The Troubles in #Berkeley
By Tripp Hudgins, Berkeleyite
Holy crap every newspaper headline I see is completely misrepresenting what happened in Berkeley today. — Sarah Bakker Kellogg,
And I could not agree more. Sarah posted this last night on Facebook, and I find myself reeling even from the Associated Press coverage of yesterday’s peace march in Berkeley. Yes, I have even been arguing with my conservative uncle about it.
So, what I aim to do with this particular missive is simply share words from Facebook from people who were present at yesterday’s march. So much of the coverage focuses on the 13 arrests made instead of the experiences of thousands of others.
If one were to give a relationship status to the groups involved in yesterday’s event, it would have to be “complicated.” Complexity is the enemy of journalism these days especially where live tweeting events such as marches are concerned. So, I offer you these brief narrative’s from people who actually participated. You’ll see some photos. You’ll hear some words of encouragement and delight. You’ll also read about some of the deep questions people have. None of this is easy. It shouldn’t be easy. There are no easy solutions to our social ills. There never will be. And yet, we owe it to ourselves to be deep in the complexities of our life together.
I spent the day on the streets of Berkeley today as part of a beautiful intersectional interfaith gathering of thousands. I don’t know what the news is reporting in other parts of the country but my experience of it was that it was a joyful, peaceful, prayerful expression of care for the more vulnerable among us. I heard there were some black bloc altercations with police a few blocks ahead of us but it dispersed before we got to MLK jr park. No white supremacists in sight. — Sarah Bakker Kellogg
Yes, we all go to church together.
My observations from today (long post.. sorry, not sorry):
The San Francisco Bay Area has been a center of activism for decades, with Berkeley as the heartbeat. With recent events, many have made the argument that the city and UC Berkeley in particular have taken a stance against the 1st Amendment based upon a perceived unwillingness to allow those of specific viewpoints a platform to exercise their freedom. I must respectfully disagree with such an argument.
Milo Yiannoupolis, Ann Coulter and other peoples and groups from the far right, alt-right etc have been unable to exercise their rights of free speech in Berkeley not because of a lack of cooperation from government or University leaders, but because the Bay Area is at it’s core PROGRESSIVE. I’ve lived up here for close to 5 years now, and while we have plenty of challenges which can vary widely from city to city, the overall vibe of this region is one of inclusion and acceptance of peoples of all faiths, colors, creeds, sexuality, gender and even politics. However, when individuals from outside of this area make a conscious decision to challenge those values, they will encounter major push-back from the local populace.
Make no mistake about it: there are plenty of avenues and opportunities local people have to hear and discuss non-progressive, conservative beliefs, ideologies and politics. A quick Google search will come up with numerous events. What makes these situations we are witnessing unique is that specific individuals and groups have *targeted* the Bay Area in an attempt to claim a moral victory — to plant a flag on what is fertile liberal ground, for to do so would be a major boost to the morale of their own followers. Months ago, alt-right groups claimed such a victory when only a small counter-protest ensued.
Yesterday in SF, and today in Berkeley, they were privy to a completely different situation. The Bay Area has been a sleeping giant for a while — sure there will always be protests, but most that I remember when first moving here were a few random people every weekend at the western entrance to UC Berkeley holding up “no nukes” signs (which, btw.. Berkeley is already a self-declared “No Nuke Zone.”) The Alt-Right has woken that giant…
I cannot speak for the earlier events or the events I didn’t personally witness, and I cannot speak for any events that have or will transpire since I left: I can only speak of what I personally witnessed. A massive interfaith coalition of many peoples — Christians, Jews, (I’m sure) Muslims, etc. gathered in the early afternoon and marched towards the old City Hall. As we arrived, it was announced that the opposition had left the area. A few speeches were made by clergy, and then bread was blessed by a Rabbi, and then we literally broke blessed bread together. As we were doing this, other groups — more militant groups stood next to us. They did not speak, nor were they invited to speak (that I’m aware of), yet they were there, as we were. We shared this space together, and it was a bit odd: those of us who were there because our faith in God compelled us to be there, and others in attendance merely because of their convictions in fighting for what they feel is right — no matter what the cost. We shared one common goal: preventing white supremacy and hate to permeate the air we all breathe.
Were some of the individuals who came this weekend legitimately trying to make their non-violent political messages heard? Possibly, but at the end of the day, they’ve made their bed — they made a conscience decision to either align with hate groups, or at the bare minimum made themselves vulnerable to have said groups piggyback off of their event. My question is: if you *know* that you’re being categorized with individuals you don’t agree with or identify with, then you should be willing to accept the consequences of your actions. I do not condone violence, but the reality is that if you stir the hornet’s nest, you should expect the subsequent stings you will receive.
More importantly, the reality is that right now, the Bay Area is sending a message loud and clear: We REJECT the current political climate. We REJECT the current Presidential Administration. We REJECT anything that identifies with said administration, because it runs counter to our ideals of inclusion, our ideals of compassion, and our ideals of diversity. Therefore, if you willingly attempt to invade OUR home, then be prepared for a unified message of rejection, to include strange bedfellows such as Clergy and militants, marching side by side to drown out whatever message you meant to bring to us. — Andrew Lisa
Em is a student at Starr King and member of the intentional community I live in with my family.
What I wish the news around the demonstrations in Berkeley told you:
1. More about the AMAZING organizing work that went into the interfaith rally and the collaboration between different organizing groups, including the interfaith folks, SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), Community Ready Core, and others. We marched through the streets singing and chanting. For weeks, we’ve been having hard conversations about nonviolence and practicing de-escalation techniques and self-defense. The rally was highly organized, effective, and powerful. Over 1,000 of us showed up.
2. The correct information about antifa. Antifa didn’t “storm a largely peaceful protest.” Please. They were there before we arrived. You can bet they were there since the morning — thoroughly on top of that sh!t. Also, people in antifa and people in the “peaceful rally” were communicating and co-planning together. And we marched all together in celebration. Some people in the “peaceful” group had complicated feelings about this, but honestly, many others did not.
Please be weary of how the news covers the demonstrations. Many of these articles erase an incredible amount of beautiful work that went into organizing the rally as well as the collaboration between various groups of people. The media seems to be obsessively covering a few select events. Many of us were out there for like, four hours, and never witnessed any kind of violence. Instead, we sang. We broke bread together. We rose up together. — Em Kianka
Lastly, Laura (pictured below) organized those of us from All Souls Parish.
This is my church. Hallelujah. We are under no illusions — they will be back, and the insidious white supremacy that doesn’t announce itself with torches and swastikas is still very present. But we did beautiful, powerful worship in the streets today, acting like we really do believe in an outrageous God of love and abundance who triumphs over evil and fear. We continued the procession straight out of our Sunday Eucharist, through campus and on to meet an interfaith gathering that swelled the streets with peaceful hundreds. The white supremacists fled town long before we got there. So we celebrated and sang and we will be so ready when they come again. Friends, I have found a good and faithful place in the world and I am so deeply blessed to be part of it. — Laura Tink Eberly
It was a busy day in #Berkeley.
As for me, there was church and then more church and then a little bit more church followed by a very lengthy processional to another church which led to another church which lead, for some people, to the Civic Center. I stayed at my church to help lead a prayer vigil. And, although the sound of helicopter blades beating the air above us was disconcerting, apparently it was a peaceful day.
We prayed and read words like these:
“The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish thinker and teacher appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed. That it became, through the intervening years, a religion of the powerful and the dominant, used sometimes as an instrument of oppression, must not tempt us into believing that it was thus in the mind and life of Jesus. ‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men [sic].’ Wherever his spirit appears, the oppressed gather fresh courage; for he announced the good news that fear, hypocrisy, and hatred, the three hounds of hell that track the trail of the disinherited, need have no dominion over them.” — Howard Thurman
Thousands of people marched for peace. There were only 13 arrests. As I understand it, there was no destruction of property. The police did not need riot gear because there was no riot. Nor did they wear riot gear and escalate things into a riot. Win-win. Things were quiet around here except for the helicopters.
By 3:30 in the afternoon I was able to drive across town with my toddler in tow and have a good time at a party with friends. And that’s all I know. If you look around, you will see news reports suggesting otherwise. We live just a few blocks from where the “action” was. My neighbors’ baby was able to take a nap. People went to brunch. People went to lunch. People went to dinner. It was a normal day for most of Berkeley.
All in all, I have to say it was a good day for us.