For whom do Berkeley’s bells toll?

February 16, 2017

Mike F. Brown


Editor’s note: A column by Republican Mike Brown will run in CalCoastNews every other Thursday, rotating with a column by Democrat Stew Jenkins.

The Milo Yiannopoulos uprising at UC Berkeley on the evening of Feb. 1 wasn’t much of a riot by Berkeley standards. There was only $100,000 in property damage, one arrest, no reported police injuries (they had run away), and only six reported innocent bystander injuries  (mainly students who dared to wear their signature red Trump Make America Great Again baseball hats).

At the same time it was a huge failure for the chancellor, the university police, the university as an institution, and the local backup law enforcement agencies including the Berkeley City Police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, and the California Highway Patrol. The university police backed down and allowed the rioters to control a portion of the campus and adjacent community.

Worse, it was a public policy and management failure, which undermines not only the stature of the university but the civic character of our whole state.

Media outlets covering the story have again failed in their fundamental duty. In this case they have not asked the university, Berkeley mayor and police chief, Alameda County Sheriff and Board of Supervisors, and the Highway Patrol Commissioner why they did not invoke the normal mutual aid plan which has existed and been repeatedly updated and exercised for decades.

Reportedly, per the San Francisco Chronicle, UC system attorneys had advised the chancellor to be willing to accept some damage and allow some lawlessness rather than foment a larger incident and potential lawsuits like the ones that occurred as a result of police actions at UC Davis in 2011 (the  Occupy Movement pepper spray incident).

Yiannopoulos is on a self-promoting national tour of higher education institutions, “The Dangerous Faggot Tour” (he’s proudly gay), exhorting students to start a revolution against the currently reigning higher education institutional values of multi-culturalism, political correctness, social equality, gender equity, and immigration of people from countries that sponsor terrorism.

Two hours before the edgy, deliberately provocative, dramatically deviant, crude, and charismatic Milo was supposed to speak, the University Police Department cancelled the event in the interest of “public safety.” He was “evacuated” from campus and sequestered in a hotel.

News reports are unclear whether the police made the decision on their own or if they received either direction or concurrence from UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. By 11:30 p.m. that night, and given the surrender of the university and public authorities, the ostensibly peaceful demonstrators and “imported rioters” declared victory and drifted away.

This failure is even more egregious, given Chancellor Dirk’s prior public promise to not allow “perpetrators”  to disrupt the speech even though many students, faculty and community members, and Dirks himself views Yiannopoulos as some sort of  alien species supervillain (a characterization which Yiannopoulos himself actively cultivates).

Dirk’s pre-riot media pronouncement, after deriding Yiannopoulos as a “provocateur and troll,” stated in part:

Since the event was announced, staff from our Student Affairs office, as well as officers from the University of California Police Department (UCPD), have worked, as per policy and standard practice, with the (Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) to ensure the event goes as planned, and to provide for the safety and security of those who attend, as well as those who will choose to protest Yiannopoulos’s appearance in a lawful manner.

Finally, we have also made sure the BCR (who were hosting the event) are aware that some of those who are opposed to Yiannopoulos’s perspectives and conduct have vowed to mount a substantial protest against his presence on our campus. UCPD has been directed to maintain public safety and to do what it can to prevent disruptions and preserve order. It should be noted that the anticipated cost of those additional preparations and measures will be borne entirely by the campus, and will far exceed the basic security costs that are the responsibility of the hosting organization. We will not stand idly by while laws or university policies are violated, no matter who the perpetrators are.

In the end the police didn’t even stand idly by. Instead they ran away and retreated into the campus administration building, Sproul Hall.

Over past decades, Berkeley rioters have shut the town down for days, burned out stores, done millions of dollars in damage, and injured scores of police officers. In the 1969 People’s Park Riots, then Governor Ronald Regan refused to be intimidated and brought in a massive law enforcement presence including the California National Guard. The picture above is a detail from the allegorical People’s Park Mural glorifying the 1969 riot.

Now, rather than challenging the lawlessness and risk “provoking”  the mob, the university and civil authorities headed for the hills and accepted “limited damage.”

In the Aug. 1991 version of the Peoples’ Park Riots (the University was attempting to build a volley ball court and bathroom on the so-called park), it required 2,500 policemen, sheriff’s deputies, and Highway Patrol officers four days and five nights to suppress thousands of protestors and rioters who poured into the city from all over the Bay Area. Stores and restaurants on Telegraph Avenue were looted and gutted by fire.

Both historically and currently, the university spokespeople blame the riots on outsiders. In this most recent fiasco the university officially blamed “150 masked agitators” for hijacking what it claims should have been an otherwise peaceful demonstration of 1,500 people against the appearance of Yiannopoulos.

You would think law enforcement intelligence would have had a pretty good idea that the agitators were coming, who they are, and that they would turn the peaceful demonstration into a riot. The Communist Youth Brigades, Bay Area Anarchist Coalition, Peoples Park Defense Union, Occupy Movement, and their confederates have been using this tactic since the 60’s.

There are certainly some students who are sympathizers if not members of the agitator organizations. Most of the students, however, are too busy and hard pressed academically and financially to worry about politics, let alone sponsoring or joining in a riot.

The average Cal Bear is not wasting time by going down to Telegraph Avenue to heave a Molotov cocktail through the plate glass at the Gap Store the night before the calculus midterm exam. Berkeley undergrads had to have straight A’s and almost perfect SAT scores to be admitted in the first place

Those who make good grades will go on to the best law schools, medical schools, business schools and PhD programs in the country and/or become highly compensated product design engineers at prestigious companies like Apple and Intel. The very diverse student body is mainly hard working, very smart, and often gifted. Just stroll outside the practice rooms at Hertz Hall (Music Department) and listen some afternoon.

These future premiere law firm partners, investment bankers, corporate executives, high tech engineers, cardiologists, entrepreneurs, elected officials, and inventors of miraculous and as yet unimagined things, know that they hold the key to their professional success, economic potential, and life destiny in their own hands. One’s grades in calculus, chemistry, and English literature at age 18 can make all the difference for a lifetime. They aren’t about to throw their chances away.

What a magnificent privilege and for only $115,000 for all four years. Relatedly, and by way of equity, 40 percent of the undergraduates receive enough financial aid that they pay no tuition whatsoever.

Academic year 2016/2017 — living in a campus residence hall

Direct Costs Charged by UC Berkeley

Berkeley’s Campanile Bells

Tuition and fees

Room and board

Total direct costs
Beyond all this, a great university is not simply a guilt-edged trade school. Presentation of ideas, theories, opinions, and ideologies which make the students and faculty uncomfortable are essential. A great university should not decay into a tax payer funded alternative left youth indoctrination camp. It should not substitute teaching the current popular and dominant cultural norms, favored by an elitist and pampered professoriate and oversized, overpaid and intimidated bureaucracy, for actual disciplined intellectual substance.

The two distinctive and historic characteristics of the university, generically, in western civilization are: (1) They critically examine and evolve what subjects are important to study and (2) They maintain and advance the rigor with which those subjects are studied.

Berkeley has always hosted controversial speakers, including Huey Newton, Viet Nam’s infamous and fascistic Madam Nhu, and Malcolm X. Today, would they have Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei – the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic (Iran), or even Donald Trump? No doubt Khamenei would be feted and adored. Would Trump have to be “evacuated?”

Don’t enjoy too much schadenfreude on account of Chancellor Dirks or Berkeley. As the 17th century English poet John Donne (whose works were, once upon a time, studied at the university) wrote:

No man is an island; entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,                                                
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,                                                
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee

Mike Brown is the Government Affairs Director of the Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business (COLAB) of San Luis Obispo County. He had a 42 year career as a city manager and county executive officer in 4 states including California. He can be reached at

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So, Mr Brown, where was your outrage when a sustainable food supply advocate was scheduled to speak at Cal Ploy? Cal Poly officials could not stand the idea of someone with a differing opinion being given an opportunity to take the stage to make his case by himself. Oh, no, they watered it down into a “panel discussion” with opponents outnumbering the guest speaker. Double standard much? How come this flaming asshole Milo was allowed to speak on his own, and not only that, tens of thousands of OUR dollars were spent to protect him? Typical conservative: rules apply only to liberals and Democrats, fascists and Republicans get a pass…

I attended the wonderful Yiannopoulos at Poly. Had Berkeley been as prepared as Poly, this “protest” would have been quickly put down. Berkeley’s leadership needs to be reviewed closely.

How ironic that liberalism which was once dedicated the sharing of ideas and promoting social discourse has now taken an ugly turn and and started to resemble fascism by focusing on stifling dissent or alternate opinion. The Liberal leaders of today, most of whom were educated in the 60’s and 70’s, are making a mockery of the idea of free speech in this country.

They see Milo as dangerous because although he is provocative and crude some of his ideas cut through the BS that has been heaped on the American public by academia, the media and the new left.

To foment the type of protests that have been seen in Berkeley and elsewhere because one man wants to say his piece to a paying audience is far more un-American then any of the comments that might come out of Milo’s mouth.

The people in the streets protesting are being manipulated without even realizing it and with each protest the country edges closer to civil disorder which will result in the country lurching further to the right.

Liberals would be far better off to let Milo speak his piece and then knock down his assertion one by one with intelligent counterpoints, if they exist.

They make it pretty easy to stop actually, just grab the masked ones in black. Hold them until they tell you who paid them, and transported them to the event. There has to be many laws broken doing that, plus the liability for all the damage, police overtime, etc.

Article I, Section 3 of the California Declaration of Rights asserts that: “The people have the right . . . to assemble freely to consult for the common good.” To assemble freely should mean to be free from thugs.

Thank you, Mike, for speaking fairly of the great majority of the hardworking, dedicated students who are grateful for the excellent education they are receiving. You speak from experience, having served as a city manager in Berkeley, but I wonder if there isn’t something to be said for a police force that succeeded in sustaining at least no injuries to people, including their speaker, themselves, and the students, against tough odds. Considering our history of student deaths, this is an achievement to be thankful for. I hear a lot of criticism from people who weren’t there. I’m inclined to want to hear from the experts who keep the peace daily.

I am curious of what the cost would be to the Campus if they would have taken Mr. Brown’s advice and have been markedly more aggressive (and not hiding)?

First off, I don’t see the cops as a bunch of wussies as you indicate. What you call hiding I call deescalation and observation. If you asked a cop, I bet they’d agree with me that their action was strategic and not pathetic.

Perhaps the cost of a 2500 member security force that was used in earlier “riots” was cost prohibitive for the Administration. Maybe they figured that pushing back hard against “lawlessness” would result in greater damage to the school, far beyond the $100,000 mentioned.

Could it be that they made a managerial decision based on cost? You know a cost benefit analysis that occurs every day in businesses?

Your assumption is that money wasn’t spent protecting the campus because of political correctness is baseless. It is uninformed and speculative.

But it fits your narrative so run with it.

Milos got the reaction he wanted; from all involved. You and everybody in this mess got played.

A well informed piece about UC Berkeley (which I attended in 1967) and the recent riots that occurred there, but it is lost on the ultimate irony: UC Berkeley was the crucible of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s under the aegis of Mario Savio. My how the tides have turned. I don’t agree with what Milo has been preaching, but for the cradle of free speech to become the poster child of censorship is something to behold. Remember Voltaire who once wrote ” I don’t approve of what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” ? It seems to be missing in action in today’s world. Both Voltaire and Mario Savio must be spinning in their graves.

Based on the responses, it’s great to see that 88% believe in free speech, but sad to see that there are still 12% of people who don’t…

Well done Mike. I don’t think there is a thing you’ve said that can be disagreed with… but I’m sure we’ll hear from those for whom critical thinking and common sense are not tolerated.