After a violent, rampaging mob shut down a scheduled speaking event featuring Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley last week, people naturally wondered why the police didn’t do more to help.
Agitators hurled fireworks and smoke bombs, smashed windows, set fires, destroyed property, and assaulted Trump supporters during the hours-long riot. Nine people were treated for injuries at the local medical center, according to KQED News.
If the police had been doing their jobs, their paddy wagons would have been full. Instead, only three people were arrested in connection with the riot — one person was arrested that night for failure to disperse, and two men were arrested the next day for assaulting a Trump supporter.
Whether the order was to “stand-down,” “shelter in place,” or “hold their post,” it is now clear that the leadership of the UC Berkeley administration, along with the leadership of the UC Police Department, failed in their duty to serve and protect. Officers were told to hold back and do absolutely nothing as an angry mob turned into a violent riot.
An attorney for the union that represents UC Berkeley police complained that it was because there wasn’t a good tactical plan in place beforehand.
“They were unable to assist the citizens and the public that were out there that were defenseless against these rioters, who were actively engaging in breaking the law and attacking defenseless citizens,” said John Bakhit, an attorney who represents the Federated University Police Officers Association.
Bakhit said in an interview that UC Berkeley police officers were ordered not to take any enforcement action against protesters who lit fires and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks at them. He said there weren’t enough officers on hand at the start of the protests to make arrests and protect the public.
“When these rioters saw that there was no action taken against them, it emboldened them into acting more aggressively,” Bakhit said.
The mayor of Berkeley, Jesse Arreguin, said on Twitter the day after the riot that the police department had ordered the stand-down strategy.
Police strategy was ordered by the department, not me. They did an excellent job in preventing further risk to safety. (4/5)
— Jesse Arreguin (@JesseArreguin) February 2, 2017
According to Charles Lane in The Washington Post, UC Berkeley “spent tens of thousands of dollars of its own funds on extra police, including dozens of officers trained in crowd control brought in from other campuses in the California school system.”
These officers were deployed in an effort both to protect approximately 1,000 anti-Yiannopoulos demonstrators, who began gathering more than two hours before the 8 p.m. start time, and to keep them from disrupting the speech.
Unfortunately, the university’s plan did not reckon with the “black bloc,” the hooded, heavily armed political thugs who rolled in to campus around 5:45 p.m. and began setting off powerful firecrackers, lighting fires, smashing windows and generally creating so much mayhem that the police had no choice but to cancel the speech and escort the speaker away for his own protection.
There is undoubtedly plenty of room for second-guessing the campus police’s performance. They eschewed mass arrests, in part because of the sheer difficulty and danger of wading into a crowd of students mixed with highly mobile, violent thugs — and in part because they were following practices recommended by an internal review panel after allegedly excessive police force against demonstrators on Berkeley’s campus in November 2011.
UC Police Chief Margo Bennett sounded a little defensive when she spoke with Berkeleyside last Friday night.
“We are getting a significant amount of criticism from outside of the East Bay area, and my only response to that is: Crowd control situations are different than a military exercise or an active shooter situation,” she said. “It’s just a different approach and a different set of tactics that you have to use in order to not escalate the situation, in order to control it. People have a hard time understanding that. I get it.”
BPD also faced criticism because it made no arrests and looked, to many, to be doing little to stop extensive vandalism to more than a dozen local businesses. BPD has said its mission Wednesday night, due to its limited resources, was to focus on protection of life rather than protection of property.
Like Bakhit, Randy Sutton of the police blog Blue Lives Matter is highly critical of the UC Berkeley police’s inaction during the riot. After speaking to law enforcement sources close to the matter, Sutton retraced the events of the night thus:
When officers arrived at the area where the protesters were gathered at about 2 PM, they were ordered into the Martin Luther King building where the speech was to take place, where they would “shelter in place” until almost midnight. The officers were ordered to lock the doors and do nothing to help the beaten and injured victims who begging them for help on the other side of the glass, long after the event was canceled and Yiannopoulos evacuated.
One woman who had begged for help on the other side of the glass was Katrina, a Trump/Milo supporter who told her story to video blogger Stefan Molyneux.
“The police were in this glass enclosed building looking out at all the mayhem, not intervening at all,” said Katrina. She had gone to the event to see Milo with a group of friends who didn’t realize it had been canceled until it was too late. Katrina said she and her group were trapped by the barriers when the ninja-clad “antifa” goons came marching in. She was split from her group after she was pepper-sprayed and she hit her head when she fell on the ground. Some volunteers helped her get to the glass building where she could wash her eyes out, but the police were inside “sheltering in place” and wouldn’t let her in.
“The legal aid person who was trying to help me and I banged on the glass and were begging the police to let her and me in, so I could wash the pepper spray out of my eyes, and they wouldn’t unlock the building,” she said.
She collapsed on the ground and volunteers helped her wash her eyes out with bottled water.
Her husband, meanwhile, had been badly beaten and wound up in the hospital with a severe concussion and broken ribs.
Sutton asks, “How is it possible that such violence and criminality could take place at a planned event on a university campus while the police, in essence, surrendered their authority and allowed total anarchy?”
Well perhaps not TOTAL anarchy, as there was one person arrested at the end of the night. The answer is clear. The leadership of the University Administration in concert with the leadership of the University of California Police Department, shirked their responsibility and subjected not only thousands of civilians to violence and terrible danger, but violated the tenants of law enforcement altogether, the tenants of “To Serve and Protect.”
But in her Berkeleyside interview, Chief Bennett praised her officers for showing restraint. “In situations like that, we understand that if we go out and we engage — with the level of force and the presence of the trained anarchist-style protesters that were present — it will embolden the protesters and it will escalate the level of violence,” she said. “And our officers exercised, I think, some very tough and extreme restraint.”
Bennett also denied that there was a “stand-down order,” saying that isn’t even a law enforcement term.
“I don’t know what a ‘stand down’ order is,” she said. “We did not tell anyone to stand down. What we did tell officers to do was: ‘Hold your post.’”
When rocks, M-80s, flares and Molotov cocktails started flying, she said, “we had [officers] pull back into the building because our job was going to be to hold the building. That’s where our post was,” inside the Pauley Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union where the Milo event was slated to have taken place.
“Why?” Sutton asked at Blue Lives Matter. He argued that political correctness probably had a lot to do with it.
Perhaps because they were so concerned with the “protesters” right to “free speech” which, in reality, was mob rule, that they willingly sacrificed the free speech of Milo Yiannopoulos and those who came to listen to him. The hypocrisy is stunning to anyone who truly honors the concept of “free speech,” but quite understandable when viewed through the eyes of those whose values and respect for the United States Constitution are, what we could call, “fluid.”
Sutton reported that Bakhit wants an investigation into what went wrong that night “to make sure this never happens again.”
Blue Lives Matter also called for “the United States Department of Justice to fully investigate this injustice.”
Never again should people attending a public event be intimidated and physically assaulted because of their political views.
Never again should Anarchists masquerading as “peaceful protesters” be allowed to commit acts of violence and intimidation without fear of consequences.
And never again should a dedicated Law Enforcement Officer be subjected to watching beaten and injured victims crying for help and be ordered to do nothing as they look on helplessly because of cowardly and unethical leadership.
In the meantime, the UC Berkeley police might want to change their crowd-control tactics when Milo returns to campus in a month or two. Because the same bunch is going to be outside rioting, probably in greater numbers.