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He took a hard punch in the face for all of us.”
With these words, President Donald Trump transformed Hayden Williams, the young conservative campus activist who was viciously punched in the face at UC Berkeley last month, from a victim to conservative folk hero.
Trump went further. With Williams looking on in starstruck awe, the president announced at the Conservative Political Action Convention on Saturday that he would sign an executive order that would oblige American universities to comply with the First Amendment’s free-speech protections or risk losing federal funding.
For President Trump, it was an old refrain: his words echoed sentiments he expressed exactly two years and one month ago on Twitter, the day after the city of Berkeley was set ablaze in a riot over conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’s planned speaking engagement on campus.
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
In other words, President Trump is finally making good on his promise to hold universities accountable for trampling on the free-speech rights of conservatives. It also means UC Berkeley will finally have to come to terms with its own celebrated (and now ironic) legacy as the “Home of the Free Speech Movement.”
As the president of the Berkeley College Republicans in 2017 and someone who was involved with inviting Yiannopoulos, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, and Ben Shapiro to speak at UC Berkeley, I feel vindicated by the president’s words at CPAC. All of the hard work my colleagues and I put into fighting for conservative students’ right to voice their opinions on liberal campuses, unmolested by the Left, appears to be on the verge of paying off in a big way.
In February 2017, it was a different story. Milo Yiannopoulos effectively was shut down by radical leftists, who threw explosives, set trash cans on fire, and broke windows. My friends and I were pursued in the streets by angry mobs threatening to bloody our faces beneath the heels of their boots. Locked away later in the safety of a dorm room I warned, “The Free Speech Movement is dead.”
To me, that moment seemed both transformational and deadly: a pivot point from the era of impregnable American constitutional rights to a de facto repeal of those rights in favor of politically correct thought control and mob rule. Our inability to secure a venue for Horowitz and Coulter to speak on campus, and the large police presence required for Shapiro—who had spoken at UC Berkeley in April 2016 without incident—only confirmed to me my worst suspicions about the state of our country.
In this, Berkeley was a microcosm of the Left’s shocking abandonment of even its own principles. Once the epicenter of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, Berkeley now stood as yet another “good censor” in the model of its neighbors at Google. The New Free Speech Movement—an organic, grassroots swell of campus conservative courage—was killed in its cradle by thuggish “anti-fascists,” with the tacit approval of cowardly university administrators who no doubt would still turn around and trumpet Berkeley’s free-speech heritage in fundraising appeals, even as they denied and destroyed it on-campus.
But they can no longer claim to be the caretakers of that heritage. President Trump has defrocked them. We should be relieved by that, but we should not forget that the case of Hayden Williams was merely the most egregious example of a trend that has persisted on Berkeley’s campus for years.
Where was the mainstream media when Jack Palkovic was assaulted in front of a local news crew by two men, just because he had the gall to wear a Make America Great Again cap in public? Where was the mainstream media when Kiara Robles was pepper-sprayed in the face and William Wright pelted with paint during the Milo Yiannopoulos riots? Where was the media when Joey Gibson and Keith Campbell were hospitalized after a rally in support of Trump?
These people were my friends and acquaintances. Yet the objective fact that their blood was spilt was met with the kind of polite, disinterested silence that the media reserves for neo-Nazi marchers. The assumption implicit in their deafening silence was clear: We had it coming. We must have. After all, we supported President Trump.
And now, President Trump supports us. With that support will come real change: change the media cannot bury or ignore. The sanctimonious, haughty, platitudinous nonsense that academic elites feed themselves about “only being intolerant of intolerance” will be swept away by the harsh light of the law, which will penetrate every nook and cranny where the black-clad, black-hearted Black Bloc hide. The Free Speech Movement will live again, and once more stick its thumb in the eye of cosseted liberal elites seeking to foist the arid ideology of technocracy on unquestioning students.
Decades ago, another free-speech radical declared war on “well-meaning liberals” and exhorted his peers: “You’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels . . . upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
President Trump has ensured that the bodies of innocent conservative college students are not fodder for progressive machine politics. President Trump understands that that machine operates in direct opposition to our freedom, and because of that, he has taken the steps necessary to prevent the machine from working at all. The Free Speech Movement lives at Berkeley again. And the well-meaning liberals couldn’t be more terrified.
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