Public Comment

New: Open Letter to Carol Denney

Monday September 25, 2017 - 01:55:00 PM

Knee-Jerk Reaction, No Fact Checking; Open Letter to Carol Denney in response to her letter to me headlined "Misconceptions…Everywhere…"

Carol Denney's Open Letter to me (Planet 9.22.2017) appears to be an emotional reaction to a quick scanning of my letter rather than a thoughtful reading that allowed her to digest the import of the letter.

Perhaps my letter was not clear. This is the point: Black Lives Matter! (Too) Brown Lives Matter! (Too) and Jewish Lives Matter! (Too). So the necessity for emphasis on the fight for Civil Rights for which we, of course, need free speech and assembly. But it has been handed on a silver platter by the University to far-right speakers at the same time it is being curbed for counter protesters, not only by U.C., but government at all levels. 

The alt-right's bait was to make a huge issue of free speech. The progressives and the University bit, swallowed the bait and got hooked. By all of their attention, and the media's, focused on free speech, the general public's attention has been diverted from the struggle against the preeminent critical ever growing fascistic core values of racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, anti-immigration, police militarization and oppression of free speech, free press and assembly. This is to the advantage of our corporate-fascist Federal Government. 

Our local police departments are already under the influence of the Federal Government programs, namely, the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Areas Security Initiative which funds Urban Shield, and the FBI run Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, an information sharing network surveillance system. These programs were recently renewed by a hefty majority of the so-called progressive Berkeley City Council. Adding fuel to the fire of increasing police militarization, the Council, only a little over one month ago, called a Special Meeting August 18, 2017, at which it voted to approve (only one No vote) to modify an ordinance with just one reading (ordinances require two readings on separate dates) which gave their power to the City Manager (who was on vacation!) to determine police procedures for unpermitted rallies and events. The Council's vote was in complete defiance of community members exhortation not to relinquish their power (to represent us?!). Again on Sept. 12, 2017 a Special Meeting at 3pm was held at which the Berkeley Council approved the use of Pepper Spray by the Berkeley Police Department. Despite the short notice there were 69 speakers. And, at least 17 written communications were received requesting a no vote on the police use of Pepper Spray. (Thank you Carol for your letter!) 

Regarding my "Misconception…Everywhere", and the need for fact checking: 

#1. According to the Daily Cal (9.22.17 p.1) "…Christ declared this academic year a 'Free Speech Year' on multiple occasions". Is this tacit approval for Free Speech Week? Since when does a new, relatively unknown group decide a world renowned University is going to have a Free Speech Week? The S.F. Chronicle (9.22.17 p.1 & A12) states re: Chancellor Carol Christ "…she said, the Berkeley Patriot student group that applied for permission to hold the event is a 'very small, recently created student organization that is the door to a kind of disproportionately large organization' behind the event. That organization is Milo Inc., that Yiannopoulos group…created about the same time as the Berkeley Patriot." See also Daily Cal (9.19.17 p.5) "Wealthy donors control campus decisions on free speech". 

#2. Denney's Open Letter to me insinuates that I am against allowing free speech to "white supremacist groups and speakers". I did not say that nor did I mention the names as did Denney of any of the "alt-right" speakers tentatively rescheduled for the apparently University condoned Free Speech Week of 4 days. What I expressed was that a University condoned Free Speech Week should offer speakers on both sides of an issue and for those who do not have the financial help of the University itself, or the resources of Milo Inc., they should be allowed to rally on public University land outside the very expensive speaker venues. 

I do not know whether the reputed far-right speaker Ben Shapiro is Black, Brown or Caucasion, or what his religion is. My concern is that "Chancellor Carol Christ…decided that campus would pay the Zellerbach Hall rent [$9,000] for the Shapiro event specifically to avoid reputational damage and prove the campus was open to conservative thought". (Daily Cal 9.22.17 p.6) My Alma Mater suffered reputational damage when it declared that the non-violent counterprotester August 27, 2017 rally, publicized to take place on the University's Oxford Street Crescent Lawn, was forbidden to set foot there. The glaring inequity between this declaration and the $9,000 paid for Shapiro to speak at Zellerbach Hall is unconscionable. This blatant favoritism totally flies in the face of the free speech victory of the 60s. 

Let's keep our eyes on the prize. Civil Rights for all!! 

Gene Bernardi SuperBOLD (Berkeleyans Organizing for Liberty Defense)