On April 15, members of the radical right gathered in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley to protest for the freedom of speech. The protest was organized in response to the cancellation of a speaking engagement from Ann Coulter, a social and political commentator supported by the alt-right.
The cancellation follows a trend of cancellations that have occurred on campus in response to the radical right’s political and social views, many of which are considered to be racist or sexist. However, at the core, it is somewhat concerning to see what was the epicenter of the free speech movement during the ’60s deny speakers to present on campus for their opinions and beliefs. It seems relative truth is rearing its ugly head without absolutes to determine what is ultimately right or wrong.
Independent journalists at NPR member stations are having similar troubles determining how to ensure the First Amendment rights of radical interviewees without allowing hateful rhetoric to go unchecked. Ideally, journalists wish that these interviews could go on air live, without edit.
However, some find that the interview cannot be conducted without the interviewee hijacking control of air time to fulfill their inflammatory objectives and gain supporters for movements that are less than considerate for certain ethnic and social groups.
However, where is the line drawn? It can be argued that in today’s day and age free speech has become as politically polarizing as gun legislation. The fights that occurred during the protests in April are evidence of the tumultuous nature of the relationship between the left and the right.
The inflammatory nature of the alt-right movement has given rise to an equally radical left movement known as ANTIFA, an abbreviated form of anti-fascist action. Followers of the group attended the protest, which was a pro-Trump rally, in order to protest against Trump and his supporters, both of which they believe are fascist in nature.
Ironically, this self-proclaimed, anti-fascist group appeared in a sort of uniform, many members robed in black and red with masks or scarves covering their faces, and many intended to incite violence against Trump supporters.
The fights were quelled, though rather slowly according to attendees, and ended in 21 arrests and 12 injuries. Yet, many ANTIFA protesters felt there was still unfinished business and some radical leftists are continuing to garner support to “drive fascists off campus.”
However, radicalism does not reign supreme. Members of University of Berkeley’s Cal Berkeley Democrats club frown upon the actions of the radical left. Cal Berkeley Democrats’ president, Caiden Nason, stated that the club’s members have become jaded with outsiders attempting to make Berkeley the center of political unrest.
It is possible that the current volatile political nature of Berkeley may affect students’ choices in university. However, senior Sharon Lau looks at the situation from an optimistic perspective.
“I have been paying attention to the radical movement in the area, but currently I am not extremely concerned about my safety in the future. I would like to get involved in freely expressing one’s opinions, but I think violence and hatred are definitely not the right solutions and methods in a sophisticated society,” said Lau.
Although politics may polarize the world, it appears that today’s youth are seeking refuge from the onslaught of radicalism dominating the media. Whether California or America for that matter, remains a political battle field, remains up to the citizens.