The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a statement condemning the actions of the protesters at the MILO event at UC Berkeley Wednesday night.
“FIRE condemns both violence and attempts to silence protected expression in the strongest terms,” the statement reads.
The use of mob violence to respond to constitutionally protected expression is an affront to our nation’s liberal traditions. And as so often happens, it has also proven deeply counterproductive, sabotaging its apparent aim. Instead of silencing Yiannopoulos, the violent response ensured that his message was broadcast nationwide.
The events at Berkeley should alarm citizens from across the political spectrum who hold dear the liberal values enshrined in the First Amendment. FIRE will continue to insist that the proper answer to speech you hate is more speech, and we stand with the vast majority of Americans who live according to this principle every day.
An updated statement was released on Thursday morning which contained a greater analysis from FIRE. The organization noted how they had praised UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks for refusing to cancel MILO’s event but were disappointed it did “not appear that the campus was prepared for the magnitude of the disruption, and the speech was canceled as a result.”
FIRE also responded to President Trump’s threat to cancel UC Berkeley’s federal funding, noting that “under current law, public universities that enforce blatantly unconstitutional speech codes and private universities that violate their own promises of free speech do not face the same potential loss of federal funding for censoring campus speech that they do for violating other federal civil rights laws and regulations.”
However, they also argued that since they had seen no evidence themselves “that Berkeley as an institution made any effort to silence Yiannopoulos,” it would be “deeply inappropriate” to cut off federal funding to UC Berkeley when those rioting were “not under its control and in contravention of its policies.”