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Why Berkeley’s Battle Against White Supremacy Is Not About Free Speech

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UC Berkeley faculty members shared conflicting viewpoints on issues of hate speech and white supremacy Friday at a panel on free speech hosted by Chancellor Carol Christ. Yukun Zhang / Staff

The clashes between the alt-right and antifascist protesters at Berkeley cannot be taken out of the context of the climate of terror that has been brewing since white-nationalist and Nazi flyers began to appear at over 100 college campuses across the country after the election of Donald Trump.

Meleiza Figueroa and David Palumbo-Liu, Liberty Tree Foundation in Asheville (NC) Progressive

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Despite (and in reaction to) all the hate, fear and bluster emanating from the White House, there are powerful movements building across the country.

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September 10, 2017 | Outrage at the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville and wanton attacks on peaceful students, clergy, and people of color at the hands of white supremacists kicked off nationwide protests against racist violence, which led to the cancellation of dozens of right-wing rallies and the fall of Confederate monuments from Durham to San Diego. There is much hope in the undeniable public support to resist the so-called alt-right. Yet confrontations at the University of California, Berkeley, have polarized activists on how best to oppose these movements of hate and bigotry.


On August 27, several thousand Bay Area students, teachers, and community members attended the “Rally Against Hate,” which was organized by an unprecedented coalition of over 100 campus, labor, interfaith, community justice, and socialist/anarchist groups. Despite the mostly peaceful character of the demonstration, the media focused overwhelmingly on a few instances of violent skirmishes, painting Berkeley as a hotbed of far-left extremism.

Meleiza Figueroa, Liberty Trees's newest fellow, worked as the Press Director for the Stein/Baraka 2016 Presidential campaign and is Executive Producer of the Green News Network.
David Palumbo-Liu is the Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, and Professor of Comparative Literature, at Stanford University.  He is also the founding editor of the e-journal, Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities and a Contributing Editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books.

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