woman was part of the ominously-named group By Any Means Necessary.