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Sep 26, 17

Violent Assaults & Harassment Follow #FreeSpeechWeek

By Saturday afternoon, September 23rd, most reporters in town covering Milo’s failed “Free Speech Week” had gone off to their hotel rooms to write their witty Op-Eds or dig through their social media feeds, searching for that last good RT. Almost all would go on to declare Free Speech Week to be a total failure, on account of the small amount of pro-Trump and Alt-Lite fans that came out to support Milo, and the fact that the series of events he planned as an “interactive” alternative to CPAC never materialized. Furthermore, former Milo fellow travelers such as Lucian Wintrich came forward to break the story of the event’s demise, telling UC Berkeley officials and journalists alike that three days before Yiannopoulos officially announced to the world that the event was cancelled, his company MILO Inc. had already decided internally that the show would not go on. Say it ain’t so, darling.

Furthermore, according to Wintrich, Milo himself knew that Free Speech Week was not going to happen – even before that. In a Periscope video between Lucian and Ali Akbar, Wintrich stated, “He lost a lot of friends…he expected us to lie. He knew two weeks before hand…Berkeley didn’t fuck up this time…I think they were shady…but if you read all the emails…He lied to everybody.” To which Akbar replied that Saturday’s events won’t help Milo’s comeback, which so far “hasn’t happened yet.”

But for many people in Berkeley and across the bay area, the main issue of Free Speech Week was not Yiannopoulos or his own person antics, which amounted to a 15 minute selfie fest and autograph session on Sproul Plaza surrounded by riot police and barricades, culminating in the singing of the national anthem and a prayer for the counter protesters. No, for many people in Berkeley the real apprehension and of course totally unreported in the media, was Milo supporters: the Alt-Right trolls and fellow travelers, many of whom more open to fascist and white nationalist ideas and politics, that sought to use his event as both a recruiting ground and as a opportunity to fight antifascists – and anyone else that got in the way.

White Nationalists and Members of the Alt-Right Show Up for Free Speech Week

After the events in Charlottesville, the Alt-Lite, or so-called “New Right,” attempted to distance itself from the Alt-Right, a movement that Milo in part helped make popular and at times, defended. Despite this, in Berkeley for Free Speech Week we still saw a collection of racist far-Right trolls, members of the Alt-Right, white nationalists, and even people who attended the neo-Nazi Unite the Right demonstration. Furthermore, an international member of white nationalist royalty, Martin Sellner, the leader of the group, Generation Identity, was also on hand with girlfriend, Brittany Pettibone, a south bay native. Pettibone writes for Richard Spencer’s website, and along with Sellner and Alt-Lite social media celebrity Lauren Southern, took part in the “Defend Europe” campaign to block refugees from coming into European countries in the Mediterranean sea.

Sellner was also embraced with open arms by his friend Troy Worden, President of the Berkeley College Republicans, who has likewise attempted to claim that they are not associated with the Alt-Right. Worden has written glowingly of the white nationalist movement in Europe, claiming that it uses identity politics to further fascist causes that in the US are bogged down by neo-Nazi imagery and rhetoric. Also telling is that this essay was published in The Liberty Conservative, an Alt-Right publication which has supported fascist and Unite the Right speaker, Augustus Invictus.

In attendance at various Berkeley events were members of the racist and Alt-Right livestreaming outfit, The Red Elephants. In late August, the group after leaving Berkeley recorded a video of themselves discussing the need to form militias and kill antifascist protesters, in the face of mass opposition. Members of The Red Elephants also said that they felt sympathy for the murderer of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, and stated that if the Alt-Right could not rally without facing mass opposition, it would need to switch to political terrorism. On Saturday, members of TRE attempted to livestream at various events but were rebuffed by antifascist security. Then on Sunday, the group was confronted by Trump supporters who accused them of being anti-Semites and white supremacists, showing that even among the Right, some are not open to outright fascism and white supremacy.

An actual Unite the Right attendee that was on the streets of Berkeley for Free Speech Week was Antonio Foreman, who has worked as a body guard for Baked Alaska, a speaker at Unite the Right. Also out in Berkeley were Alt-Right and Alt-Lite figures such as Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, Joey Gibson and Patriot Prayer, and various members of the Proud Boys, a violent Alt-Right organization that allows members to grow in rank by attacking antifascists.

In writing this article, It’s Going Down talked to various local antifascists in Berkeley who stated that many of the people within the far-Right and the Alt-Right who are currently in town have intended to stay for the entire week. But with Milo’s event in shambles, they are now looking for something else to do.

Targeted Violence, Harassment, and Vandalism

Hardly anyone in the media, much less “progressive” or even Left journalists have picked up on the fact that white nationalists and members of the Alt-Right are in town for Milo’s failed event. But moreover, few have discussed the campaign of harassment, violence, and vandalism that has unfolded in both the run up to the event, and after.

“Build a wall. Deport them all!” Racist chalk messages greet Berkeley students.

Soon after Free Speech Week was called, people associated with MILO Inc. and The Berkeley Patriot, a front for the Berkeley College Republicans, began to cover the campus in posters that read “Feminists: Stop Being Fat and Let Milo Speak,” “Everyone is Laughing at You Antifa Fags,” “Antifa Are Gay,” and posters claiming that various students were connected to Islamic terrorism. Chalk messages were left around campus calling for the deportation of undocumented students and several students were singled out for online harassment.

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This aged well. Antifascists drew over 300 in a march through #Berkeley today while Alt-Right trolls watched as Milo went on to give a pitifull press conference from his hotel room to announce that #FreeSpeechWeek was canceled due to his own disorganization despite financial backing from the billionaire Mercer family. Trolls like Lucian Wintrich attacked Milo for lying, and stated that Milo Inc. had made plans to cancel the event as early as Wednesday, but strung along supporters regardless, costing many Mill fans hundreds of dollars. Milo in the press also attacked Berkeley Patriot, calling them "UC pawns."

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Following the failure of Free Speech Week to be anything more than a photo opt however, the threats became real. Through local antifascist organizers, IGD was put in touch with a Berkeley resident who claims they were attacked and beaten by none other than Kyle Chapman on Sunday evening, around 8 PM, after a verbal argument erupted on Telegraph Ave., over one of Chapman’s friends having white nationalist tattoos.

According to the person we spoke to who chose to remain anonymous, the altercation began when our subject, who we will refer to as “Frank,” was approached outside of Pappy’s BBQ on Telegraph. After being approached by a first individual, another, larger man came forward, and Frank commented on his “Celtic Cross” tattoo, a favorite among white supremacists. The man then pulled up his sleeve to reveal more tattoos, including an iron cross. A verbal argument began, with the larger man stating to his friend, “Don’t talk to this mother fucker, he’s antifa.” He then replied to Frank, a person of color, that his mother was a “nigger lover.” The man then got in Frank’s face, spitting on him, and placing his forehead against T’s.

The man then tried to kick Frank, and then proceeded to pick up his skateboard and threw it, screaming, “You faggot!” Frank then attempted to defend himself and run, however he says that “out of nowhere” he was tackled to the ground by Kyle Chapman. For the next 15-20 seconds, he claims that Chapman, who was wearing a large ring, beat and punched him in the face, shoulders, and body. Photos sent to IGD show cuts and bruises which corroborate these claims. After 15-20 seconds, Chapman friends told him that that was enough, and to stop the fight. Once Chapman had stopped the beating, Frank got on his feet and quickly left the scene.

Harim Uziel arrives at homeless encampment to harass and film people over an upside flag.

The next day, around 11:30 AM, So-Cal based pro-Trump organizer, Harim Uziel, who on April 15th fought alongside white nationalists and neo-Nazis against antifascists attempted to harass a homeless encampment in Berkeley. Uziel was offended that the camp featured an upside down American flag, and upon entering the area attempted to film and provoke residents into a confrontation, along with several other Trump supporters. The camp, no stranger to potential voice and harassment form the police and random strangers, held it’s ground, and Uziel was quickly driven out of the area.

Not to be outdone, over the course of Sunday and Monday, Alt-Right trolls, neo-Nazis, and Trump supporters repeatedly harassed and banged on the doors of Revolution Books (a bookstore run by the Revolutionary Communist Party or RCP) in Downtown Berkeley. Mic journalist Jack Smith got video of some of the confrontations, which featured Unite the Right attendee Antonio Foreman screaming at people inside the store, calling them “pussies” and “bitches.”

“Anti-Antifa” posters appear on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley.

Far-Right vandalism also continued, with “Anti-Antifa” posters being wheatpasted on the windows of La Pena, a Leftist cultural center across from the Long Haul Infoshop, which also reported that some of their own flyers were defaced. In past months, similar far-Right demonstrations have been followed by broken windows of businesses carrying Black Lives Matter and antifascist signs. Despite outrage from local residents, news media largely refuses to cover the vandalism.

Centrist and Liberals Got Their Wish, Look What Happened

For months Centrists and liberals have been saying that antifascists need to “ignore” the far-Right and the Alt-Right. “If we stop paying attention to them, they will go away,” we have been told over and over again. As it turns out, they got their wish. 

Throughout Free Speech Week, what did we see? First and foremost, we saw that the media largely ignored the large scale mobilizations of hundreds of people on Saturday and Monday, which saw a wide variety of organizations, communities, and groups come together to march against white supremacy and the Alt-Right. Even keynote speaker and former political prisoner Chelsea Manning turned few heads when she addressed the crowd upon arriving in Berkeley on Saturday.

On Sunday, when Milo made a brief appearance and then abruptly left, many journalists seemed so angry they were robbed of their “left-wing violence,” “free speech,” “antifa,” and “both sides” narrative, that they simply made it up anyway.

The LA Times moaned:

Free speech is meaningless without a platform. Students at the nation’s foremost public university should not just understand that concept, but embrace it.

How is it that the cradle of campus free speech has become a place where disagreeable speech must be drowned out or driven away?

I shuddered last week when I heard a Cal associate French professor tell KPCC’s Larry Mantle that she was taking her students off campus for classes this week, for their safety.

It seems this Op-Ed writer either knows nothing or cares little about the students and community members being targeted by the fans and Alt-Right fellow travelers of Milo Yiannopoulos. Even the idea that professors would want to keep their students out of harms way, is actually seen as sickening. The fact that a fan of Yiannopoulos shot and almost killed an antifascist in Seattle earlier this year is not even mentioned, however most media outlets continue to play up images of fires from Milo’s previous visit to Berkeley in February, and continue false claims that antifascists threw Molotov cocktails.

Reason likewise had even more stupid things to say:

Never before had it seemed so obvious to me that antifa and the alt-right were two sides of the same illiberal coin. A pox on both their houses, and a big fat middle finger to everyone who had a hand in either sabotaging free speech, or shackling it behind a wall of police barricades.

It bears repeating, but this just isn’t fucking true. Milo Yiannopoulos is backed by the billionaire Mercer family, the same family who has contributed to Steve Bannon, Breitbart, and Trump. Without their help, MILO Inc., his book Dangerous, and presumably Free Speech Week, never would have happened. Milo is also supported by the current administration, has access to major media outlets like Fox, The Daily Caller, and Breitbart, and as we saw in Berkeley, gets universities and police departments to bend over backwards. The exact opposite is true about antifascists, and anyone that cares to look at the numbers can see that the far-Right is killing, bombing, and murdering people on the regular, while the anarchist and antifascist movements at their most extreme, are physically confronting these groups at demonstrations, much to their own peril and at great legal risk from police.

The Centrist and liberals who proclaim so loudly that fascists and far-Right reactionaries just want attention have no game plan for what people should do when this reality comes crashing down. How do people respond when they are on the streets, in the local bars, and beating up people of color? What do we do when they are vandalizing and attacking local businesses because they have Black Lives Matter signs? What do we do when they are attempting to harass homeless people, youth, or local organizers? Beyond calling a police force which has done nothing to stop any of this violence, harassment, and vandalism, and in fact largely has protected the far-Right and given them a free pass, Centrists and liberals have no conception of what is actually means for a community to defend itself. They have no plan, no strategy, and over all, no ability to actually organize community self-defense and protection.

City Officials and Police Blame Antifa, While Far-Right Gangs Are Given Free Reign

“I don’t give a shit about Milo,” Frank told IGD. “The whole situation in general was planned out to be this way. They’ve been organizing behind the scenes to go to Berkeley and do this, to target specific activists,” Frank tells us. He states that the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite have a network across the local area, including Proud Boys, figures like Kyle Chapman, media people like The Red Elephants, which combine to create a crypto-fascist movement, while often being keen enough to steer clear of outright white nationalist symbols and slogans.

“Their only goal is to start confrontations and doxx people,” Frank said in a phone interview. “The media has totally misrepresented what is going on here. They’re not talking about the harassment that is taking place against the Mayor and the people in the community.”

Ironically, according to insiders the Mayor of Berkeley has received so many death threats from the Alt-Right and far-Right, that he has hired several body guards to protect him. Despite this, after the few isolated fights on August 27th in Berkeley made national news, the Mayor along with a tide of DNC bureaucrats pushed to label antifascists “a gang.”

This irony isn’t lost on Frank. “A lot of people don’t know how dangerous these people really are. These people can operate with an army of trolls, and they don’t have any accountability, like how Kyle Chapman has been allowed to parade around in Berkeley, while he’s facing he’s third felony. They operate pretty much as a gang.”

Kyle Chapman hangs out with the other racist Stickman.

This reality on the ground is compounded by the fact that police and members of the far-Right often work together often at protests, meeting before hand and hammering out a strategy for demonstrations and how to deal with counter-protesters. This relationship also allows people on the Right to harass, video tape, and beat up antifascists, who then are in turn arrested by police.

But what makes the situation even worse says Frank is the fact that the media is hell bent on coverage in only one direction: violence coming from antifascists. “The media would rather take pictures of burning trash cans than talk to people in the community,” says Frank. The very real connections between the Milo supporters out this weekend and fascist and neo-Nazi groups is also largely ignored, as is their connection to established Republican circles. Frank stated, “The Red Elephants is connected with Roger Stone. Vince Jones [of TRE] is a raging anti-Semite.”

“There’s no journalism going on at these rallies,” Frank said. He mentions approaching journalists to tell them about how various far-Right demonstrators are neo-Nazis and involved in a variety of groups, to which most journalists don’t seem to care. When asked what they do care about, Frank responded, most just want to know “when the anarchists are going to show up?”

Berkeley makes several things very clear: the State isn’t coming to the rescue, most local officials and leaders are cowards, and the police always side with the Right. If we want to protect each other, we’re going to have to look towards one another, and support those that stand up to far-Right and fascist groups who are bringing violence and intimidation upon our communities.

As for the pig media, whose goal is to distance and alienate movements from their bases of support in poor and working class communities, let’s take a page from their book. Ignore them.

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It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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