Dear Honorable Jesse Arreguín, Mayor of the City of Berkeley, and Berkeley City Council,

People who live, work, and have friends and family in Berkeley and surrounding areas urge the Berkeley City Council to publicly adopt a non-partisan, universal resolution and statement of political non-violence.

I read about Mayor Arreguín’s press conference held Tuesday regarding non-violence — and I think an official city resolution would still be very useful.

The resolution should state that the city of Berkeley denounces violence committed by anyone, any persons or groups anywhere on any political spectrum, including but not limited to Nazis, various alt-right groups including but not limited to the Alt-Knights and Identity Evropa, various leftist and anarchist groups including but not limited to Antifa and Black Bloc, any persons or groups whatsoever. The resolution should specifically name these groups as examples to show that the resolution is universal and not limited to groups on any particular spot on any political spectrum.

The resolution should make it clear that political violence is not welcome and will not be tolerated, and anyone, any persons or groups advocating for, planning, or engaging in political violence are not welcome in Berkeley and will be arrested upon the first incident of political violence committed by them.

Ideally, the resolution should take a clear stand on free speech. It should state that violence is not a component of free speech, that committing political violence is not protected under the doctrine of free speech, so that it is clear that the act of police arresting anyone committing violence is not impermissibly interfering with the exercise of free speech.

Furthermore, the resolution should state that using violence to interrupt or prevent free speech, such as rioting to prevent speakers of any political views from speaking, is not welcome in Berkeley and any use of violence to interrupt or prevent Free Speech will immediately lead to arrest by the police.

Ideally, the resolution should state that weapons, items readily usable as weapons such as broomsticks and poles, and helmets and shields are not allowed at protests and rallies, and that anyone, any persons and groups with these items at protests and rallies will have them confiscated by the police or they will be escorted from the premises and will be arrested if they resist.

Political violence has no place in Berkeley and no place in our nation. Unfortunately Berkeley has become an epicenter for new strands of political violence centered around the Black Bloc, Anfita, and various alt-right groups.

Berkeley has become the iconic ground-zero symbol for parties on the left and right. Black Bloc and Antifa seem to think that they are doing is in line with Berkeley’s perceived liberal and progressive history, even if in fact most people in Berkeley might not agree with their sometimes violent tactics.

Alt-right groups see Berkeley as coddling and being lenient and accepting of Black Bloc and Antifa’s sometimes violent tactics, standing by and making few or no arrests in response to violence by these groups, and thus they see Berkeley as their main target for fighting against what they decry as leftist violence that they perceive to be tolerated and unchecked by the City of Berkeley authorities.

The violence enacted by each of these groups seems to propel and incite the other groups to increase their violent tendencies, as is discussed in several high profile New York Times articles over the past year (see links below).

Issuing a statement that universally condemns political violence, that states that violence is not part of Free Speech and cannot be used to prevent Free Speech, and that weapons are not allowed at rallies, as well as enforcement of the principles outlined in the resolution, would send a powerful message to violent members of alt-right groups, Black Bloc, and Antifa that the City of Berkeley equally denounces all political violence and that these groups can no longer use the city of Berkeley as a battlefield to further their political goals and their clearly stated desires (see statements by alt-right groups, Black Bloc, and Antifa in the New York Times articles linked below) to physically confront each other and engage in violence.

This is violence which puts the people who live and work and visit Berkeley in danger, and violence which also prevents ordinary people from exercising their free speech and prevents them from engaging in political discourse without fear of violence.

The strife arising from various violent engagements among Black Bloc, alt-right groups, and Antifa have spread across the country, emboldening violent members and followers of these groups to increase their violent rhetoric (see the linked NY Times articles), making this not just a problem for Berkeley but a problem nationwide. Several NY Times articles state that the alt-right used Berkeley as a testing ground for their tactics and strategies.

Berkeley can do the nation a great service by stepping up to a strong and powerful peaceful leadership role. Issuing the requested resolution and enforcing the principles in the resolution could help to extinguish the heated flames of violence that are currently circulating among the alt-right, Black Bloc, and Antifa, once they find that they can no longer use the City of Berkeley as their ideological and physical battlefield and see that the City of Berkeley denounces all political violence fairly and equally.

These actions will make it clear to Black Bloc and Antifa that in fact the City of Berkeley does not welcome them and is not a safe harbor for them, and will make it clear to alt-right groups that the city of Berkeley is not unfairly tolerant of violence by leftist groups while condemning only violence by rightist groups.

Selected bibliography: ‘Antifa’ Grows as Left-Wing Faction Set to, Literally, Fight the Far Right

Fringe Groups Revel as Protests Turn Violent

Behind Berkeley’s Semester of Hate

John Spencer works and lives in Berkeley.
John Spencer works and lives in Berkeley.

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