Various conservative groups on Saturday staged a second pro-Trump rally in Berkeley and, as expected, violence broke out. While I abhor the Trump presidency, I am disappointed that those opposing Trump espouse the First Amendment right of free speech for themselves, but seem willing to deny it to others whose views they oppose. After all, Berkeley is the symbol of the Free Speech Movement of 1964.
Opponents of this pro-Trump rally certainly have the right to peacefully protest but they know, or should know, that inevitably the peaceful demonstrations will become violent. Remember, the first pro-Trump rally and the Yannopoulos incident? In fact, I suspect the sponsors of the rally hoped for this result. Now they can scream, “we were denied our free speech rights,” but also claim “it’s good for business.”
Over 200 police officers were deployed including some from the Oakland Police Department. Twenty people were arrested. Eleven people were injured with six taken to the hospital. The police confiscated stun guns, knives, flag poles, baseball bats, and metal pipes. Fireworks and other objects were thrown into the crowd and pepper spray was used. Now, of course, the media is focusing mostly on the violence and destruction of property and the meaning, if there is one, of the anti-Trump demonstration will be forgotten.
The Berkeley College Republicans have scheduled conservative columnist and provocateur Ann Coulter to speak later this month. Can we expect more violence? What if nobody but the Berkeley Republicans showed up at the Coulter speech? Wouldn't that be a more effective protest than the violence that otherwise likely will occur?
In the end, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” in Berkeley is lost in the shuffle.