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Old 13 September 2017, 10:40 PM
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Default Why Berkeley’s Battle Against White Supremacy Is Not About Free Speech

Outrage at the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and wanton attacks on peaceful students, clergy, and people of color at the hands of white supremacists kicked off nationwide protests against racist violence, which led to the cancellation of dozens of right-wing rallies and the fall of Confederate monuments from Durham to San Diego. There is much hope in the undeniable public support to resist the so-called alt-right. Yet confrontations at the University of California, Berkeley, have polarized activists on how best to oppose these movements of hate and bigotry.

On August 27, several thousand Bay Area students, teachers, and community members attended the “Rally Against Hate,” which was organized by an unprecedented coalition of over 100 campus, labor, interfaith, community justice, and socialist/anarchist groups. Despite the mostly peaceful character of the demonstration, the media focused overwhelmingly on a few instances of violent skirmishes, painting Berkeley as a hotbed of far-left extremism.

This emphasis plays into the hands of the far right by creating a public backlash against antifascist and social-justice movements. Within two weeks of Charlottesville, widespread revulsion at the images of torch-wielding white supremacists faded into a quagmire of moralistic debates about fighting Nazis. At best, Berkeley’s antifascist militancy is regarded by liberal pundits as a useful foil for the far right; at worst, it’s depicted as equivalent to fascists who, from Dylann Roof to James Alex Fields, have proven capable of cold-blooded murder.
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