Does Berkeley’s Teachers Union Support Free Speech to Suppress Free Speech?
“There is no free speech for fascists. They do not have the right to organize for genocide.”
– Yvette Felarca, as reported by Frances Dinkelspiel writing for Berkeleyside, Nov. 2, 2016
Most anyone who follows current events is familiar with the riots at UC Berkeley that stopped a planned February 1st appearance by Breitbart editor and provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Fewer people may be familiar with Yvette Felarca, an activist and organizer with the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), a “coalition to defend affirmative action, integration and immigration rights and fight for equality by any means necessary.” Mother Jones, who probably would not opine to this effect without strong evidence, in 2005 called BAMN “a Communist front-group.”
If you watch this recent television interview with Felarca on KTVU Oakland, or her recent interview on Fox News, you will see she is carefully making a case for violence against “fascists.” In her Fox interview, Felarca defines fascism this way: “A fascist is someone who is organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups, and a movement of genocide.” She goes on to say – regarding Yiannopolous – “he should not be allowed to speak in public, to spread his racist, misogynistic, and homophobic lies. No, he does not have the right to do that.”
UC Berkeley, 2/02/2017. Free speech tactics aimed at suppressing free speech.
The UC Berkeley riots are not Felarca’s first experience with street activism. As reported by the Daily Californian, “The Berkeley Unified School District placed Felarca on administrative leave Sept. 21 after she was filmed physically attacking a self-proclaimed white nationalist during a protest in June.”
You got that right. Felarca is a humanities teacher at a public middle school. And six weeks after being placed on leave, Felarca returned to the classroom.
So here’s the question. A representative from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers was present at the Felarca’s reinstatement meeting, and presumably was involved in the negotiations between Felarca and the district. And as Felarca’s attorney puts it, “We continue to … fight for her free speech right and academic freedom. We also seek damages for the violations on her rights … to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected.”
To fight for her “free speech.” Free speech that attacks any alleged “movement of genocide.”
Would a spokesperson from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers care to comment on the free speech rights of teachers who oppose the position their union takes on abortion? Because apparently, in the world of California’s public education system, people who engage in provocative speech that challenges left-wing truisms can be accused of building a “movement of genocide,” whereas people who consider millions of terminated pregnancies to be actual genocide are silenced by their unions.
One may believe abortion is murder or one may believe it is an inalienable woman’s right. One may believe that Milo Yiannopolous is a dangerous agitator, or one may believe he raises important counter-arguments to the conventional wisdom of the left. But regardless of personal sentiments and principles, can anyone deny that the teachers union takes political stands that not all their members will agree with?
Consider this quote from former CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett: “In California, and with the support of CTA, we have fought back three attempts to curtail a woman’s right to choose, including measures that would have endangered the lives of teenage girls. Currently, California is one of only ten states that have no additional restrictions on reproductive health.”
Polarization is nurtured when people feel victimized by institutionalized hypocrisy and double standards. Felarca and her movement engaged in violent suppression of free speech because they claim – with no evidence – that Yiannopoulos is a genocidal fascist. Does the teachers union condone her activities? And if not, are they willing to make a statement?
Meanwhile, with their political support for a woman’s right to choose well documented, every year in California the teachers union forces collects millions, if not hundreds of millions, in agency fees from members who – with ample evidence – consider mass abortions to be genocide. And they condemn the activities of teachers who oppose their position.
If this is not a double standard, then the term has no meaning.
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Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.