Berkeley, California has abandoned the rule of law and the foundations of the Constitution. Rather than promoting free speech and positive discourse, the city is allowing violent, anarchist liberals to rule their streets and prevent democratic opportunity. Antifa has become a group so set on hating government, that the government is now afraid of hating them, it is time they are acknowledged for what they truly are, a domestic terror group.
Last week, political groups led a peaceful, “No to Marxism” rally in Berkeley, when Antifa counter protesters entered the scene and assaulted members of the right. Antifa, a group name short for “Anti-fascist”, is a far-left group known already for contributing to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
These masked assailants arrived in larger numbers than the rally itself had, broke through barricades, and even pepper sprayed members of the right.
These violent clashes are far from the norm in American politics, but in recent years, groups like Antifa have claimed that Trump is so hostile they have no choice. Strangely, President Trump has never been arrested for a violent act; while at the Berkeley event, 13 Antifa members between ages 20 and 47 were arrested for offenses ranging from violating the city’s municipal code to assault with a deadly weapon.
The growth of political violence is an issue both Republicans and Democrats should be quick to condemn. [Edit: Thankfully, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has finally condemned the violence of Antifa in response on Aug. 29, saying, “Our democracy has no room for inciting violence or endangering the public, no matter the ideology of those who commit such acts. The violent actions of people calling themselves Antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted.”
The silence against Antifa’s actions has become crippling on the local level.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported following the violence in Berkeley that, “For hours, some 400 law enforcement officers…had control of the scene at the park, stopping anyone who entered at a single checkpoint, where they confiscated anything on a list of banned objects…But shortly after the scheduled 1 p.m. start time…hundreds of black-masked agitators arrived at the scene. Rather than trying to take on the horde, the clearly overwhelmed police force allowed hundreds of people to pass barriers and enter the park unchecked.”
Police officers handled the event for hours, but when the violent left arrived they backed down. While officer safety is always a priority, the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly must be too.
Following this violence, the mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin has called for a shutdown of conservative speakers coming to campuses out of fear of increased violence. Rather than speaking out against the violent tactics used to suppress speech, Berkeley’s police and politicians have chosen to succumb to Antifa’s threats.
Berkeley has turned into a city unwilling to address the reality of political violence, choosing to instead silence the voices of peaceful protestors and conservative icons.
Vox Media’s German Lopez explains that Antifa does nothing but confirm the already present view that the left is disruptive and lawless, using political violence has only reinforced the fears of the right and is simply unamerican. Consistently in American history, peaceful protests are far more successful and constructive than violent ones, yet Antifa has chosen to reject this basic American principle.
And by allowing the violence to continue, so are our politicians and law enforcement.
These constant and coordinated attacks against right wing groups need to be labeled domestic terrorism to be addressed with force by politicians and law enforcement on the local and federal level. Wearing black masks, breaking through police barricades, and pepper spraying people who do not share your views is not only illegal, it is defying the values of our constitution which allow anyone to assemble and speak freely.
Berkeley may have chosen to reject core American values, but the rest of the country must stand up to hate whatever it may look like. If the face is covered as Antifa seems to prefer, the veil must be removed to freedom can peacefully return.
Correction: Pelosi did condemn the violence in a statement on Aug. 29.