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Feb 2, 17

Community Defense In The Age of Trump: Berkeley Shuts Down Milo

Last night, thousands descended on the University of California’s Berkeley campus to shutdown a talk by Breitbart editor and world renowned bigot Milo Yiannopoulos.  students sent a clear message by shutting down Milo’s talk: their campus will not provide a platform for racists.

Predictably, the mainstream media continues to perpetuate a narrative in which those resisting fascism are just as bad—if not worse—than the fascists themselves. It’s the same conversation we heard around the Trump campaign event shutdowns last winter: A definition of violence that considers broken windows to be more offensive than giving space at respected educational institutions to a person spewing hate speech that encourages violence towards marginalized communities. The people crying over Milo’s right to free speech being impinged in Berkeley are the same people that tried to get leftist educators like George Ciccariello-Maher, Norman Finkelstein, and Ward Churchill fired and also the same people pushing to defund and even outlaw Ethnic Studies programs. Theirs is anything but an argument over free speech.

Trump has already begun threatening retaliation over last night’s events, including cutting federal funding to UC Berkeley. This idea is especially absurd coming as it does on the heels of the US military’s murder of 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Nawar’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed by a drone strike authorized by the Obama administration in 2011 because they didn’t like how he was using his right to free speech. Anwar’s death and the subsequent death of his two children make abundantly clear that the problem is merely where one’s “hate speech” is directed. If you’re a muslim threatening white people in the United States with violence, you may find yourself on the kill list; if you’re an educator promoting leftist ideals in the classroom, you may find yourself fired; but, if you’re a white person advocating for violence against muslims, the trans community, or people of color, you may find yourself speaking at universities with a book deal from Simon & Schuster.

People have talked a lot about the normalization of bigotry these last few weeks. We must counter any tolerance for white supremacist ideologies by normalizing a militant response: if you try to come to our communities openly advocating harm to us, our neighbors, family, friends or others in our community, then you will be driven out. The broken windows in Berkeley were an act of self-defense. More than that, the shattered glass and canceled speech sends a clear message of solidarity to those targeted by Milo’s bigotry. We will not sit idly by as you are dehumanized and targeted. Above all, we will not tolerate white supremacy in our communities.

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