Late last week, news of the United Nations warning the G.O.P. on pending state laws criminalizing protests brought out attention to ALEC , and their "free speech" agenda that focuses on the right of alt-right speakers to float their messages on university campuses.
Public and most private U.S. universities tend to lean liberal. We have seen incidents of alt-right speakers being invited, mysteriously, to universities where the scheduled speeches were protested.
Milo Yiannopoulos, notably, canceled an early February appearance at Berkeley due to protests. Late last month, Ann Coulter similarly canceled an appearance on the same campus recognized as the birthplace of the free speech movement of the 60s. The protests against Yiannopoulos turned ugly, destructive, riotous. Resistance protesters eschew violence leaving us with a second mystery. Who were the violent protesters?
Today's story from the New York Times provides an answer to one question: Who invites these speakers?
Resistance protests are peaceful. We do not know who the troublemakers were at Berkeley but they certainly were not part of the Resistance. The marches in cities, so far, have been peaceful. So why this marked difference on campus?
At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I would suggest that these Berkeley incidents were intentionally set on that campus because its history guaranteed protest - that much is obvious. I would suggest further, that the rioters were part of the staging.
Protest organizers, going forward, must remain mindful that these alt-right speakers are bait. Protest behavior is the prey. Suppressing alt-right speakers inhibits their 1st Amendment rights. If we do that, we give the G.O.P. exactly the excuse they are looking for to push these laws that are intended to criminalize our own protests.
I will not pretend to have answers, but sometimes silence can be deafening. Silence and signs, shirts, and banners. We can predict that where these folks come in to speak, the riot goons will also appear. For that, we must be prepared and also plan to be distinct, separate, and present marked non-violent contrast.