Why Won’t Colleges Arrest Violent Disruptors of Free Speech?

February 16, 2017

by Maggie Gallagher


Merriam-Webster’s dictionary just added two new terms: “safe space” and “microaggression.”

College conservatives, meanwhile, are just thinking about how to survive a campus culture that has turned deeply, virulently, and aggressively left-wing in just the past two years. Oh, to be concerned only about microaggressions!

Take one recent incident: “I have been punched. I have been spit on. I have had my personal information posted online,” said Naweed Tahmas, a Berkeley College Republican who helped invite Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus.

Milo Yiannopoulis, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is a performance artist and a provocateur who has become a folk hero to campus conservatives with his fearless (and incredibly vulgar) “Dangerous Faggot” tour.

In two of his recent appearances at taxpayer-supported public universities, violence broke out. The incident at the University of Washington has been weirdly underreported. At a rally against Milo, a protester was shot.  The man who shot him turned himself into the police and has not been charged, suggesting that he was defending himself from physical attack by anti-Milo, anti-Trump socialist protesters.

And at Berkeley, home of the Free Speech movement in America, Milo’s appearance was cancelled when a riot broke out among the protesters. This was not just a case of feelings getting out of hand, however; as at the University of Washington it was yet another appearance of “Black Bloc” protesting, encouraged by the socialist Left.

Inside Higher Ed reported that amid the larger peaceful protest were those with more malevolent intentions:

[A]bout 150 protesters … did come to start fires, break windows and hurl rocks at police officers … They wore black and concealed their faces with masks. They brought — and used — bats, metal rods, fireworks and Molotov cocktails to get their message across, in the process undermining ‘the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence,’ said a spokesperson for Berkeley.

The rioters caused at least $100,000 in property damage.

Here’s my really big concern: no-one was arrested. “At Berkeley, the police officers felt that trying to get in the middle of the crowd would’ve sparked more violence and resulted in more severe injuries. They chose not to try to arrest the black bloc protesters, because they felt it would have compromised the safety of their students,” Inside Higher Ed noted. Several other college law enforcement officials interviewed praised that approach:

‘It always could be worse,’ University of Maryland College Park Police chief David Mitchell said. ‘The property damage was disappointing and absolutely unlawful, but that certainly could’ve been worse as well. I applaud the way they handled the incident.’

Jake Shields, a World Series of Fighting welterweight, was less enthusiastic about the lack of police response.  Emerging from a nearby restaurant, Shields said he watched a group of black masked men chasing a Trump supporter while police stood by and did nothing. “That’s when I had to intervene, because no one is helping the guy, including the police,” Shields told MMAJunkie.

The contrast with how the New York Police Department handled violence by similar protesters seeking to (and successfully silencing) Gavin McInnes at New York University is instructive: 11 people were arrested.

Rule number one about creating either safe spaces on campuses or upholding free speech: arrest the violent.

Because if campus police don’t, they are giving the radical Left a license to attack, not just in this one instance, but in college campuses and public spaces across America.

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project and can be followed on Twitter @MaggieGallaghe.

Photo credit: Annette Bernhardt via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0


Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

Archive: Maggie Gallagher

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