BERKELEY, Calif. — A conservative activist reported he was attacked while recruiting students for Turning Point USA at UC Berkeley, according to campus police.
The University of California Police Department said in a statement that officers responded Tuesday afternoon to a “report of a disturbance” on upper Sproul Plaza, a center of student activity on campus, where they found the injured victim. An investigation is continuing, the university said Friday.
According to the police statement, the victim said that two men approached him, a verbal altercation ensued and he began recording the interaction on his phone.
One of the men “slapped the phone out of the victim’s hand,” police said. “The suspect then knocked over the table the victim was at and the two men struggled over the phone. During the incident, the suspect punched the victim several times causing injury to the victim’s eye and nose.”
Turning Point USA later identified the alleged victim to CNN as Hayden Williams, who had been invited to UC Berkeley to help recruit students for a yet-to-be-formed chapter on campus.
A media representative for Williams said he is a field representative for the Leadership Institute, an organization that helps train conservative leaders. Williams is not a UC Berkeley student, the representative said.
“The fact that the victim was not a campus affiliate has no bearing on this case. He had every right to be on campus, and every right to express his point of view,” said campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.
Friday, the campus police department said in a statement it had identified a suspect and the department’s information indicated “the suspect is not a student at, or affiliate of the University.” The department did not release his name.
Violence was ‘disheartening,’ student says
Williams told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday that some students were upset by a sign he had displayed at his recruitment table that said, “Hate Crime Hoaxes Hurt Real Victims” — apparently a reference to “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who has been accused of staging what he maintains was a hate crime against him.
“This person claimed we were promoting violence on campus and proceeded to take his aggression out on us,” Williams told Hannity.
A short video recorded by a witness shows Williams and a man struggling before the man punches Williams in the face, knocking his hat off. The alleged suspect then gets close to Williams’ face, calls him “racist,” and shouts profanities before punching Williams again and walking away.
Williams told CNN he is fine but declined to answer other questions. He was treated at the scene, his media representative said.
Arda Erbil, the student who shot the footage provided to CNN, said he saw two men harassing Williams. As one of the men became physical, Erbil began to record video.
“Seeing something like that happen in such an open place was disheartening,” he said.
UC Berkeley’s chancellor and vice chancellor condemned the assault in a statement Thursday, calling it “reprehensible.”
“That sort of behavior is intolerable and has no place here,” the statement said. “Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering.”
The statement added that university officials have “no information indicating” the perpetrators are affiliated with UC Berkeley.
School has history of protests against conservatives
The incident illustrates the “hate and anger so many on the left harbor and that our student activists encounter on a daily basis,” Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA’s founder and president, said in a statement Thursday.
“Our amazing grassroots organizers courageously face threats of violence and discrimination as they fight for the right for conservative voices to be heard on college campuses,” Kirk said, adding he was proud of how the group’s student activists handled the situation.
UC Berkeley’s campus has had a number of incidents in recent years involving the protesting of conservative commentators and personalities.
In 2017, a number of protests broke out ahead of speaking engagements by conservative commentators such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. Neither of those events went forward.
Later that year, conservative radio host Ben Shapiro gave a talk as protesters swarmed outside. Nine people were arrested, but the protests appeared to be mostly peaceful.