It’s been just over a week since a successful demonstration outside of UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom shut down Milo Yiannopoulos and the alt-right on February 1st. In the aftermath of the Berkeley College Republicans’ defeat, we’ve seen an increase of interest in radical anti-fascist politics taking hold throughout the campus. Students saw a stark contrast between the out of touch administration at UC Berkeley, which sought to protect Milo as he planned to out undocumented students, and the black bloc that helped shut the event down and kick far-Right scum off the streets. We think it is important to discuss what else has happened in the week following that demo because it is relevant to discussions about the role and efficacy of militant anti-fascism in the context of a growing far-Right movement that is itching to get off the internet and into the real world.
An Increasingly Toxic Group
On the morning of February 1st, the Berkeley College Republicans must have been feeling extra good about themselves. Confident that opponents would fail to significantly disrupt their event planned for later that evening and not content to let Milo have all the fun, members of BCR planned to troll protesters by giving plastic snowflakes to them outside the Pauley Ballroom. However, by all accounts it was BCR who really couldn’t take the heat that night. Although BCR paid several thousand dollars for event security, their event was shut down and their associates were sent packing. Guess you don’t always get what you pay for!
On February 2nd, not even twenty-four hours after the riotous actions of the night before, Jack Palkovic of BCR was confronted by two men and punched in the face as he was giving an interview to media. In video that captured the incident, one of the men yells out “fuck you, fascist!” as he waves Jack’s stolen MAGA hat in his hand. This isn’t the first time Jack’s politics have been accurately assessed, and it was at least the second time he’s been punched in the face because of it. That evening campus police were stationed outside in the hallway to protect BCR’s general meeting. University police have since offered to have a cop posted nearby when BCR is tabling and are currently working together with BCR on safety protocols.
Before February 1st, the students in BCR were able to infiltrate an anti-Milo meeting nearly undetected. Now they are so recognizable and hated that the community is punching them in the face on sight. Club leadership has begun advising members to put away their MAGA hats and attempt to be more conspicuous. As the student body and Bay Area community become increasingly aware of the connections BCR is making to fascist and white nationalist organizations, it’s getting harder and harder for BCR to operate and recruit without a bit of trouble coming their way.
For instance, the incompetent Republican group allowed the security of new members’ information to be compromised last week. Their new recruits are also getting called out now as a result. It’s still unclear exactly how this happened. The journalist that published the names and email addresses from BCR’s sign-up sheet claims that the Republicans left the sheet unattended at their Milo event while a fellow journalist was able to grab a photo and forward it. The students of BCR claim a man on a bicycle rode by their table and stole the list on February 2, taking a photo before the club could retrieve it. In any case, it’s clear that BCR is incapable of protecting themselves or those peripherally interested in the club’s politics, physically or digitally. This is the second time that members’ information was left open for the public to see, and no doubt the public is watching. New recruits beware!
Outcasts on Campus
The mainstream media has wasted no time weighing in on the protests that shut down BCR and Yiannopoulos, choosing to focus (of course) on free speech over white supremacy and fascism. The school administration and police department continue to assume that it’s impossible for Berkeley students to have shown up to a protest wearing black clothes. UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich took things a step further by peddling a conspiracy theory that claims the protestors in black were paid by Milo and Breitbart. But what really matters the most is what the students on campus are saying, and they’re saying a lot!
By Tuesday February 7 the UC Berkeley student newspaper, The Daily Californian, published several op-eds from students supporting the protest against BCR and Yiannopoulos. Under the heading “Violence as self-defense,” the op-eds from undergrads, grad students, and alumni understood the destruction of property as a justified use of force by the community. Students with similar views also had op-eds published in other local papers. This prompted UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks to respond, stating that he’s “horrified by the call to embrace the use of violence to contest views with which we may disagree.”
The Berkeley College Republicans have themselves made numerous media appearances over the past week. Still, BCR has been unable to influence popular opinion where it counts. On February 2nd, a Facebook page called “UCB Free Speech” was created. The page immediately set up an event for what it called “UC Berkeley Free Speech Rally 2/8/17” that was scheduled to happen in Sproul Plaza on February 8th. This was a desperate attempt to reach out to anyone on campus that “believes in free speech and is appalled at what happened last week.”
UCB Free Speech never took off, plateauing at around 25 likes. From the beginning, it was questioned relentlessly by fellow UC Berkeley students as being a front for the Republicans. Whether or not this claim is true (it most likely is), just the possibility that this page could be associated with BCR was enough to limit the amount of attention it got. The backlash was overwhelming. The Facebook page UCB Free Speech and it’s event “UC Berkeley Free Speech Rally 2/8/17” were both deleted on February 8th because virtually nobody was sincerely interested in them.
BCR’s Friends are Using Them
Yiannopoulos appeared on Fox News recently to discuss the events of February 1st, including Trump’s tweet about cutting federal funding to UC Berkeley as punishment for not protecting free speech. Milo agreed and defended this stance on the cuts, even going as far as to say that “all of this goes into liberal arts studies that don’t produce real jobs.” Well, maybe he should have warned Troy Worden, member of BCR and organizer of BCR’s Milo event. Troy studies English and Philosophy at UC Berkeley, two liberal arts studies that could be severely impacted if Milo is being honest and gets what he wants. At the same time that Milo is cashing in on his college tour and signing book deals, he proposes the destruction of his fan’s education and dismisses it as worthless.
Milo isn’t the only friend of BCR threatening their future, however. The Republicans at Berkeley have recently been getting cozy with Nathan Damigo and his organization Identity Evropa, which recruits college students into white supremacist “activism.” Damigo was spotted standing next to Troy Worden at BCR’s table at Sproul Plaza on January 20th and at some point that day Damigo interviewed Naweed Tahmas of BCR for neo-Nazi media outlet Red Ice TV. Nathan Damigo has already spent time in prison for being a violent racist, and a member of his organization was just revealed as a long-time Bay Area neo-Nazi once arrested for assault and possession of bomb-making materials.
Good luck getting jobs with company like this, BCR!
There are many lessons to draw from this for others wishing to stop the far-Right looking to do more than make memes. Anti-fascist activism is winning in the Bay Area. The fascist Berkeley College Republicans have been shut down and are consistently finding it hard to get support in the community.
On February 8th, Milo Yiannopoulos appeared on the Alex Jones radio show and mentioned plans to return. Yiannopoulos claims to be coming back to UC Berkeley a week after he gives a speech in Washington DC at the end of February. Some have suspected the date could be March 8, International Women’s Day. Activists should begin discussing now how they will respond when Milo comes back around, and how to take down BCR and stop their activities and relationships with neo-Nazi organizations.