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RESIST: The high cost of appeasing fascists

by Christina A. DiEdoardo

Refuse Fascism conducts a teach-in on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley September 27. Photo: Christina A. DiEdoardo
Refuse Fascism conducts a teach-in on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley September 27. Photo: Christina A. DiEdoardo  

To some, the fact that a promoter of Islamophobia like Ben Shapiro and a pedophile apologist like Milo Yiannopoulos could speak at all at UC Berkeley in late September is a victory for classic liberalist notions of free expression, if not for those who share their reprehensible points of view.

While this reasoning is flawed on multiple levels, it falls apart when one considers that UC Berkeley spent an estimated $600,000 (according to the Daily Cal) on security for Shapiro and an additional $800,000 (according to the Mercury-News) for Yiannopoulos. That $1.4 million doesn't include the costs for policing the rest of the so-called Free Speech Week, which was supposed to include speakers like Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter before it was canceled.

By the way, that $1.4 million would have been enough for 37 undergraduate full-ride scholarships, according to Cal's own cost estimates for 2017-2018, but I digress.

Despite Free Speech Week officially having been scrubbed, the usual right-wing suspects like Kyle "Base Stickman" (or perhaps more accurately, "Stickless," since he's currently banned from possessing weapons as a condition of his bail) Chapman, Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer and their minions, camp followers and hangers-on came to campus to agitate anyway throughout most of the week. Of course, this invited a response from those opposed to them, which the university in turn met by massive over-policing.

Wednesday, September 27 was a good example of this syndrome. Refuse Fascism scheduled a teach-in on the steps of Sproul Hall from noon until 1 p.m. In addition, Wednesday afternoon has traditionally been when black students at Cal gather in front of the Golden Bear Cafe across from Sproul Hall for Black Wednesdays. Because of the expected presence of right-wing agitators on Wednesday, Black Wednesday organizers asked allies in the university and wider community to provide support by showing up and - if necessary - helping to protect the space.
UC Berkeley responded to those events by flooding Sproul Hall and the plaza around it with over a hundred officers from several area departments, blocking off part of the plaza after a so-called suspicious package was found near the Amazon store and - like the Duke of York - marching their officers up one hill and down the other in riot gear.

Of course, said officers never made a public announcement at the scene about the suspicious package or asked anyone to clear out the rest of Sproul. Nor did they do anything other than glare from a distance when Chapman and others unsuccessfully tried to force their way past the gauntlet of allies who were protecting the Black Wednesday gathering. Much later, they did form a barrier by the low wall in front of the Golden Bear Cafe, but they took no steps to get right-wing agitators to fall back to the plaza. Instead, one officer threatened to grab one anti-fascist protester's parasol and break it over her head.

Given that UC Berkeley is committed to cutting in half its projected $110 million budget deficit for its current fiscal year, the question of how long the university is content to expend resources to have its police force apparently serve as muscle for non-students like Chapman, Gibson, and Yiannopoulos (whose entire raison d'etre is to threaten certain students, faculty, and staff at Cal and elsewhere) begs asking.

Unlike the police, anti-fascist protesters aren't paid for our work. We cover our expenses from our own resources. Indeed, one of the key characteristics of any guerrilla movement is that it always costs more for the state to try to collectively repress us than it does for us to resist them. The state can threaten - and in some cases, impose - tremendous negative consequences on an individual, as it has shown in the cases of Yvette Felarca in Berkeley and the #J20 detainees in Washington, D.C. Felarca is the teacher who was arrested on suspicion of battery last week. The #J20 people were detained following President Donald Trump's inauguration.

However, the following lyric from "Le Chant des Partisans," the anthem of the French underground during World War II, remains apt: "Friend, if you fall, another friend comes out of the shadows to take your place."

This is the reason it's critically important that people continue to show up. While not everyone can be at every action, every person who does raises the cost of repression by the fascists, whether those fascists are in police uniforms or not.

By showing up, we win. When we fail to show up, they do. It boils down to that.

Black Panther bicycle tour
At 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 7, One City One Book will conduct a bike tour of several historic Black Panther party locations. Meet at the DeFremery Recreation Center at 1651 Adeline Street in Oakland.

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