One day, one night: The fuse that lit the Battles of Berkeley

Thursday, Feb. 1, marks the one-year anniversary of Milo Yiannopoulos’ first, ill-fated visit to UC Berkeley.

Invited by the Berkeley College Republicans, Yiannopoulos had planned to make his speech the capstone event of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour through college campuses around the United States. The tech editor for the conservative news outlet Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos characterized his talks as a mixture of performance and provocation. He frequently made fun of, and criticized, what he considered political correctness. While many of his followers regarded his jabs as humorous, his detractors saw them as offensive and dangerous. Yiannopoulos had called feminism “a cancer,” had labeled the Black Lives Matter movement a form of “black supremacism,” had characterized transgenderism as a form of “mental illness,” and had said efforts to diversify schools  were “anti-White racism.”

Even before his visit, tensions on the mostly liberal UC Berkeley campus had been rising with the election of Donald Trump as president, and with his calls to ban Muslims and build a wall. Thousands of students and faculty had joined the women’s marches on Jan. 21. Some even showed up to a fabricated campus protest after a prank by a Russian troll. The decision by the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) to bring Yiannopoulos to the university further exacerbated this tension. Members of BCR were “doxxed” (had their personal information spread on social media) and harassed. They, in turn, crashed an anti-Milo planning meeting. 

Yiannopoulos’ speech never happened.

Before it started, thousands gathered on Sproul Plaza, in front of the ASUC Student Union and Pauley Ballroom, to protest his viewpoints. Rainbow lights in the colors of the pride flag were projected onto nearby Sproul Hall. Then a group of about 150 people dressed all in black marched onto campus with flags and sticks, launched M80s and other explosives at police, and used the metal barricades set up to separate ticket holders from protesters to smash the windows of the Amazon store in the student union.

As flames leaped into the night sky and a pall of smoke floated through the air, UC Berkeley police issued numerous dispersal orders and shot rubber and paint bullets into the crowd. But they kept direct engagement with the demonstrators to a minimum.

When Yiannopoulos’ talk was canceled, hundreds rejoiced and danced at the news. Many of the “black bloc” participants then marched into downtown Berkeley, where the group of self-identified anti-fascist, or antifa, protesters, vandalized banks and chain stores. The riots caused $100,000 in damage on campus and $600,000 in damage downtown.

The event immediately made national news as the images of the black-clad protesters shocked Americans. It prompted Yiannopoulos and conservatives to decry that the University of California did not protect free speech. Even the newly elected president weighed in. With a tweet.

The event was dramatic in itself, but it turned out to be the first of many violent clashes and demonstrations in Berkeley and around the United States in 2017 that pitted those on the right and far right against those on the left and far left, and laid bare the political fragmentation that characterized the country and accelerated under Donald Trump.

On the first anniversary of Feb. 1, 2017, Berkeleyside has crafted an oral history of that day. Our intent was to allow a diversity of viewpoints that got lost in the drama of that night to be heard. Mingling the different opinions of those who were at the event provides, we hope, a deeper understanding of what happened, why it happened, and what those involved were thinking at the time.

To put together this story, we interviewed many individuals, drew from news accounts, social media and legal documents, as well as from official UC Berkeley communications. The interviews have been lightly edited and condensed. (See sources at the bottom of the story.) All ages mentioned reflect the ages of the speakers on Feb. 1, 2017.

Before the night of Milo: The players

MILO YIANNOPOULOS, 33, was born in Kent, England and was the tech editor of Breitbart News. He had been banned from Twitter in July 2016 for his role in “inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others:”

“Welcome to the Dangerous Faggot Tour! My name is Milo Yiannopoulos, but tonight you can call me ‘Mrs. Claws.’… Most of you won’t be aware of this, but I’ve recently become a feminist icon! I’ve just come from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where I made women on campus a little bit safer. I’ve rid their bathrooms of a dude in a dress! During my talk there, I drew attention to the case of [Yiannopoulos names a student; we will just call her Jane Doe] a so-called trans woman who used Title IX laws to force his way into women’s locker rooms. Legislation created to protect women is now used to put men in their restrooms. Now, Jane Doe is apparently upset, because I used his old name instead of his new fake one. And he’s quitting the university! Well, on behalf of the women at UWM, bye!… I was accused by Jane in news reports today of “violent” speech, as though such a thing could ever occur. I mean honestly. If you can’t take a joke, how are you going to cope with getting your dick chopped off? From a talk at Minnesota State University on Dec. 15, 2016.

TROY WORDEN,  20was a third-year student at UC Berkeley, and a member of the Berkeley College Republicans, the student organization that invited Yiannopoulos to speak.

“I became involved with the Berkeley College Republicans in the second half of my sophomore year at UC Berkeley. I have lived in Pittsburg [CA] my entire life, except for the two years I spent living on campus. I’ve only grown up in a majority liberal environment. That goes for the elementary, middle, high-school experience, and also my university experience. I was interested in politics since the middle of high school. I was regularly engaging in debates with my teachers at high school, who, even though they were liberal and disagreed with me on many issues, never violently suppressed my viewpoints. My transitioning to greater involvement in the Berkeley College Republicans was an extension of my previous high-school experience, involvements in political discussions.

“I actually invited Milo. I sent the invitation back in August of 2016 before Milo Yiannopoulos was an extremely controversial figure…He hadn’t really started his extensive tour of U.S. universities. So he was just coming into being, so to speak. I invited him because I thought he was interesting. In other words, I thought Milo Yiannopoulos would be something sort of different than the run-of-the-mill conservative speaker.

“When I came back to the United States in the middle of January [from studying in England] it was such a volatile atmosphere. It was getting to the point where when we [the Berkeley College Republicans] tabled [in Sproul Plaza] we would be spat at, called names, people would try and shame us for inviting this person. It was rather unsafe. We made sure there were always two people tabling just to make sure we wouldn’t get attacked or have our private property destroyed.”

JUAN PRIETO, 24, was an undocumented Cal senior majoring in English literature.

“I was born in Mexicali, Mexico, a border town in Mexico next to Calexico. I came when I was eight years old. We left after it got incredibly violent. The police became militarized because the war on drugs was still happening in the United States, and it took its own form in our country. My mom decided we needed to leave so we came. I grew up in Southern California, went to community college in San Bernardino, and transferred to UC Berkeley in 2014.

“I was organizing, specifically on undocumented issues. Leading up to the election, there already was this momentum on the right, very hateful, that was building. James O’Keefe [a conservative political activist who often secretly tapes left-wing groups to “catch” them in bad behavior] came to our campus and built this mock wall at Sather Gate with a Trump cutout. People would come and break the wall. I would say that’s what they want you to do. They want video clips of that. They made their video, put it on YouTube and tried to make fun of us.”

DAN MOGULOF, 59, was assistant vice chancellor, public affairs at UC Berkeley and a university spokesman. He previously worked as a television journalist for more than 20 years.

“It was late December or early January of 2017 that I started to get a flood of emails from people around the country — around the world — and they were all variations of a theme. Clearly, there was a form letter out there. It basically said if the university doesn’t do what’s necessary to protect its students, you will force us to take matters into our own hands. There was a clear threat of vigilante-style violence. These letters showed a clear lack of understanding for what the legal obligations are for a public university, as opposed to a private university, and a complete disregard or lack of understanding of how seriously the Supreme Court of the United States views anything that could be considered prior restraint on free speech. Also evident was an incredible degree of anger and hostility and readiness to do battle, if you will. I was getting these emails, also one of my colleagues was, and we were, ‘What is this?’

“I was only vaguely aware of who Milo Yiannopoulos was. I had never seen any of his videos. I was aware he had some Breitbart connection, but he wasn’t on my radar screen. We went web searching and we quickly found the call to arms, the call to action to send me these letters. It was parked on a [far-left anarchist] website called ‘It’s Going Down.’

“Then I did some hunting around, searching around on Yiannopoulos, and got up to speed on exactly what kind of speaker he was, and the extent to which he was quite different than any of the conservative speakers who had come to campus. Clearly a motivation to provoke, not merely to stick his finger in the eye of what he perceived as political correctness, but his whole damn foot. I read about incidents on other campuses where he had singled out a transgendered student. A completely different sort of speaker than the sort one expects to see at a college campus, speakers who come to engage, to win hearts and minds, to discuss, to take questions. His tour was called ‘The Dangerous Faggot Tour,’ and it was like a blend of vaudeville and I don’t know what.”

Documenting a rising tension

FROM THE WEBSITE IT’S GOING DOWN, Dec. 7, 2016: 

This following communiqué comes from Northern California Anti-Racist Action: This is a call to action to stand against fascism and the militarization of campuses. This is a call to stand in solidarity with those communities who are most at risk from this kind of neo-fascist “free speech,” especially in the wake of Trump’s election win. We encourage those interested in taking a stand now to use the letter template below to demand that UC Berkeley not host Yiannopoulos.

I am writing to express my anger and frustration at UC Berkeley’s decision to host notorious racist, sexist, and transphobic speaker Milo Yiannopoulos on February 1, 2017. I am also notifying you of a growing inter-community coalition to keep Milo off campus and of my support for them. In light of the increasing hostility towards marginalized groups on campus, including the hate crime committed on campus on election night and the increasing racist harassment around campus that has followed, it is disgraceful that UC Berkeley would welcome Mr. Yiannopoulos and his hateful, bigoted rhetoric on campus. Mr. Yiannopoulos was slated to speak at Portland State University and NYU, however both campuses cancelled the events stating that his viewpoints compromised student safety. He has also been permanently banned from DePaul University as the school claimed he created a “hostile environment.”

UC BERKELEY FACULTY LETTER TO CHANCELLOR NICOLAS DIRKS, Jan. 3, 2017:

We are writing to implore you to cancel a planned speaking engagement by Milo Yiannopoulos. We support both freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus and realize that controversial views must be tolerated in any campus community dedicated to open debate and opposed to censorship. Although we object strenuously to Yiannopoulos’ views — he advocates white supremacy, transphobia, and misogyny – it is rather his harmful conduct to which we call attention in asking for the cancellation of this event. … We support robust debate, but … Yiannopoulos’ views pass from protected free speech to incitement, harassment, and defamation once they publically target individuals in his audience or on campus, creating conditions for concrete harm and actually harming students through defamatory and harassing actions. Such actions are protected neither by free speech nor by academic freedom. For this reason, the university should not provide a platform for such harassment.

BREITBART NEWS, Jan. 12, 2017:

A group of left-wing extremists at UC Berkeley have doxxed the student hosts behind MILO’s upcoming event on campus, posting personal details, photographs, email addresses, social media accounts, and even one of the student’s workplace addresses.

ALISON JONES (not her real name), is in her mid-50s, is a UC Berkeley alum, a longtime political activist and a Berkeley parent.

“I went to campus in mid-January to a meeting to organize a demonstration in response to Milo. That meeting was infiltrated. A couple of the young campus organizers described how they were being harassed online and threatened. They and some of the faculty discussed how they received threats, how the university wasn’t responding to those threats in an appropriate manner and how they feared for their safety. Then somebody finally called out the fact that there were a bunch of College Republicans in the room. Some people proceeded to ask them questions: Why were they there? Why would they show up other than to intimidate people?

“The campus organizers left the meeting. They were young women and I was concerned for their safety. I walked outside to be with them. We started to walk away and these huge football-player-sized guys were harassing them. This woman tried to go past one of them and he physically grabbed her, threw her to the ground. She was like a third of his size. ‘She touched me,’ he said. I said, ‘She touched you and you threw her to the ground?’ He said, ‘You fucking communist. You don’t belong on our campus.’

“I was really, really upset by this situation, as were a number of other people. After that, many of us put out the call to everybody we knew. We said we cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow campus organizers, these students, to be intimidated and threatened. This has to change. People need to come to this protest. We need as many people as possible to create safety.

At that time, and leading up to the demonstration, they [College Republicans] were being organized by openly known neo-Nazis, including Nathan Damigo. [Founder of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group.] I personally saw [Damigo] on campus on Jan. 20. The [Berkeley College] Republicans were tabling, and Nathan Damigo was organizing with them, engaging, encouraging them to act out against people who were at this rally.

They were videotaping people to try and intimidate them because then they can doxx them. This is the other thing. This whole idea that people shouldn’t wear bandanas to protect themselves or shouldn’t wear black, or whatever, one of the reasons a lot of people do this is because of this: They film them and then they use facial recognition software to find out who you are and doxx you. They put that information on the internet and then people are threatened and attacked and their families are being threatened. That’s the truth of what’s going on. I know a lot of people that has happened to, both professors and students at Berkeley.”

MATT RONNAU, 19, was a first-year student at UC Berkeley from Los Alamitos, CA, and a member of the Berkeley College Republicans.

“I don’t really know about Nathan Damigo. I am pretty sure he is that guy when we were tabling on Trump’s inauguration. None of us knew who he was. He did an interview with someone and I was in the background and they saw that. I didn’t know who the guy was, what organization he was with, and antifa screen-shotted that and said I was hanging out with this Nazi guy. I say, ‘What are you talking about? I am in the background of an interview. I don’t even know who this guy is. I am not hanging out with anyone.

“But that stuck. They have thrown that around multiple times since then. We never invited him to anything. People capitalize on newsworthy stuff. They’ll come, but we’ve never had any contact with him.”

MEMO FROM UC BERKELEY STUDENT AFFAIRS, Feb. 1, 2017:

As you may be aware, a controversial speaker will be on campus the evening of Wednesday, February 1, 2017. The event will take place at the MLK Student Union (adjacent to Sproul Plaza), with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the event beginning at 8 p.m. We anticipate there will be major protest/demonstration activity leading up to and surrounding this event, which may result in large crowds and difficulties transiting the area around the venue. Your safety and well-being are our top priorities. We encourage students who do not wish to participate in or potentially be impacted by the events to consider exploring alternative routes that avoid the Sproul Plaza area.

BREITBART NEWS, Jan. 31, 2017:

MILO and the David Horowitz Freedom Center have teamed up to take down the growing phenomenon of “sanctuary campuses” that shelter illegal immigrants from being deported. MILO will kick start the campaign with a speech at the University of California’s Berkeley campus on February 1, where he will call for the withdrawal of federal grants and the prosecution of university officials who endanger their students with their policies, starting with UC President and former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano and Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

BERKELEY AGAINST TRUMP COALITION, Jan. 22, 2017:

On Feb. 1, “alt-right” (white supremacist) professional harasser Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to speak in the Pauley Ballroom at UC Berkeley. When he spoke at the University of Washington on January 20, one of his supporters shot somebody. When he tried to speak at UC Davis, though, protest shut him down. Don’t let white supremacists and neo-Nazis use Berkeley’s campus as a space to organize: join us in unwelcoming Milo to Berkeley. We will gather at 5 p.m. at Sproul and show our unwillingness to allow our campus to be used to spread Yiannopoulous’ vile bigotry at this time when the forces of oppression are ascendant nationally.

UC BERKELEY CHANCELLOR NICHOLAS DIRKS memo, Jan 26, 2017:

The concerns around the upcoming visit of a controversial speaker to campus make it necessary for us to reaffirm our collective commitment to…the right to free expression, enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and reflected in some of the most important moments of Berkeley’s history.

CARLO DAVID, 22, was a fourth-year UC Berkeley sociology major from the East Coast who covered the Milo Yiannopoulos event for Berkeleyside. He previously had a Congressional fellowship in Washington, D.C., and a semester-long training on the coverage of American politics at The Washington Post:

When I was assigned this article I wrote some kind of draft two days before because I figured it would be just one of those obscure, very small-scale speeches. On social media, it seems big but really it will not attract that kind of attention it hopes to attract.

Feb. 1, 2017: The day Milo came to town

MATT RONNAU: “I became political in fifth grade. We had to do a report on a famous American and my father urged me to do Ronald Reagan. Since then I have been attracted to all that. I’ve been to the Reagan Library, the Nixon Library, so I have always been conservative, I guess. My ex-girlfriend’s dad told me about BCR and he told me it was the largest college Republican chapter in the nation. So I sought them out on Cal Day. I attended a couple of meetings and then I really got involved right before the election. We went to Reno and canvassed door to door. Before Trump announced, I liked Ted Cruz, because Ted Cruz is more like a strict constructionist kind of guy. Then I was in the car with my dad when we heard Trump announce and he said he was going to build a wall and he was going to repeal Obamacare and get rid of the Common Core and we both liked all those three things. Seeing Trump go through the campaign trail and the debates, I really liked Trump so it became Trump.

“I was really excited to meet Milo. I couldn’t wait. I have always wanted to meet him and hear him talk. I think he’s funny, honestly. If you get past the sense of humor that a lot of people find offensive and insulting, he actually is very knowledgeable about subjects. A lot of people don’t see that side of Milo because they are turned off by the flamboyance, the provocateur side of him. He does insult some people. He is offensive but that’s his goal. Because if he wasn’t there would be no attention paid to him and his message wouldn’t be getting across.”

JUAN PRIETO: “News broke out that Milo was going to ‘out’ outspoken undocumented students. As someone who was very outspoken about my status on campus, I feared for what that would look like. What scared me is that Milo was going to do it to a crowd of white supremacists, white nationalists from the Bay Area. That’s what startled me, that he would make targets of some of us to an audience that is incredibly violent in their rhetoric and is hateful towards immigrants and anyone who is not a white person.”

TROY WARDEN: “I was with the president of the BCR and another person, and as we were walking around campus we engaged with some reporters who were there to do some pre-interviews. As we were doing that, a black-clad sunglasses-wearing individual began to hurl profanity at us and the reporters. I can’t even repeat it. They were yelling epithets at us and the reporters, who were, incidentally, of a minority status. So these people were already beginning to verbally intimidate before greater crowds of protesters showed up.”

Early part of the evening, Sproul Plaza

4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

TROY WORDEN: “We were thinking of passing out plastic snowflakes to protesters, to lighten the mood or defuse the situation. This tactic was tried at the University of Irvine. They handed out pacifiers and nothing happened! No violence occurred. The protestors took it in good spirit. [Snowflake is a disparaging term for liberals who are so delicate they ‘melt’ when their beliefs are challenged.]”

CARLO DAVID: “Around 4 o’clock, I decided to go to Sproul. I wanted to be there early to speak with whomever. There weren’t a lot of folks. There were students from the art department and they had these red bands that said, ‘Resist’ in white letters. They were catchy. Wow, I thought, there really is a concerted response from people.”

MATT RONNAU: “I had a big black overcoat on, I may have been wearing my sunglasses. I was trying to hide who I was because I was part of that group that was doxxed by antifa in late December. I had my Trump hat had under my coat. You could tell people started to recognize us. I didn’t want to be out there. I didn’t know what would happen. We got inside [the student center.]”

NEIL LAWRENCE was a third-year transgender male from Los Angeles who was part of the black bloc that attacked the ASUC Student Union.

“On the afternoon of Feb. 1, a few friends and I met up with many other small groups of friends. We gathered off campus, distributed flags, wrote the National Lawyers Guild number on each other’s arms and helped each other make sure our faces were properly covered. Then we started marching.

Behind those bandanas and black T-shirts were the faces of…UC Berkeley and Berkeley City College students, of women, of people of color, of queer and trans people…The bloc was made up of people with the most to fight for and the most to lose. We were not ‘unaffiliated white anarchists.'” From an op-ed in the Daily Cal.

MATT RONNAU: “We went up to Pauley Ballroom and started roping off some of the sections for reserved seats. Then Milo came out and we took a couple of pictures. He was wearing some pretty plain clothes, a long t-shirt, sunglasses. He was going to go get in his getup later. I think he was going to wear an Indian headdress. He was talking about cultural appropriation. A lot of people think he was going to out undocumented students, but he never said he was going to do that. That was some fabrication that was made up.”

JUAN PRIETO: “I debated with myself a lot. Do I show up with the counter-protesters? With me thinking that he was going to out undocumented people, maybe it would be safer for me to stay home. So I decided to go home and was with a couple of undocumented students. We all went into my room and decided to stay away from whatever was going to happen outside. We were in my room watching everything unfold live through BuzzFeed.”

CARLO DAVID: “At 5 p.m., protesters began to assemble just as the University of California police were beginning to clear out the ASUC Student Union building, where Yiannopoulos was slated to speak at 8 p.m. Right outside, barricades surrounded the perimeter. But it was not enough to deter demonstrators from engaging in what they had hoped would be a peaceful protest.”

LUIS TENORIO, 22, was a first-year doctoral student of sociology and director of the Queer and Transgender Advocacy Project at UC Berkeley. He also worked with the UC Berkeley Student-Workers Union, a UAW affiliate.

“Among the LGBTQ+ community, the campus leaders, we talked about what the response looks like. Even among the leaders, it was divided: Should we be at the protest? Should we not be? Should we organize another event on campus, taking the fuel away from the fire? Other leaders wanted a way in which they could show solidarity with the community they are a part of, but not be present to risk their own safety. They had the idea of a giant flag or something, and then we came up with the idea of lighting Sproul Plaza with the pride flag colors and hanging a trans flag from the balcony to show that solidarity.”

ALISON JONES: “We were up near Sproul Hall as opposed to standing down on the plaza. There were thousands and thousands of people. There were people there to dance. There were people there in rainbow colors. There were queer activists, there were community people, there were tons of students who were concerned and upset this was happening on their campus who weren’t necessarily organized but who just showed up. There were various types of people there. Different ages, all along the liberal to progressive to the radical spectrum of the left.”

CARLO DAVID: “‘No Milo, No Trump, No fascist USA!’ chants echoed through Sproul Plaza an hour before the gates even opened for the Yiannopoulos event.” Reporting for Berkeleyside, at about 5:20 p.m.

DAN MOGULOF: “My intention that night, my role as a communications advisor to leadership and as a spokesperson, was to transit back and forth between outside and inside. I like to get a firsthand look and not rely on the descriptions of others of what is happening, to be as accurate and effective as possible when it comes time to communicate.

“I knew that we would be putting barricades up around the Martin Luther King Center and I had asked the police, ‘How can I get in and out?’ And they said, ‘Don’t worry, we know you,’ and if you go over to this certain part of the barricade we will have a place where you can get in and out.

“So it was a couple hours before the event was slated to start. It was starting to get dark. There was a crowd by 5, 5:30, there was a crowd of 300 to 400 people. Many of them looked like students. It was a fairly tense and dialed up crowd. You can tell it was angry. It didn’t vibe violent. I was a journalist for 20 years, covered a lot of combat and chaos, and I have a feel for those things. These were people who were fired up, no doubt about it. It was almost entirely people there to oppose Yiannopoulos’ presence. I wanted to check the inside.”

KATRINA REDELSHEIMER, was a San Francisco resident, actuary, children’s picture book author and Trump supporter who came with her husband, John Jennings, and friends, to see Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley.

“We came at 5:30. The event was supposed to be at 8. Our friends were planning on meeting up at [Caffe Strada,] a café north of where the event was happening. We got off BART. We were walking up Bancroft. We were dressed very neutrally, intentionally. We didn’t wear anything to indicate we were Trump supporters. We didn’t wear MAGA hats… One of our friends was wearing a hat saying Make Bitcoin Great again. Another one was wearing a real MAGA hat. Another was wearing a beanie hat that said Trump on it…We were wearing Kevlar vests.” Interview with Stefan Molyneaux:

The black bloc storms the campus

Around 5:48 p.m.

DAN MOGULOF: “I went to an area where I was supposed to be able to get in. There were no UC Berkeley cops there. There were some cops there from one of the other campuses and I said, ‘Hi, I need to get in.’ They said, ‘We can’t let you in.’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t go through the crowd.’ And they said, ‘Sorry.’

“Time was getting short and I said, what the heck. I got about ten yards into the crowd heading towards [another entrance to the student union] when I was recognized and quickly surrounded by dozens of people and before too long became the center of attention for a good part of the crowd. People were screaming at me. ‘You’re the motherfucker who has been up there using the first amendment as an excuse to suck up to the Trump administration.’ ‘This is the asshole who thinks Yiannopoulos has the right to be here.’ ‘This is someone who doesn’t care about student safety.’

“They were rabid. I’m talking like spittle, bulging eyes, physically shaking.” — Dan Mogulof

“It was getting pretty tense. The mood was turning, at least among the people closest to me. What I could see, the vast majority, were not students, they were older. They were rabid. I’m talking like spittle, bulging eyes, physically shaking. I was being pushed. And I was getting ready to rumble, to defend myself. I remember looking across the double barricades at the cops who were like 25 feet away, and it was clear they were flummoxed about what to do because they had their own positions and basically they were saying with their eyes, ‘You’re on your own.’

“At that exact moment, it was like suddenly there a disruption in the force, something was going on in the crowd, something was rippling through the crowd, and people started to turn away from me. I am not super tall, but tall enough to see over the average person, and it’s like one of those moments out of a movie. I see about 100 to 150 people, dressed all in black in these Ninja outfits, carrying sticks and bats and Molotov cocktails and wearing masks and they are marching and they are disciplined. Everybody starts to turn around and I, I’m not going to be wasting any time, I duck down as soon as everybody turns around and make my way though the people’s legs out of the crowd. Son of a gun if I wasn’t followed by a few people but I wasn’t worried any more.”

CARLO DAVID: “I remember the time, 5:48 p.m., that’s when antifa and black bloc started descending on Sproul. I was right outside the MLK/Amazon student center. They were part of my peripheral vision and I could hear that there was some sort of movement toward my direction. There were coming from Telegraph, I assume from Oakland. I was struck by how organized and structured they were. They were all wearing black, black bandanas, backpacks and they obviously were covering their faces. You could only see their eyes. Some of them had drums. Some of them had, I am not sure if it was a baseball bat or some kind of tool, like a piece of wood, which they used that evening to vandalize campus property and downtown Berkeley property.”

Carlo David’s Twitter video:

ALISON JONES: “I met up with a group of friends at a café up the street [at Caffe Strada]. A group of us left about a quarter to 6. We were standing on the corner of Telegraph and Bancroft. That’s when the antifa black bloc came marching up Bancroft. There were about 100 to 150 people. They were chanting. It was ‘wow.’ Here they come. The whole thing was so intense. It was overwhelming.”

6:05 p.m: First barricade thrown at the student union. Smoke from M80s and police devices fill the air in front of the student center.

6:06 p.m.: Flood lights fall down.

6:10 p.m.: Someone sets the black antifa mural, which is hanging over a barricade in front of the building, on fire

ANONYMOUS BLACK-BLOC PROTESTER:

“The bloc made its way into Sproul Plaza chanting “No borders! No nations! Fuck deportations!” I could hear the demonstrators that had shown up earlier than we did cheering as we made our way onto the campus. I’ve never experienced people cheering and applauding the arrival of a black bloc like that before. It was beautiful.

“There was little to no police presence on the ground. The cops that were outside on the ground level were insignificant and overwhelmed. Immediately, the police and the Amazon store that’s housed inside the student union building were on the receiving end of a barrage of rocks. It’s hard to remember the exact sequence as a lot of chaos erupted very quickly. The plastic zip ties that tied together the metal barricades around the building were cut. This allowed demonstrators to dismantle the police barrier that surrounded and restricted access to the venue. Loud and angry chants calling to ‘shut it down’ began coming from all around and militants began to make moves on the building. Fireworks were shot up into the sky, at the building, and towards the police. More cheering.” From It’s Going Down.

CARLO DAVID: “They started lighting pyrotechnics, fireworks. They started dismantling the barriers, the barricades that were put in place by UCPD. They started throwing stuff, both rocks and pyrotechnics at the Amazon student center. Then they burned that generator. There was a generator that lights the entire plaza, because it was pretty dark otherwise, and when that thing fell — I will never forget this. Everyone started running, running away from the scene because that generator was set on fire, it fell, and they started throwing stuff.”

ALISON JONES: “The police had set up these massive, huge bright lights that were extremely intimidating and made it like daylight out there. And again, this was so they could identify people. They said it was for protection. That is not true. These are the kind of tactics police use when they want to be able to identify who is involved. There was this huge massive light. There were tons of cops in riot gear all along the balcony of Sproul and barricades all around. It was completely shut down. This is a public university, a public building. They have completely shut it down in the name of free speech. The irony was not lost on the crowd. It was shocking. Never have I seen anything like this, this show of militarization on the campus. In order to protect what? Neo-Nazi fascists who come and threaten people on campus? That’s crazy to me.

“They [anti-fascist activists] started to pull down the lights. The lights were propane powered. Once they pulled them down there was fuel leaking out of them. And the police shot rubber bullets and they hit those. And that is what caused the fire, the massive fire. That they tried to say these people started. That isn’t what happened. I saw it.”

ANDREW GREENWOOD was the Chief of Police for Berkeley.

“We had never seen an instance where 100, 150 people in a coordinated fashion would descend on an institution specifically to injure and damage it. It was unprecedented.”

Under siege: Inside the Pauley Ballroom and student union building

MATT RONNAU: “We started to hear a lot of commotion. People were screaming at us, calling us fascists, calling us members of the KKK. I don’t think there were any UCPD officers in the room but some of (Milo’s) security told him to come away from the windows because at one point he went outside on the balcony. [He] was just looking at what was going on in Sproul Plaza. We kept hearing firecrackers, M80s or whatever. At the point [his security detail] realized this is not going well they told him to come inside and stay away from the windows. At one point the fire alarm went off in the entire building – they were trying to get it turned off. I don’t know if it was accidentally pulled or someone set it off. At one point the lights went off too. The UCPD told all of us to leave Pauley Ballroom.”

“I felt like I was in a war zone. I felt I was in Aleppo. I didn’t feel like I was in a civil society in the most prosperous nation in the world.” — Troy Worden

TROY WORDEN: “We were getting explosions ringing against the windows of the upper part of MLK. I felt like I was in a war zone. I felt I was in Aleppo. I didn’t feel like I was in a civil society in the most prosperous nation in the world. I certainly didn’t feel like I was in this utopia people talk about when they mention the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. So I felt, after a time, as if I were under siege in some Third World country. It was that bad, it was that concerning.

“At one point they were chanting, ‘Die, Milo.’ It really disappointed me. We were prepared to have Milo engage in a lively and humorous debate with people. The protesters were intent on making the situation as volatile and violent as possible as quickly as possible.”

DAN MOGULOF: “Public Affairs has a suite of offices up in Sproul with a window on the west side of the building overlooking the Plaza. I got into that office and within minutes all hell broke loose. The industrial grade fireworks, the dismantling of the barricades, the breaking of windows, the mayhem. It was just shocking. I was thinking, ‘These are all those people who were writing those letters.’

“This is what they were talking about. There’s a full-on battle going on in the middle of a college campus. I was very anxious even though you could see the perpetrators, the violence and the vandalism were these black bloc people. I saw young students running towards it instead of away from it. The students obviously had no experience with this. I am thinking, ‘Oh my god, there’s a melée out here, we’re going to end up with dead people.’”

MILO YIANNOPOULOS  “Suddenly there were these explosions outside, there were firecrackers and rocks being hurled at the building, the police were having things hurled at them and I was evacuated up to the fifth floor by the fire escape, it was all very exciting.

“[I was] put in a bulletproof vest and whisked away and that is the price you pay for being a libertarian or conservative on American college campuses.” — Milo Yiannopoulos

“And suddenly I was being taken out of the building, I was informed that I was being evacuated because there was hundreds of protesters outside, blowing things up, hurling things at the police, the police didn’t seem to me to be doing very much aside from hiding inside the building. The ground floor had been stormed so we had to rush down to the parking lot, find one car and that exit was blocked so we ran to another car, finally got in one and I was bundled in, put in a bulletproof vest and whisked away and that is the price you pay for being a libertarian or conservative on American college campuses.” As told to Tucker Carlson on Fox News.

TROY WORDEN: “Milo Yiannopoulos took an elevator down to an underground garage. I never got to see him except for the fact he got on the elevator, I still to this day have not actually met him in person. That was essentially it. Once Milo left the building all there was to do was to wait out the fireworks, the protesters.”

6:15 p.m.

DAN MOGULOF: “I was furious. I was furious at the people with that ‘by any means necessary’ ethos, that idea violence is fine. I have just spent too much time in my career as a journalist covering the wild array of unintended consequences of violence, how innocent people are always the ones who pay the worst price.

“I was in Rwanda and Bosnia and Chechnya and Somalia. I know what happens when you devolve down into might makes right when it comes to the contest of ideas and ideology. People who would bring that on to a college campus and endorse it, endorse violence and the elevation of this guy, Yiannopoulos, playing right into his narrative, giving him everything he could have dreamed of, was infuriating. The incursion onto campus of external parties from both sides of the political spectrum without any regard for the havoc they were creating and the danger they were creating. I was really mad, really frightened, and really worried by it.”

6:40 pm. UCPD Nixle alert:

UCPD has issued a stay away order in or near Bancroft and Telegraph due to major protest attacks. Due to the violent demonstration, additional resources are being brought in. Cal students should leave the area immediately.

Protesters gathered at Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley to protest an event being held by the Berkeley College Republicans featuring media personality Milo Yiannopoulos. Photo: Dan Lurie

NEIL LAWRENCE: “To those who hate Yiannopoulos and the alt-right but have a hard time condoning black bloc tactics and property damage, I understand that these tactics are extreme. But when you consider everything that activists already tried — when mass call-ins, faculty and student objections, letter-writing campaigns, numerous op-eds (including mine), union grievances and peaceful demonstrations don’t work, when the nonviolent tactics have been exhausted — what is left? Of all the objections and cancellation requests presented to the administration, local government and local police, the only one that was listened to was the sound of shattering glass.

“To the less radical bystanders who chanted ‘no more violence’ (as though Amazon windows and floodlights have bones to break or blood to spill) and who turned out the next morning to help clean up — would you have been there to defend the undocumented students he would have outed? To defend me from the next round of doxxing and lukewarm death threats that is my reward for exercising my own First Amendment rights? Will you chant No More Violence at the Proud Boys and the skinheads? Will you get between a counter-protester and the target of their rage?” From an op-ed in the Daily Cal.

ANTIFA MEMBER: “We’re here protesting Milo Yiannopoulos, the poster child for the alt-right who wants to use the space here at UC Berkeley to peddle his smut and to peddle his racism, his white nationalism in the guise of innocent free speech. But a collective group of students, locals, trans, queers, freaks, black, white, brown all other colors, people have chosen to stand here and say ‘no safe space for fascists.’ That’s what’s going on. We’re shutting it down.” As told to independent journalist Tim Poole.

ALISON JONES: “I have been an organizer and activist for many years. I have seen, and actually have dressed in black myself, at demonstrations in the past. This idea that dressing in black is somehow antithetical to anything, it’s very foreign to me. It wasn’t an unusual thing at all back when I was an activist for people to be dressed like that. Because the police were always trying to identify organizers and activists so they could harass you. It wasn’t COINTELPRO but it was the same type of behavior. Back then it was to protect you from the police. The antifa faction are protecting themselves against Nazis, against fascists, against the right wing who are violently and vigorously trying to attack them.”

DAN MOGULOF: “There were cops who were in the building. There were cops who were wading out into the crowd putting themselves in harm’s way to try and rescue people and break things up, but they had a really tough call to make.

“First of all, they feared, correctly, for the lives and safety of Yiannopoulos and his hosts. That’s who the crowd was after, let’s be clear about that. There was a clear and present danger to those people. So they had an obligation to protect them. Second is that this was unprecedented. 100 to 150 members of a paramilitary group, the cops were outnumbered. And police do not like to try effect arrests with violent adversaries if they are outnumbered. They like a much, much healthier ratio than that.

“If they had tried to wade into that crowd to effect arrests, we know who would have gotten hurt. It wouldn’t have been the paramilitary group. It wouldn’t have been the police. It would have been all those students with no applicable experience who would have been caught up in the middle of it. The fact that we got out of that evening without anybody being mortally injured is kind of unbelievable.”

MARGO BENNETT was the Chief of the UC Berkeley Police Department.

“We knew that if we went out into the crowd with the intent of making these mass arrests, it would have escalated the violence that was out there and people would have really gotten hurt, seriously hurt.” Interview with KQED.

People getting hurt

KATRINA REDELSHEIMER: “The doors weren’t supposed to open until 7. We got down there (Sproul Plaza) at 6:30 thinking we would have a half hour to fend for ourselves The media was there and they wanted to interview my friend with the ‘Make Bitcoin Great Again’ hat. So she does a couple of interviews. Then this woman came up, all dressed in black, with her face covered. She came in between the guy who was interviewing her and the cameraman and stuck the pepper spray in and sprayed her. It was just luck that she had already turned her face away because she was actually getting irritated with the interviewer who was kind of an asshole. She didn’t really get it in the face. It kind of missed her. She ran off.” Interview with Stefan Molyneux.

REDELSHEIMER AND JENNINGS:  “Without warning or provocation, a masked protester brutally struck Jennings with a wooden stick in the right temple. Redelsheimer came to her husband’s aid by pushing the masked assailant back. As the assailant withdrew into the crowd, Jennings and Redelsheimer were attacked with pepper spray and approximately five or six masked protesters began striking Jennings with sticks, viciously hitting him multiple times, pushing him to the ground and kicking him, causing multiple severe injuries. Both Jennings and Redelsheimer suffered severe bodily injuries from the physical assaults to their bodies, including concussions, broken or bruised ribs, contusions and cuts, and from the pepper spray, temporarily blinding them, burning them and leaving welts on their skin.” In a lawsuit filed in January 2018 against the University of California.

MALINI RAMAIYER was a first-year student at UC Berkeley from Cupertino, and a reporter for The Daily Californian:

“I saw someone wearing all black walk up to a student wearing a suit and say, ‘You look like a Nazi.’ The student was confused, but before he could reply, the black-clad person pepper-sprayed him and hit him on the back with a rod. I ran after the student who was attacked to get his name and more information. He told me that he is a Syrian Muslim. Before I could find out more, he fled, fearing another attack.” In a New York Times op-ed.

ANONYMOUS BLACK BLOC PROTESTER: I’ve heard about scuffles with fascists that took place throughout the plaza and in the streets throughout the night but I personally didn’t witness any of it at the time. After the event was canceled the police began to give dispersal orders and declare us an unlawful assembly. For over an hour, they told us several times that we had 10 minutes to leave or they would force all of us out by hurting us. They were met with ‘fuck the police’ chants every time. We were winning and wanted to celebrate before we left. We danced by the fire as the police pleaded with us. ‘Milo isn’t here anymore,’ they kept repeating. Sproul Plaza was ours.” From It’s Going Down:

MARGO BENNETT: “I don’t know what a ‘stand down’ order is. We did not tell anyone to stand down. What we did tell officers to do was: ‘Hold your post.’”

UCPD NIXLE ALERT7:12 p.m.

Due to violent demonstration, additional resources are being brought in. Cal students should leave the area immediately.

TROY WARDEN: “The Berkeley College Republicans decided to leave on the advice of some of the officers present without police escort. We probably exited the building around 7 or 8. It was dark, it was night. We figured we would be able to slip by unnoticed, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. After we were leaving by a stairwell and got on to Lower Sproul Plaza we were spotted, particularly because some of us, like myself, were wearing suits. We were almost immediately called out by name. They used obscenity and profanity against us. A person actually attempted to trip me while I was walking. It was done maliciously. This person was dressed in black, they looked like an Antifa member. We realized at that moment we would have to quickly disperse and hide because we were being noticed and we were being followed.”

DAN MOGULOF: “I went to California Hall where the chancellor [Nicolas Dirks] and campus leadership was assembled monitoring the events. We have a very effective system for providing leadership with real-time information when these kinds of things are happening. Part of these were mechanisms that were developed after the last round of significant protests on the Berkeley campus around 2011, where we really changed the way we manage and monitor protests, particularly if there is concern about them becoming violent.

“It was in the chancellor’s cabinet room. It’s a big office with a long table. There were probably a good dozen people up there, maybe more. There was some sort of video feed to the cabinet room so they were aware what had happened, they were aware the speaker had to be evacuated to save his life, they were aware of the damage and the vandalism and the fires and the injuries and the arrival of the black bloc. They were up to speed. Like any normal human being, they were freaked out. There wasn’t panic. There wasn’t hysteria. I think everyone had known at the back of their minds that something like this was possible. Again, there had been a shooting at Washington so once that happens, all bets are off. It was incredibly serious, grim, it was a dark mood. Everyone is cognizant and acutely aware of our legacy. It’s the home of the Free Speech Movement. People take that seriously. At least people in that room did.”

MILO YIANNOPOULOS:  “My name is Milo Yiannopoulos. I am the gay technology editor for Breitbart News. I was due this evening to speak at UC Berkeley about cultural appropriation… It’s not a subject you would imagine that would prompt the violent rallies that you are now seeing on every major broadcast network in the U.S. and it’s not something I expected to happen tonight. But it turns out the progressive left, the social justice left, the feminists, Black Lives Matter, the antifa left, the hard left, which has become so utterly antithetical to free speech in the last few years has taken a turn post-Trump’s election where they simply will not allow any speaker on campus, even someone as silly and harmless and gay as me to have their voice heard. They won’t allow students to listen to differing points of view. They are petrified about alternative visions of how the world ought to work and people with arguments, fact and reason that don’t conform to the social justice left vision of the universe.

“In the meantime I am just sitting in a hotel room, stunned, that hundreds of people were throwing rocks, throwing goodness knows what at the building, throwing fireworks at the police, and had to be subdued, according to reports I heard, with tear gas and non-lethal bullets because they are so threatened that a conservative speaker might be so persuasive and interesting and funny, and might take some people with him. They just have to shut it down at all costs. America now of all places is a scene of political violence in response to ideas. It’s very shocking. But I’m safe. My team is safe and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about this in the days to come.” Speaking from Facebook from his hotel room in Fremont.

JUAN PRIETO: “People have different opinions about canceling it [Milo’s speech] but at the end of the day because of the tactics used, the event was canceled and he was unable to out undocumented students to a crowd of bigots and white supremacists.”

LUIS TENORIO: “While I don’t think personally I could take up those sort of actions, I understand where those actions stem from. The destruction of property is also up for debate. If you think about it, they only destroyed certain property, they destroyed the Amazon part of the student union building, they destroyed banks, riddled in that there is some other political incentive and message they had in particular, a little bit removed from just trying to get the event shut down. And in the mix of things made people paint this demonstration and action in a very, very, very negative way and not allow people to empathize or understand where those actions were coming from.”

NEIL LAWRENCE “I understand that the chaotic reality of direct action frightened a lot of people. But at the University of Washington protest, a Yiannopoulos fan shot an unarmed anti-fascist organizer and walked free. Do broken windows frighten you more than bullets? Antifa was there to protect UC Berkeley students when the administration was not. Within 15 minutes of the bloc’s arrival on Sproul Plaza, Yiannopoulos was being rushed from the building. These were not acts of violence. They were acts of self-defense.”  From an op-ed in the Daily Cal.

After a canceled speech, rejoicing

JUAN PRIETO: “The moment it was canceled there was this sigh of relief in the room. There were three of us in the room. We were going to be safe, at least for that night. We all debated whether to go out and march with the crowd. We decided to go out and join them. I live three blocks from campus. We walked straight into Sproul Plaza where the crowd was still congregating, celebrating. Then we marched into the streets, onto Telegraph. A lot of people didn’t report on this, they like to focus on the fiery generator, but more than anything I felt in community. I felt like the Bay Area was there. The Bay Area was live and well that night. People were dancing, they played music, strangers were hugging each other, and it really wasn’t that scary picture that the press ran with. It was a celebratory community event. A moving event on the street. The mood was incredibly uplifting. I felt safe for the first time that day. I felt taken care of.

“I saw, you know what, we are going to be able to take on this presidential administration because the Bay Area is willing to rise up for its community. I will never forget the energy in that crowd. I will never forget the smiles. And the affirmation from everyone involved, including those who as Chancellor Dirks later called were dressed like Ninjas. It was an incredibly uplifting experience to be in that crowd. It felt like a victory. It felt like we had protected our community. We didn’t let alt right hate mongers come together and organize. We out-organized them.”

The crowd spills from Sproul Plaza into the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph at 7:07 p.m. on Feb.1, 2017. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

BERKELEYSIDE UPDATE, 7:39 p.m.

The Berkeley Police Department reports that “emergency responders may need to use tear gas to disperse the demonstrators” on and near the UC Berkeley campus. Authorities say those in the area bounded by Bancroft Way, Shattuck Avenue, College Avenue, and Dwight Way “should avoid the area.” Police say tear gas may be needed “because of the violent nature of some of the persons in the demonstration.”

8 p.m.

CARLO DAVID: “Protesters began to leave Sproul Plaza, marching down Telegraph Avenue. While many people were rejoicing, others overturned garbage bins and set them on fire. Some blocked cars trying to get through. One man spray-painted ‘Kill Trump’ on the Bank of America building. A group of masked protesters, not affiliated with UC Berkeley, has started to march chanting, ‘Whose streets?! Our streets!'”

ANONYMOUS BLACK-BLOC PROTESTER “On our own terms, we left the campus with the sound system and began marching down Telegraph Avenue and then to the downtown area. Corporations and banks were smashed. I could see graffiti and anti-fascist messages everywhere I looked. The Starbucks across from the west entrance of the campus at Center and Oxford was smashed and looted. One man downtown got in my face and yelled at me about law and order during the smashing even though all I was doing was standing there just like many others in the crowd. It seemed like he was trying as hard as he could to get someone to hit him but eventually left when everybody ignored him. We moved back onto the campus and roamed around for a bit until we came across more riot cops near California Hall. Most turned around and headed back in the direction we came from. Back at the west entrance of the school, I left.” From It’s Going Down website:

Property damage in downtown Berkeley after the Milo event was canceled. Photo: Citizen reporter

BERKELEYSIDE UPDATE, 9:01 p.m. The Berkeley Police Department said it was getting reports “of persons vandalizing businesses on Shattuck Avenue — as the group of 200-300 persons walk northbound on Shattuck Avenue towards University Avenue.” Some of the black bloc marched to Berkeley’s downtown and smashed and looted a Starbucks, smashed the windows of a number of banks and vandalized the ATM machines at a Wells Fargo branch.

ANDREW GREENWOOD: “There was a big concern about the number of people involved in that activity [smashing windows] and our numbers. When you don’t have enough police officers to effectively take control of the crowd you can rapidly be in a position where you have to use force and when you are using force with a small number of officers and a large number in a crowd, including people who aren’t committing crimes, which is the dynamic of that, which we all should remember, then that sets the stage for using force on people who aren’t necessarily involved. That’s a problem.”

ALISON JONES: “They went downtown. They went a little crazy, which was unfortunate. They did target banks and large businesses. They did not target small businesses. I personally see the difference between vandalism and physical violence. It’s important to draw that distinction. But in this situation given what was going on, it totally distracted and it wasn’t what it was all about. It took energy away and it also turned a lot of people against the activists and against antifa. They needed to be more disciplined in how they handled themselves. That would have been more appropriate.”

JUAN PRIETO: “There is actual violence committed against people. Our definition of violence needs to be re-thought. Actual violence is committed against undocumented folks being detained, undocumented people being deported to violent countries that the United States destabilized. These are acts against the human body. Broken glass can be replaced. But a broken spine can’t. At the end of the day, the Amazon bookstore is back on its feet. At the end of the day, the generator was put out. But if we would have allowed these white supremacists to come together and have specific targets who knows what they would have done to those people? And those are people we wouldn’t have been able to bring back if they were broken.”

DAN MOGULOF: “Immediately I knew it would take on significance larger than the UC Berkeley campus because it was so unprecedented. Because of the visuals. I was a TV journalist for 20 years. You get 100 150 people to show up, dressed as ninjas in the middle of a college campus, that’s something that is going to attract a lot of attention.

“Of course, what I feared came to pass: the visuals overwhelmed the facts. People couldn’t reconcile how it was that our officers weren’t out there mixing it up in the middle of it. It was dark. Having to explain the black bloc intermingled with a group of largely law-abiding relatively peaceful [people], it just didn’t matter. I know what happens to visuals like that particularly in the age of social media. It would go out unfiltered, unexplained un-contextualized, and it would play into the full spectrum and range of incredibly overheated emotions, particularly at the extreme edges of the political spectrum. These pictures at once fuel deeply opposing and contradictory narratives, one that the university somehow took a laissez-faire approach to the black blocers on one hand, and on the other, see this is exactly what we said would happen, you guys wrapped yourself up in that bullshit First Amendment.”

TROY WORDEN: “We thought we would be beaten in the streets with no police protection whatsoever so we turned on to Dana Street and we eventually made it to Unit 3, which is one of the dorms, and we hid in the dorm, that’s how afraid we were. We were not willing to go out again in public by foot. So we actually had to wait in this dorm, in the lobby for a few minutes until we had got an Uber to pick us up. We eventually ‘Ubered’ to Clark Kerr [a dorm south of the main campus] and that is where I hunkered down with some of my College Republican friends. We wrote up a press release statement. I ended up putting in a phrase there ‘The Free Speech Movement is dead,’ which I had modeled off of course Nietzsche’s phrase ‘God is dead, and basically my point was marking the end of an epoch, the end of an era at UC Berkeley and American universities in general.”

9:09 p.m.

PIETER SITTLER, Vice-President of the Berkeley College Republicans, issued the following statement:

The Free Speech Movement is dead. Today, the Berkeley College Republicans’ constitutional right to free speech was silenced by criminals and thugs seeking to cancel Milo Yiannopoulos’ tour. Their success is a defeat for civilized society and the free exchange of ideas on college campuses across America. We would like to thank UCPD and the university administration for doing all they could to ensure the safety of everyone involved. It is tragic that the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement is also its final resting place.

TROY WORDEN: “We sent that press release out and afterwards I had to call my parents to have them drive from Pittsburg to Berkeley to take me out of there because BART was shut down due to the protests and I was not willing to walk outside for any other reason than to get into a car and drive out of there immediately. I told them there was a riot at Berkeley and I needed to get out because I could not safely walk the streets and I couldn’t use public transportation. They obviously were very concerned. They didn’t have any idea what was going on.

“I got back to Pittsburg after midnight. I stayed up through the night, going through all these phone calls that had been made to my phone when I was in Pauley Ballroom. We were all on an adrenaline rush and weren’t able to sleep early that night.”

The day after, Feb. 2, 2017

DAN MOGULOF: “I got a call at 5 or 5:30 in the morning. It was from the New York Times. They said, ‘Dan, sorry to wake you up so early but what’s the university’s response to the President’s tweet?’ And I said, ‘what do mean, what did [Janet] Napolitano tweet?’ [Napolitano is the President of the University of California.] Whoever it was laughed and said, ‘no, no, the president of the United States.’ I said, ‘what do you mean?” He said, ‘Well, he tweeted.’ I said, ‘I need to call you back.’

“When I got into the office and the shock of seeing a web page [saying] ‘the President of the United States, Donald Trump, tweeted. Campus spokesperson responds.’  I’m like how in the hell did I wind up in a story next to the president? How did that ever happen?”

TROY WORDEN: “The only surprise that came after Feb. 1 came the morning after when I found out that President Trump had tweeted out what happened in Berkeley. If the president had been a Barack Obama or George Bush they would never have condescended to write and to tweet about what was happening at our campus. Donald Trump said at the Republican National Convention that he is the voice of the forgotten men and women. I tend to agree. He was our voice.”

NICHOLAS DIRKS’ FEB. 2 MEMO TO THE UC BERKELEY COMMUNITY: 

The violence last night was an attack on the fundamental values of the university, which stands for and helps to maintain and nurture open inquiry and an inclusive civil society, the bedrock of a genuinely democratic nation. We are now, and will remain in the future, completely committed to free speech as essential to our educational mission and a vital component of our identity at UC Berkeley.

MILO YIANNOPOULOS, Feb. 4, 2017:

“In light of recent controversies, I am planning a huge multi-day event called MILO’S FREE SPEECH WEEK in Berkeley later this year. We will hold talks and rallies and throw massive parties, all in the name of free expression and the First Amendment. All will be welcome, regardless of political affiliation. Free speech has never been more under threat in America — especially at the supposed home of the free speech movement. I will bring activists, writers, artists, politicians, YouTubers, veterans and drag queens from across the ideological spectrum to lecture, march, and party… If UC Berkeley does not actively assist us in the planning and execution of this event, we will extend festivities to an entire month. We will establish a tent city on Sproul Plaza protesting the university’s total dereliction of its duty and encourage students at other universities to follow suit. I intend to return Berkeley to its rightful place as the home of free speech — whether university administrators and violent far-left antifa thugs like it or not.” From Facebook. 


Sources for this Berkeleyside oral history: 

Berkeleyside interviews
Breitbart News, 12/15/16 transcript of Milo Yiannopoulos’ talk at Minnesota State
Stefan Molyneaux interview with Katrina Redelsheimer, Feb. 4, 2107
It’s Going Down post about form letter to Dan Mogulof
Faculty letter protesting Milo Yiannopoulos’ talk to Nicolas Dirks
Breitbart News: “UC Berkeley Extremists Dox Student MILO Event Hosts, Post Personal Details and Workplace Address.” Jan. 12, 2107.
Breitbart News, “MILO Launches Horowitz Freedom Center Campaign Against ‘Sanctuary Campuses’” Jan. 31, 2017
New York Times, “How Violence Undermined the Berkeley Protest,” Feb. 2, 2017
John Jennings and Katarina Redelsheimer lawsuit filed against UC Berkeley
Tim Poole’s interview with Antifa activist
Margo Bennett’s interview with KQED
Nicholas Dirks memo on the arrival of Milo Yiannopoulos
Milo Yiannopoulos’ Facebook Live video after his evacuation
Neil Lawrence’s Feb. 7, 2017, op-ed in the Daily Cal
It’s Going Down article written by anonymous black bloc protestor
Nicholas Dirks Feb. 2, 2017, memo to UC Berkeley community
Milo Yiannopoulos’ Facebook post that he intends to return to Berkeley