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Published on March 03, 2024
AJC Demands Justice After Anti-Semitic Mob Ruckus at UC BerkeleySource: Google Street View / Cal Performances

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has called for a thorough criminal investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney and the Department of Justice after a riot broke out at the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this week. In a convulsion of violence and antisemitic vitriol, approximately 200 protesters affiliated with Bears for Palestine stormed Zellerbach Playhouse, forcing the cancellation of an event featuring Israeli speaker Ran Bar-Yoshafat.

Reports detailed by the AJC describe the mob attempting to force entry, breaking both a door and window, with attendees falling prey to antisemitic slurs and physical assault. Marc Stern, AJC's Chief Legal Officer, addressed stern letters to DA Pamela Price and the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, highlighting the need for a forceful legal response against what he termed were echoes of "the tactics of the Brownshirts or Communists in the inter-war period." According to AJC's statement, Stern insisted that "political violence should not be tolerated, no matter what point on the political compass it springs from."

This contentious incident, reminiscent of darker historical epochs, has not only prodded the AJC into advocacy but incited a debate on the sanctity of free speech within one of its most iconic cradles. In his communication disclosed by the AJC, Stern stressed, "There is no free speech right to riot (and organize that riot) to disrupt someone else's meeting and suppress their speech."

In response to the grave concerns raised, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Provost Benjamin Hermalin posted a public statement describing the escalated protest, ensuring measures to secure the speaker's and the audience's safety. As the university beckons those aggrieved to report their experiences, Stern's notion, contained in letters obtained by KRON4, is that this riot was a "direct assault on American democracy" that should be met with prosecutorial rigor.

While the university grapples with the aftermath, stories surfaced through accounts like that provided by Danielle Sobkin of Bears for Israel, point to deep-seated tensions. Sobkin relayed to KRON4 a harrowing tale wherein a protester allegedly accosted a young sophomore, spitting on him and branding him a "dirty Jew." In this heightened state of campus division, the AJC persists in their support of UC Berkeley's Jewish students, advocating for not just safety, but a thriving community despite the shadows cast by this recent uproar.