Yesterday we met Yvette Felarca, a leader of the California-based violent radical group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which calls itself anti-fascist but whose own rhetoric and tactics are right out of the fascist playbook. Last June, she led a violent BAMN action in Sacramento that would have lost her her middle-school teaching job if the district administrators had any backbone. But that event pales alongside BAMN’s biggest operation ever, which took place on February 1 of this year. It was on that date that BAMN, employing physical violence and destroying property, succeeded in closing down a planned speech at UC Berkeley by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos.
“This is not about free speech,” Felarca told her followers before the big event. She described Yiannopoulos and his crew as “not people who are interested in any genuine debate. They hide behind that hypocritically to try to shut up and put in our places women or Muslims or minorities or oppressed groups. But what they are really trying to do is they’re trying to assert their power, threaten us, intimidate us, rape us, kill us.” For those unfamiliar with Yiannopoulos’s standard act, it may be necessary to say that he and his cohorts are not out to rape or kill anyone – they are out to restore some semblance of sanity to a largely campus-based subculture that has been infected by the kind of demented rhetoric in which Felarca specializes, smearing anyone who disagrees with her fanatical views as Nazis, fascists, racists, and so on.
“This is real,” she continued. “This is life and death…. We can shut this fucker down, we can get rid of Donald Trump….when the Nazis tried to kill some of us, after we recovered, some of them threatened me and students at my school and tried to get me fired. But they didn’t succeed, and the students and the parents and the community rallied together and not only got me my job back but we’re stronger now, so we have got to stay united.”
There ensued – at the flagship campus of the University of California system – a spectacle out of warn-torn Beirut or Sarajevo. Felarca’s disciples behaved like storm troopers. Destruction was rampant. The image of the free exchange of ideas at an American college being shut down by jackbooted thugs was chilling.
As one news source put it: “Those who came to hear Yiannopoulos speak were beaten fists and flag poles by protesters, who also doused attendees with pepper spray….Several folks at the event posted videos online highlighting the violence, as well as protesters yelling ‘fuck you racists’ and other profanities. Others, wearing masks and dressed in all black, hurled Molotov cocktails, smashed out windows at a student center where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak, threw fireworks and rocks at police, blocked traffic, and caused other mayhem.” CNN wrote: “The violent protesters tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm. One woman wearing a red Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face while being interviewed by CNN affiliate KGO. She was able to respond that she was OK after the attack.”