Today I was at Civic Center Park in Berkeley, leading the security “PeaceForce” detail for a small group standing United with Berkeley against Hate. The ALT-RIGHT hardly showed up. There was a large peaceful crowd for a couple of hours. Strong police presence. A couple of arrests, I’m not sure what for, but guessing it may have had to do with the wearing of masks. And it seemed very much to be a glorious day of Berkeley Standing United Against Hate.
I’m sad to say that at about noon-thirty, a large contingent showed up from SURJ – Oakland/Bay Area, themselves with a large contingent of antifa ready to form a “defensive line” to protect folks from the almost non-existent ALT-RIGHT. At first I was glad to see them. But then they actually deployed their “Defensive line” and started ordering other people around on where they should stand, and where they could and couldn’t be. Essentially they took a peaceful environment, and escalated risk and danger while reducing safety and security, while at the same time asserting authority over an entire group of people who were not partial to being under their authority.
I pulled my team and my people out.
It is sad that this risk came from our side… from the left. I don’t know if they had bad intelligence, or if they just had a plan for a much more violent day and wanted to use their plan because they had spent so much time and energy forging it, or if they just egoistically need to be the ones in charge and ready to crack heads. But it was sad to see this completely unnecessary militant defensive line form where there was no offensive line to defend against.
Berkeley may have stood United against Hate. But we sure as hell didn’t think to stand United against stupidity.
While I personally hold strictly to the principles of non-violence, I have never been able to say that antifa is necessarily wrong that Fascism may need to be confronted differently. But I can say definitively that that was not the case today. If antifa is going to be the nuclear defense of the left against the horrors of White Supremacy, they will need to act with restraint when militant response is not called for.
I’m very sad. I write this before the day is over. I hope there are no injuries as a result of unnecessarily escalating tensions.
Stephan Golux is a resident of Berkeley.