Left-wing activists are scrambling to excuse the violence carried out by Antifa activists at Sunday’s counter-protest in Berkeley, California, in which five conservative demonstrators were injured and 13 attackers were arrested.
“It almost seems like [Trump supporters] wanted to get beat up,” said civil rights lawyer Dan Siegel, according to the East Bay Times. Siegel praised the actions of the Berkeley Police Department, which allowed Antifa to jump the barricades and attack the few right-wing protesters who had gathered after a “No to Marxism” rally was canceled for fear of violence. There were about 400 police, and about 100 Antifa activists. Police later claimed their actions were necessary to prevent greater violence in a confrontation with Antifa. The San Jose Mercury News quoted Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood as saying there was “no need for a confrontation over a grass patch.”
Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin is now calling on the University of California Berkeley to cancel “Free Speech Week,” an event planned for late September in which a conservative campus group called Berkeley Patriot is inviting controversial speakers, including former Breitbart News tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos, to speak.
Aragon blamed conservative speakers for provoking the Antifa violence aimed at shutting down their events: “I’m very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it’s just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street,” he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Berkeley was the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement in 1964, where students fought for, and won, the right to express any political views they wanted on campus. Conservatives have challenged the famously left-wing campus to live up to that legacy.
Arreguin defended the police for allowing Antifa to jump the barricades Sunday, saying “the actions taken by the police were necessary to deescalate and prevent further violence from taking place.”
The East Bay Times adds that organizers of the counter-demonstration stressed that the vast majority of the several thousand participants in their march on Sunday were peaceful. Journalist Al Letson, who risked his own safety to save a man from a beating by 20 Antifa activists, defended them: “I think, in retrospect, they may not have wanted to injure him, but at the time, everything just happened so quickly,” he told Southern California Public Radio.