Berkeley's campus Republican club sees surge of interest following Milo debacle

U.C. Berkeley Police officers were standing by Thursday evening, for the weekly meeting of the Berkeley College Republicans.

It is the organization that invited alt-right firebrand Milo Yiannopolous to campus the night before.

His appearance was cancelled when organized agitators invaded a peaceful protest, setting fires and breaking windows at the Student Union venue.

"Milo had a right to speak, Milo should have been allowed to speak," declared club President Jose Diaz, to an overflow club meeting of some thirty students, some spilling into the hall.

UCB estimated the campus property damage at $100,000. But the club says it's doing better than ever.

"We're actually going to probably grow," exclaimed member Tom Tatum, "and that's the absolute irony of all this, that we're probably going to expand,"

Chimed in fellow club member Matt Ronnau: "Now it's national news. People all over know about it. So I think the protestor's plan backfired."

Emotions are still raw, with many people on campus engaging in heated discussions about the aborted event- what it symbolized and what it didn't.

But the Republican club had its table set up at Sproul Plaza Thursday and said more people than usual stopped to show support, at least for their right to invite an inflammatory guest.

"This campus is well-known for its free-speech stance," declared U.C.Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett after the riots quelled, adding "no group should hesitate to have an event here out of fear."

Yet the university and surrounding businesses are picking up the pieces of a protest that went virtually unchecked by police.

Ostensibly, that cautious approach was to keep students from getting caught up and injured in a confrontation.
But the end result is a black eye for all, in the form of bad publicity.

"This wasn't representative of who we are as a school or a student body," Associated Students President Will Morrow told KTVU, "so it's disheartening knowing people watching this nationally think this was our students."

Berkeley's mayor says the melee played into the hands of Milo Yiannopoulos, professional provocateur.

"I think that's the response he wanted," observed Mayor Jesse Arreguin, "to get the right-wing media and right-wing activists to have Berkeley viewed in a negative light."

The tension continues: at midday Thursday, a member of the BCR was assaulted by two men who pulled their car over near Sproul Plaza to jump him and try to take his red Trump baseball cap. The altercation was captured on cellphone video.

"One of them tried pushing me down and it became a fight, " victim Jack Palkovic told KTVU, " and when one of them pushed me down, I got up and grabbed him, and that's when the guy punched me."

The two men arrested for the assault are identified as Sean Suess, 27, from San Francisco and Devonte Gaskin,28, from Oakland.

Neither are associated with the university.

Palkovic wasn't seriously injured and attended the club meeting, albeit without his red cap.

Club members have been advised to keep a lower profile for their own safety.

The two officers outside the meeting were there as a precaution, to ward off disruption.

"This is not the end of us, " Diaz told the group, "because we're going to continue to move forward and be bold. And we're going to continue standing up for free speech."