Earlier in the week, conservative polemicist Ann Coulter was told that, if she showed up to speak at UC Berkeley on April 27th, she would be held responsible for reigniting the flames of what happened on April 15. On that day, thousands of left and right-wingers brawled at a nearby park. Twenty-one people were arrested in what the right called a “Patriots Day” a march that resulted in knife fights, M-80 explosions, pepper spray and the broken nose of at least one Trump supporter — an “American Freedom” biker whose club’s motto reads: “Fit In Or Fuck Off.” When Coulter cancelled on April 26th, her supporters headed to Berkeley to make a statement. Some of them were guided by Kyle Chapman, known as the “Based Stickman.” He’s famous for cracking skulls during the Berkeley protest in March, when conservative agitator Milo Yiannopoulos was stopped from speaking on campus by a contingent of masked antifascists (antifa), who rioted to derail his speaking tour.

On April 26th, local police notified protesters that masks would no longer be allowed. Chapman took to Facebook Live and said he was preparing to rid Berkeley of “Commie scum,” or anyone opposing free-market capitalism. Chapman, Coulter, Yiannopoulos and members of rightwing organizations like the “Oath Keepers” or “Proud Boys” are “Nazis,” according to UC Berkeley leftists. Some of these people are Sieg Heiling white supremacists, but how many of them are just white conservatives, patriots or white racists is really hard to tell.

As of this writing, Berkeley’s undergraduate library bathroom is tagged with the following: “Kill Nazis.” Right below it: “But who gets to decide who is a Nazi?” This is a microcosm of what’s happening in the country right now in the nebulous battle over free speech.

Elizabeth le Fey

Elizabeth le Fey

The next morning, at 10 a.m., blue-haired anarchist Reiko Redmonde posts a flyer near campus that reads: “The issue is not free speech. The issue is fascism.” In a few hours, Reiko, who owns an anarchist bookstore called “Revolution Books,” will be detained for taking a megaphone onto main campus, right in front of Sproul Hall, and warning students that the local news is reporting that 40 white supremacists have congregated less than a mile away at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.

At the park, about a hundred Trump supporters are gathered in what they say is a defense of free speech. (Reiko contends it’s a fascist march.) They’re wearing MMA gloves, snowboarding goggles, protective motorcycle armor, “Make America Great Again” hats and what’s now become a symbol of white nationalism on Berkeley’s campus: the American flag. Amongst them is Brother Jim Gilles, who’s wearing a T-shirt that reads “Allah is Satan.”

I ask him if he believes there are good Muslims out there.

“There’s no such thing as a good Muslim,” he says.

Elizabeth le Fey

Elizabeth le Fey

To be fair, standing with him are members of the National Guard, ex Marines, Africa- American mothers and working class Americans who don’t share his Islamophobia. But they all support Trump and his proposed border wall. To them, free speech is boundless and Milo Yiannopoulos was the ground zero for their crusade to defend it. They’ve invaded Berkeley from places like Castro Valley, Torrance, Fairfield and Los Angeles to crush what they’ve identified as “neo-Marxists” and the antifa. The leftists groups are, according to the conservative demonstrators, free speech suppressors.

The suppressors which includes members of a group identified as “By Any Means Necessary” (BAMN), a leftist group that stands against quite literally everything the Trump supporters are in favor of. Both sides seem to have an roughly equal number of men and women. The Trump supporters, mostly outsiders, seem to be treating the event like a football tailgating party with coolers and patriot uniforms. The leftists seem like local, working class kids, ex hippies and black youth who want to defend their campus from what they believe are literally Nazis. Antifa was nowhere to be found.

Elizabeth le Fey

Elizabeth le Fey

It would seem, on April 27th, the real war was between those would like to see a wall built and a travel ban enforced, and those who vociferously oppose them.

Around 3 PM, {Milo Yiannopoulos posted on Facebook}(https://www.facebook.com/myiannopoulos/videos/902035643267665/) that “tensions are rising.“ Nothing of the sort was happening. Conservative speakers adressed a crowd of about 200. Baked Alaska, Lauren Southern, Brittany Pettibone and “Proud Boy” founder Gavin McInnes all spoke in favor of Trump’s wall as a means of stopping illegal immigration. McInnes read Coulter’s original speech on immigration. “No immigrants should be on welfare,” he said, quoting her. At one point, a parent from nearby Berkeley High stood in front of the crowd and begged them to make sure none of the local students were harmed during the protest — which was expected to get violent. It never did.

Around 5 PM, there seemed to be more cops at MLK Civic Center Park than protesters, who had gathered on opposite ends of the street and yelled shit at each other. There wasn’t a single incident of violence to speak of, or any kind of rioting. There were six arrests for shit as petty as someone refusing to remove their mask on campus. Nothing happened because Coulter didn’t show up, which must have disappointed those spoiling for a fight. Coulter could have left Berkeley a conquering hero for her side. Instead, she martyred herself as a representative of a “free speech” movement that has, for now, been defeated by antifa on the campus of Berkeley.

Driving back to my hotel with my Uber driver told me he had witnessed the three previous protests and felt like Coulter’s arrival would have led to unnecessary unrest.

“Berkeley is changing” he said. “It’s become more radical following the election.”

Berkeley, like the rest of the country, will see the Trump years as a struggle to find peace amid a hotbed of civil unrest.