On Wed. Feb. 1, alt-right columnist Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley (UCB), but his speech was canceled. Many protested the ideas he spreads, and the university reported that “150 masked agitators,” initiated violence. Administration reacted by issuing a lockdown for buildings on campus. All of the following are the anecdotes and opinions of TOHS alumni, who are currently attending UCB and were on campus last night.
I would like to say that from personal observation, Berkeley students were not the ones instigating the violence and were peacefully protesting. It is unfair that the media and our president are placing blame on the school. My opinion is that this was a protest that was expected to happen and maybe even prompted to happen by the very people it was against, and I hope that the message of acceptance and rejecting hatred and racism is not lost in the media portrayals of the protest.
— Roya Safaeinili, TOHS class of 2016
History has a way of grouping the violent extremists with the majority body. This can be seen consistently, from Executive Order 9066, to the widespread islamophobia in the US, to the incidents of yesterday. A good majority of UC Berkeley students are liberally-leaning, yes, but we do not condone violence. Of the people I spoke to, some who did attend the protest, and some who didn’t, I seemed to have heard the same theme. We do not condone violence. Many students did attend the protest, but left as soon as violence broke out.
Cal is the birthplace of Free Speech. Contrary to what many have been saying, Free Speech is not dead on campus. Many students were, while opposed to the messages he spread, willing to hear what Milo had to say.
Those who committed violence on campus grounds are likely not students, but the rather outspoken groups who often flyer in Upper Sproul Plaza, yet the blame falls upon the students due to media portrayal of us as “violent thugs” and “criminals”
A decent amount of us also got texts from family and friends at home, asking if we’re safe, away from the danger, etc. A lot of students replied “yeah, just working on homework.” (Because not even riots will stop us from studying)
But the point being is blame the violence on those who committed the acts, not on the students who did not.
I, personally, felt less frightened by the violence happening on campus than the media portrayal of the student body as a whole.
The majority of the student body were shocked and disappointed by this happening on our campus, and some tried to speak to media present during the event to convey that we do not condone violence, we do not support violence, students simply came to have their voices heard, not to cause damage to people or property. Yet some of these students seemed to be cut off mid sentence, which brings to question the validity of the media’s portrayal of us as violent rioters, not the peaceful protesters a number of students are.
— Kristin Yamane, TOHS class of 2016
The media is saying that the “leftist college students” started rioting, but that’s not true. Anarchists from Oakland SF, the bay came to campus and used this protest as motivation to riot and destroy things. The students of the Cal wouldn’t destroy their own school because ultimately we will have to end up paying for it.
The right always says how the left portrays “fake news.” It is ironic considering Fox gave us “facts” that were no true. They, like other media sources, try to force their political agendas down our throats, even if it’s false. After being around multiple situations that were broadcasted on the news, it annoys me how much they alter the facts just for more views
Also, if I’m not mistakes, the Berkeley College Republicans invited Milo to Berkeley to have this talk. The group and Milo knew protests and anger would ensue, but allowed it happen to invoke a reaction. It’s like a person allowing a drunk person to actually drive. They weren’t the cause of what happened, but they could have easily prevented it.
— Anonymous freshman at UCB, TOHS class of 2016
I was there for parts, but as a student I want to get across that the students had very little if any involvement in the violence during the protest. These were other nonstudent groups that set the fires etc. And as far as free speech, any day you can walk down Sproul and see all different types of groups (republican, democrat, communist socialist, libertarian, etc.) speaking their minds with no restrictions.
— Drake Shafer , TOHS class of 2016
There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said. Cheering and chanting and yelling and music coming from all sides, fire, vandalism, cracked glass, officers both inside and outside the Student Union. My friends and I all grouped up, made sure that people got home safe and that everyone was with someone on the walk back, in fear that things would escalate further. During that period of time before I left, two things stuck out to me.
On the street next to the campus, there were people walking in the streets, breaking glass, vandalizing walls, and attacking people. There were open fires in trash cans that were eventually stamped out, and people telling others to take off their contact lenses in fear of tear gas. Less than a block away—it must have been less than 500 feet—there were students casually getting boba and dinner at restaurants. It was really surprising that people seemed so disengaged from the violence and chaos that was just one street away.
The second thing was how most people reacted to the event as it escalated. The response of the students was overwhelmingly not of violence or even engagement. Some people looked from a distance or stayed back in the crowd, faces turning every which way out of curiosity, grabbing onto their friends. But many students were making sure that people were safe, that people were getting home. It seemed at the time like the media covering the event were accusing UC Berkeley and its student body of instigating these violent actions, but the story being told by students that stayed through the protest and its escalation was one of condemnation for the violence that was perpetrated by groups unaffiliated with campus, attacks that unjustly endangered students.
I think it’s important to realize that there is a difference between incendiary violence and peaceful protest. Regardless of people’s opinions on either of those actions, it was unjust that people decided to bring violence onto campus and endanger the lives of nonviolent protesters and students, and I hope that people continue to choose nonviolent ways to express their opinions and beliefs rather than instigating chaos and endangering lives.
— Louis Lee, TOHS class of 2016