April 28, 2003

I’M NOT SURE THAT BERKELEY HAS REALLY BEEN LIBERATED YET, but this is surely evidence that American columns can operate at will even in the heart of the city.

UPDATE: Here’s more from the L.A. Times. Excerpt:

BERKELEY — Borrowing a page from this city’s radical traditions, a boisterous band of 200 college Republicans demonstrated Saturday in the bastion of American liberalism, staging a pro-Bush administration rally on the UC Berkeley campus and leading a flag-waving procession down Telegraph Avenue.

As street vendors and merchants looked on in disbelief, delegates attending a state college Republican convention here marched two blocks to People’s Park, site of a widely publicized protest incident in 1969, where they chanted “Bush! Bush! Bush!” and sang “America the Beautiful.”

By Berkeley standards, it was a minuscule procession played out on a balmy Saturday afternoon on a mostly deserted campus. But to the hardy corps of young Republicans, uniting under the theme “Behind Enemy Lines,” it was a highly symbolic event. Even grizzled political warriors said they were impressed by participants’ moxie. Longtime Berkeley professors said it represented a political drift to the right at California’s pioneer state university.

“I never dreamed in my lifetime that I would see this,” said a buoyant Shawn Steel, former state Republican Party chairman from Rolling Hills.

Well, it’s a man-bites-dog story, for sure. Or maybe a man-bites-geezer story:

The difference is clear at the Free Speech Movement Café, an elegant coffee shop funded by a wealthy 1964 graduate at the base of the new Moffitt Undergraduate Library. One of the walls of the cafe is covered with an enlarged photograph of a Free Speech era sit-in. Almost all of the faces in the photo are white. Recent classes entering Berkeley, however, have been largely Asian, accounting for more than 40% of the entering freshman class.

“As a general rule,” said Leonard, “the increase in Asian Americans has pushed the student body more toward the center politically.”

In fact, Leonard said, opposition to the campus conservatives is more likely to come from the faculty or aging leftists in the surrounding community. “I get the sense the community is much more into protest than the campus,” Leonard said. “There is a culture of protest in the Bay Area that is steadily getting grayer and older.”

It seems to be that way everywhere.