Comedian and pundit Bill Maher is this year’s commencement speaker at the University of California-Berkeley’s winter graduation ceremony.
While Maher’s original invitation to address today’s event was uncontroversial, after an on-air argument he subsequently had with Ben Affleck about the nature of Islam, campus Muslim groups at Berkeley demanded that Chancellor Nicholas Dirks retract Maher’s invitation to speak.
When the chancellor refused, several Muslim and left-wing campus activist groups threatened to “shut down” Maher’s appearance with a large protest.
But since that initial flurry of publicity over a month ago, no announcements have been made of any planned upcoming protests. So when the day finally arrived — today, at 3:00pm – -there was essentially no media around to notice that the planned protest had fizzled to just a handful of silent people holding a couple of signs outside the security area surrounding the venue:
Inside the commencement event, according to an article just published in the San Jose Mercury News, there were also a few protesters who silently expressed their disapproval:
At one point during Maher’s 15-minute speech, a group of protesters silently rose in the audience, holding up a series of placards that read, “Dear (administrators), don’t Maher our commencement.”
Maher indirectly referenced the controversy in his remarks, saying: “Liberals should own the First Amendment the way conservatives own the Second Amendment.”
“If you call yourself a liberal, you have to fight oppression from wherever it comes from … that’s what makes you a liberal.”
Police teams and bomb squad K-9 units surrounded Haas Pavilion, where the commencement ceremony was being held.
The planned protest originally spooked the administration, who established strict security measures around the graduation ceremony to prevent a Ferguson-style riot or any attempt to crash the event or bring in anything dangerous.
The only other protest sign visible, aside from the two shown in the first photo, was this one, propped up against a pillar where the graduating seniors and their families entered.
But as far as I could tell, all the attendees just strolled in unconcerned, ignoring the handful of about eight or ten protesters.
Interestingly, even the Muslim graduates and their families — Berkeley has a significant number of Saudi students due to an exchange program — just walked into the event and ignored the protesters.
That’s because the only group that actually showed up to keep the appointment of the announced protest was a radical left-wing group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), and not the campus Muslim groups, who if they showed up at all showed up as individuals and hung out with the BAMN protesters.
Instead, the Muslim students expressed their disapproval with an anti-Maher op-ed in the campus newspaper rather than showing up en masse (as originally promised) to protest in person.
I left before the event ended, in order to file this report, but as far as I know no further disruptions happened; if readers have any updates, please post them in the comments section.