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City Manager's Office
City Manager's Office
Press Contact: Matthai Chakko, (510) 981-7008

AS PROTESTS CONTINUE, HOW SHOULD BERKELEYANS RESPOND?

Berkeley, California (Thursday, September 21, 2017) - With a series of provocative speakers coming to UC Berkeley next week, protests and counter-protests are possible.

The question for our Berkeley community is how best to respond. For City administration, the perspective is clear: separate yourself from violence and don't become an actor in someone else's media campaign.

To start a community-wide dialogue about this, we've created a moderated online forum to post your views - and consider others. 

See details below for how to view and post comments on Berkeley Considers, a platform designed for constructive civic engagement.

Through several events this year, we know that provocateurs come to rile up supporters and generate conflict - strife that fuels traditional and social media while also nourishing their own publicity.

Those who have studied these kinds of provocative speakers give similar advice.

 "The most effective course of action is to deprive the speaker of the thing he or she wants most - a spectacle," says the Southern Poverty Law Center. These "personalities know their cause is helped by news footage of large jeering crowds, heated confrontations and outright violence at their events. It allows them to play the victim."

For those who want to visibly counter protest, the law center proposes holding alternate events far away from the site of the speech - which in the case of events Sunday through Wednesday are near Sproul Plaza, adjacent to Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way.

In recent protests, we have seen a small portion who come seeking to hurt others and do so under the cover of peaceful protesters. Separating yourself from violent protesters allows police to focus on and apprehend criminals while keeping bystanders safe. Don't let them be the face of your cause.

Part of the challenge facing our community is imagery.

Instigators have sought to elevate their image through conflict, a message heavily trafficked over social and traditional media. They have come in costume, dressed as personas that they promote and seek funding for online. It has almost nothing to do with their caricature of Berkeley.

As a community, we, too, can respond online. Some Berkeleyans have used hashtags with their social media that includes #BerkeleyUnited and #RespectBerkeley. To show the real lives of Berkeleyans during one protest, a group of people started their tweets with "Meanwhile in #RealBerkeley …"

What is a message you'd like to send?

Use our community platform to discuss how Berkeleyans should respond to these events.  How do we use these events to strengthen our relationship to each other? Meeting neighbors you don't know? Gathering friends for a barbecue?

Registered users on Berkeley Considers can post their comments online with or without their name. Anyone can view registered comments. The goal of the forum is to broaden civic discourse in a constructive and civil manner.

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