BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Posters proclaiming Berkeley is “Run By Thugs In Black Masks” helped fuel increasing tensions as the hours counted down to the weekend start of “Free Speech Week” — a far right gathering of speakers including Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon.
Yiannopoulos posted videos on his Facebook page Thursday showing UC Berkeley students papering Sproul Plaza with provocative signs.
“F*** Your Commie Trash” read one. Another proclaimed: “Your City Is Run By Thugs In Black Masks” and a third read: “Mean Words Are Still Legal Words.”
“It was all about promoting a discussion,” said Aaron Tarajos, a volunteer for the student group helping Yiannopoulos put on Free Speech Week.
Tarajos said an hour after the posters went up he was confronted on campus by Cal student body officials who were leaving a meeting. He shot cellphone video of those students tearing down the signs.
“They quickly came into the plaza and proceeded to film us, call us derogatory terms — fascist, white supremacists, etc,” he said. “And then proceeded to tear down the flyers we just posted.”
When contacted by KPIX 5, a member of the student government body refused to comment on the confrontation.
Tarajos was asked if the reaction was what was intended by putting the controversial posters up in the first place.
“I would say that obviously it’s more effective to use language that is provocative,” he said. “That’s sort of the point that we’re trying to make. Even if you don’t agree with what’s being said, it still has a right to be said.”
Unrest on campus is rising stemming back to the riot triggered by a planned Yiannopoulos speech at UC Berkeley earlier this year that was cancelled when violence broke out resulting in several injuries, arrests and damage to university buildings.
Lawyers for the Berkeley Patriot, the group organizing Free Speech Week, have asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation of the unrest and violence.
“The situation at UC Berkeley has become downright physically dangerous the past year for conservative students,” the complaint reads.
The university said it will cost up to $1 million for additional security during Free Speech Week – which begins on Sunday and culminates with the tentatively scheduled speeches from Yiannopoulos, Coulter and Bannon on Wednesday.
“Too much is at stake in terms of the security of our community,” said UC spokesman Dan Mogulof.
Tarajos said the posters will be back.
“We’ll be flyering all week in preparation for the events,” he said.