Berkeley, Calif., Mayor Jesse Arreguin is requesting UC Berkeley cancel campus conservatives’ Free Speech Week next month because he’s afraid the event, which is organized by conservative students to be a peaceful event, will turn violent.
Even though the long-waited condemnation of ANTIFA is finally coming from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the mayor feels it’s more important to suppress the voice of conservatives rather than address the ongoing violence coming from the extreme left.
“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” said Arreguin. “I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem.”
The New York Post reports in fairness, the city has faced months of problems — with some out-of-the-area right-wingers also coming in to mix it up with the ANTIFA thugs. But ANTIFA is now raging even when there’s no organized opposition, managing this past weekend to destroy a peaceful Rally Against Hate hoards of masked ANTIFA activists were seen jumping the barriers at the largely peaceful demonstration in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Civic Center Park Sunday.
ANTIFA, whose tactics include: pepper spraying unsuspecting people, throwing rocks, batteries, feces, and urine, began attacking Trump supporters at the rally.
“I think we should classify them as a gang,” Arreguin tells CBS News. “They come dressed in uniforms. They have weapons, almost like a militia, and I think we need to think about that in terms of our law enforcement approach.”
However, even though he’s quick to say the group should be classified as a gang, his law-enforcement approach seems to be one more of appeasement to their hate narrative than strong condemnation of the group’s despicable tactics.
In a nutshell, the mayor seems to acquiesce extremists’ inclination to harm the public is more important than lawfully protecting those afforded free speech under the Constitution.
Arreguin tells CBS News that while he does not support the far right, it’s time to draw the line on the left as well, especially on the black-clad activists who recently showed up in force and took over protests and the park, and played a part in Sunday’s violent clashes.
“I think we are going to have to think ‘big picture’ about what is the strategy for how we are going to deal with these violent elements on the left as well,” the mayor said.
On Monday, protest organizers defended ANTIFA’s presence.
“White supremacists and fascists are not welcome. And if the state is not going to protect us — and if they do not — then we are going to protect ourselves and welcome those who stand with us,” Sara Kershner with the National Lawyers Guild tells CBS News.
CBS News reports its crews observed most of the conservative demonstrators in the park were Trump supporters who repeatedly denounced Nazis and racists.
And while it didn’t look good, the mayor also praised Berkeley police for holding back and ceding the park to the anarchists when the group jumped the barriers.
“Black Bloc was trying to provoke the police,” said Arreguin. “I think some of the more conservative protesters had already left or had been escorted out.”
However, video of the violence appears to show the conservative protestors didn’t leave…they were violently chased out…just like police.
“It’s unacceptable,” the mayor told CBS News. “Anyone who was injured — it’s completely unacceptable and we are going to be looking at video and identifying people.”
With ANTIFA allowed to enter events clad in masks, hoods and disguises, it’s unclear how Arreguin’s administration is going to identify these criminals.
Berkeley’s Free Speech Week is expected to host right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopolous, and perhaps Ann Coulter, Steve Bannon and conservative Ben Shapiro.
The Post reports it was Yiannopolous’ last effort to speak at Berkeley that inspired ANTIFA to do $100,000 in property damage and injure two College Republicans — which canceled the February event. The prospect of more assaults then prompted the cancellation for Coulter’s and Shapiro’s speeches.
The mayor tells CBS News he wants the September event canceled, but says if the even goes on, the university needs to work close with the city.
“I believe that is the right thing to do,” said Arreguin. “And if they don’t do that, then they need to work with the city and potentially assist the city through resources to be able to adequately police what we know is going to be a large protest that will spill out onto the city streets.”
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