Brawl Breaks Out Inside Berkeley’s ‘Empathy Tent’

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

UC Berkeley is no stranger to student violence but the latest clash occurred within the campus “empathy tent.” The site is supposed to be a place where students can go to cool-off and wind-down but on Tuesday it was more like a boxing ring.

The Los Angeles Times reports that fights broke between conservatives and leftists on Tuesday inside the tent. There was so much action that it almost fell over. Police say they arrested four people.

Edwin Fulch, who proposed having an empathy tent, was philosophical over the misuse of the facility, stating, “It’s tough, but we do what we can to foster dialogue.”

Fulch reportedly spoke to students in the tent about meditation techniques as well as relating stories from the Occupy Wall Street days.

Things started peacefully enough, when Joey Gibson, who leads a conservative group called Patriot Prayer, first proposed a student rally  to oppose the cancellation of “Free Speech Week” on campus.

But the brouhaha soon moved into the empathy tent followed by some more exchanges in the nearby People’s Park — an enclave for homeless people.

Gibson declared that he would not rest until Berkeley can “respect speech.”

Police arrested counter-protester Yvonne Felarca on battery and resisting arrest charges. They also arrested three others for using body armour, possession of a banned weapon and contributing to a riot.

Berkeley, once known for its campus protests in favor of free speech during the radical late 1960s, now routinely turns down speaking requests from conservative figures.

Some students just wondered when life could return to normal. Student David Marquis spoke to the LA Times, asking, “Do any of these people even live in Berkeley?” He said he had a raft of classes cancelled this week because of the violence.

“This whole crowd should not be here. I am very confused,” he told the Times.

Follow David on Twitter