Berkeley heard your cries of victory after having doused the dialogue of the few Trump supporters who managed to make it through to the civic center grass, many of whom clearly had come to Berkeley from far away ready for spirited dialogue with liberals. But it doesn't make sense to silence them, and it isn't just that they have the constitutionally protected right to assemble and to speak. You need to hear them.
You're not likely to run across overt Trump supporters in the coastal cities of California. Even those few who live here in Berkeley but voted for Trump are unlikely to strike up conversation about it over the radiccio treviso, especially considering how many of you are so amped up to stomp somebody that the sight of a Trump t-shirt turns you into an unabashed comic book character.
You think you look like superheroes with your costumes and props, but by spewing hate you've let the alt-right set your table as predictably as a move in chess. You played their game, not Berkeley's; the City of Berkeley went way out of its way to affirm its stance with banners across the park and City Hall stating "We stand united against hate."
It shouldn't take religion to connect you to better strategy. It's just common sense. You can feed the beast, you can give the alt-right the martyrdom they seek, the opportunity to cloak themselves in the first amendment and show their videos of being bloodied in the town square. You can enable them and President Trump to make their case that "both sides" are violent by providing the evidence we clearly saw in Berkeley of hooded, masked people with improvised weapons beating suspected Trump supporters in full view of the media, even threatening the media for covering the moment.
Just don't think for a minute that you're helping anyone but the alt-right, which you're helping organize and strengthen. Right-wing provocateurs need you to commit exactly this kind of idiocy to gather a crowd, to harness publicity, and most importantly to get funding from a predictable array of right-wing groups. $15,000 security fee for the use of Zellerbach Hall? Not a problem.
My personal concern is that my non-violent neighbors, my fellow fiddlers and musicians, my friends with children, mobility issues, and the ordinary aversion to shouted profanities and pointless high volume confrontations are robbed of the more nuanced responses we're capable of bringing to the same moment in time. Your violence will be captured and run on repetitive video loops while the Groucho Marx nose punsters with witty songs and signs get little play. The children holding "no hate here" signs are quite literally swept aside while their parents have to weigh the wisdom of bringing them to a demonstration at all, even one so well prepared for by the city, given the violent propensities of your predictable group.
Your insistence that all demonstrations involving the alt-right become a physical street fight precludes the wit, the music, the humor, the inspired street theater for which we are famous in the Bay Area. You may think that bloodying the nose of a Trump supporter and driving them out of town is a victory, but you put even the best police officer in an impossible position by doing so, and you make our town look really, really dumb. Your political opponent is not your enemy.
You may not want or care about your first amendment rights, you may not think you have them or need them, but that song sounds a lot like white privilege to people who know that non-violence is not the absence of will, or absence of courage, or the absence of principle. Non-violence is strategy. The historic victories of the civil rights era depended on non-violence, and there are plenty of voices still alive who can help explain the gravity, the dignity, the imperative of the strategies used in the civil rights era.
Our work is not done, and we need each other. When you've listened, really listened, to those here in California and from other states explain why they voted Republican, you will be capable of crafting better strategy for communicating with people who may be your political opponents today, but may also listen to you when you stop chasing them and screaming at them. A cheap video-game style victory over square footage represented by the grass near City Hall is a silly thing to celebrate. My prayer is that your group will someday recognize what it can be, a fertile ground for elegant persuasion guided by the discipline, the humor, the strategic brilliance that we in Berkeley, as well as in West Virginia, are ready to share with you. # # #