In 2002, when I was considering going to Berkeley to work on my doctorate, I visited the Pacific School of Religion. While there, I also spent a lot of time walking around the UC Berkeley campus and the surrounding area. How thrilling to come upon People’s Park and Caffe Med, the famous Telegraph Avenue referred to as the “home of the latte.” But it was when I came upon the Free Speech Cafe on campus that I stopped in my tracks and said (maybe it was under my breath, maybe out loud, I’m not sure), “I made it! 30+ years late, but I made it!”
This was not only history, but a witness and tradition that still stands today. So it was with dismay that I watched the unfolding of the protest on campus Wednesday night. Begun as a peaceful demonstration against the hate-mongering Milo Yiannopoulos, it turned into a destructive rampage through the tactics of the Black Bloc. And of course media attention was focused on the violence and property damage.
We’ve seen this before. Occupy Oakland was hijacked and lost a lot of support from people who couldn’t condone Black Bloc tactics. I believe we need to shut this counter-productive nonsense down immediately if the resistance to the policies of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is going to go the distance.
3 million+ people around the world marched and demonstrated – with not one incident of violence or destruction. As people of faith committed to spiritual defiance and the building up of the Beloved Community, we must find ways to stand against Black Bloc tactics. And we must hold the media accountable to reporting on the non-violence of the majority of demonstrators and our opposition to actions that are counter-productive.
There’s a lot of commentary now about what UC Berkeley should or should not have done, what the campus Republicans were trying to prove (or instigate), and how demonstrators should or should not have taken the bait. All good questions. But in my mind – as one committed to spiritual defiance – neutralizing the Black Bloc is job one.