Risk, Reward, and Republicanism

I laced my work worn boots, tightening them more firmly than usual against my ankles and shins for one reason: in case I needed to run. I stood and walked to my dorm bathroom, looked myself in the mirror, and pulled my red hat below my eyes. That will hide my identity well, I thought, but my Ronald Reagan shirt will be a dead giveaway. I decided to throw on a jacket, and let my Republican pride show when I was safely inside. I could hear the news anchor in the background on my laptop. “Students have gathered to protest the speech of Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos. All is peaceful thus far, but the crowd seems to be picking up…” I shut the door and went on my way.

When I arrived at Sproul Plaza (the main UC Berkeley quad), there were hundreds of picketers and protesters. They held a variety of signs with messages that varied from peace symbols and doves to reading “Fascist Pigs Bleed.” I kept my jacket zipped and my head down. I got around the perimeter of the crowd to the entry point where I was volunteering as a member of the Berkeley College Republicans to help run the event. Barricades and armed officers soon stood in my way. I informed them I was a member of the Berkeley College Republicans, and I was ushered in. Pieter Sittler and Troy Worden, two integral members of the club, met me in front of Pauley Ballroom. We gathered outside and tried to communicate via text to the other volunteers, as to where to meet (at the barricade).

Moments later, two officers in heavy gear rushed Troy, Pieter, and me inside the building. As the glass doors of the building closed, two consecutive bangs of M80 fireworks rang out from where I had just been standing. We were under attack by an army of anarchists dressed in black bloc garb. Rocks and pieces of bricks began to hit the glass behind us. Another batch of fireworks were thrown toward the glass doors. Officers instantly moved us behind a stone portion of the wall, and covered us until we were upstairs as the police began to fall back into the building and the anarchists tore down the barriers.

I was now locked on the second floor of Pauley Ballroom with my fellow club members. We peered out from the curtains and witnessed a violent mob laying siege to our school, while members of the student body played music and danced while holding “nazi scum die” signs.

Once the cops found an opening on the west side of the building where they could secure an exit point for the Berkeley College Republicans, they opened the door and wished us luck. We descended the stairs, and became troops behind enemy lines. Cries rang out “You’re racists, Berkeley College Republicans!” with a medley of curses and expletives mixed in. We were identified, and instantly split up to avoid the mob.

My name is Bradley Devlin, and over the past few months, it has been my pleasure to serve as Secretary on the executive board of the Berkeley College Republicans. I study political economy and I’m still the kid with a crazy dream: one day, I want to become President.

When I arrived in the hyper-liberal bubble that is Berkeley and the Bay Area, I understood that my political beliefs would be intellectually challenged daily. When I wore my Republican Party shirt for the first time on campus, and was called a “racist” and a “bigot” without any sort of political discourse or conversation by two individuals, I knew that the attitude fueling some of my colleagues was more malicious than I once thought.

On the night of November 8th, the surprise election of Donald J. Trump proved political pundits across the homeland wrong. Hysteria swept across Berkeley. The next day, classes were canceled in “mourning,” and candlelight vigils were held for “the death of America.” And the political persecution became more abrasive and outright.

November 8th marked an uptick in violence against me, my friends, and other students who held that same political beliefs. It built and built until it escalated even further the night of February 1, 2017, infamously now known as the night of the Berkeley Riots. From then on, members of the Berkeley College Republicans were targeted via social media, on campus, in classes, and on the streets of Berkeley. Being spit on, flipped off, cursed at, and having our private property destroyed is something that has become commonplace.

All of that being said, you must be wondering what on earth could we possibly be doing to invite and encourage this vindictive anger upon us? And who, if anyone, would want to be a part of the Berkeley College Republicans, if all this is true?

The Berkeley College Republicans, at its core, is a group of conservative-minded individuals who represent an array of viewpoints across a broad spectrum of conservatism. From individuals that identify from moderates to libertarians, and some classical liberals, too, the Berkeley College Republicans is the largest political organization on campus with over 1,100 individuals on our mailing list.

Because the hyper-liberal groupthink that occurs in every lecture hall, bar, coffee house, and classroom is so vehement and consistent, it is always refreshing to find a community that reinforces and challenges your political views. Finding a forum for debate and discourse that doesn’t involve a Graduate Student Instructor that may become vehemently biased against you if you air your political views, causing your grade to suffer, is rather refreshing.

Let me be clear, we are not a safe space for conservative students; sometimes we do everything but agree on the actions of Trump or Republican leadership or foreign policy in our discussions. We act as one of the only truly functioning learning environments on campus, and this platform for discourse brings us closer to understanding each others’ views.

No, we aren’t just a room full of trust-fund babies from Southern California. We are a dynamic group of individuals that come from a variety of backgrounds that have created diversity in thought within the club, while reinforcing the importance of Western values such as individual liberties and freedom. From Indiana to India, and from Florida to Russia, our members sing the praises of the United States and the vision of a free people every single day. We work together to brainstorm on how to encourage peers and politicians to join the wave of conservatism that has been sweeping the nation since 2010.

Because we are able to have these discussions, painted in different shades of Republican Red, about the economy, or military, or liberties and the Constitution, we are able to better understand the members of our club and attempt to bring speakers and sponsor events and social events that will please the club and appeal those who thirst to be challenged intellectually.

The Milo Yiannopoulos event was one of the keynote events the Berkeley College Republicans had planned to please its own members, and to intellectually engage with others. As a political satirist and self-proclaimed internet troll, Milo Yiannopoulos is a public figure that retains some controversial views, which would have ensured an entertaining night. Mr. Yiannopoulos is not fully representative of any single member of our club because our members believe in an American society that has blessed them plentifully in allowing them to pursue their own agency. Because of that sense of agency, the members of Berkeley College Republicans do not feel threatened, nor do we cry to the administration and plead professors to draft a letter discouraging an event on the account of the never before legally defined “hate speech,” when Justice Sotomayor, Vicente Fox, Bernie Sanders, or any other liberal speaker comes to speak at campus.

When we invite a figure like Milo Yiannopoulos to come speak on campus, Berkeley College Republicans attend, listen, ask questions, and fiercely debate. Even when the Communist party of the United States (with anarchists in tow) hold a speaker event, we attend.

The intense leftists on campus perpetrate all the previously mentioned tantrums on the checklist. Professors and students, including forces within the administration, put pressure on the administration to minimize the Berkeley College Republicans clout on campus by creating arbitrary hoops we have to jump through every time we want to do something on campus. This has led to a consistent violation of the Berkeley College Republicans’ constitutional right to free speech, assembly, and access to these facilities, without hesitation, by the University of California Berkeley administration. I might also mention that three speakers last spring semester were canceled by the University, and there is a pending lawsuit because these public facilities would otherwise be available if not for our political beliefs.

The abuses are many, but the price of procuring freedom will always be a steep and difficult mountain to climb, but I think I can say for the rest of my friends, that we will not waiver. In the “cradle of free speech,” we pursue a freer collegiate experience not only for ourselves, but for those who may experience the same kind of persecution in the future, whether liberal or conservative. We intend to continue the progress the leaders of the free speech movement procured for us in the sixties.

Decades have passed and the fight rages on, but it is time for a new generation to pick up the torch and fight for liberty with the same passion. We aim to put a stop to the politically-based virtue signaling that is happening in hyper-liberal, public universities year round and challenge the bureaucrats that have made a mint sitting atop once cherished places of higher education, and diluting them into impotent institutions.

When they pick up bricks, we will pick up pens, write and litigate our way to freedom. We will gain the upper hand through faith that the values once cherished by these institutions will prevail, because America has prevailed and endured for almost 250 years.

In the coming months, this column will chronicle our fight from the points of view of several of our members. They will provide analysis and anecdotal experience on the current political atmosphere as a conservative student enrolled in UC Berkeley. As they recount their stories, keep in mind these personal attacks, threats, and events aren’t random or special and extraordinary circumstance. These vulgar and malicious attacks are commonplace, to the extent that we are constantly kicked out of Facebook groups and maligned by our Berkeley peers when our political identity is ousted. I sincerely hope this column serves as an educational opportunity for the readers to understand the plight of conservative students, not just in Berkeley, but throughout the country, who are treated the same way.

May this provide a platform where we can engage one another without the demagoguery of partisan politics and irrationality of groupthink. Let us agree on a key set of values that made America great before, and pursue them together, despite our differences, to make America great again.

It takes people recognizing each others volition and freedoms that make such a society like ours possible, and I encourage you to join us as we go along this journey.