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Conservative activist punched in face at Berkeley says incident part of 'disturbing' trend

Hayden Williams of the Leadership Institute speaks to Sinclair Broadcast Group in Washington on Feb. 26, 2019. (SBG)
Hayden Williams of the Leadership Institute speaks to Sinclair Broadcast Group in Washington on Feb. 26, 2019. (SBG)
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A conservative activist who was assaulted on a California college campus last week said Tuesday the incident was emblematic of a “disturbing trend” at schools across the country.

“There’s a culture that’s harbored that very hostile to conservative viewpoints and anyone that would openly express those on campus,” Hayden Williams, a field representative for the Leadership Institute, said in an interview.

**WARNING: The video below contains profanity.**

A video posted by Campus Reform, a watchdog group that claims to expose “liberal bias and abuse against conservatives on America’s colleges and universities,” shows Williams being punched in the face while helping the campus chapter of conservative group Turning Point USA recruit at the University of California-Berkeley last Tuesday.

Williams was manning a table for Turning Point USA in Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus with a sign that read “hate crime hoaxes hurt real victims,” referring to recent allegations that actor Jussie Smollett orchestrated a fake hate crime. According to Williams, he took out his phone and started recording after two men approached his table “rather aggressively and erratically.”

“The guy flips over the table and starts pushing me and punching me and knocks the phone out of my hand several times,” he said. “It was just a really scary situation.”

The physical violence was particularly bad in this case, but Williams said the kind of hostility he faced at Berkeley has become more and more common for conservative students over the last three years.

“I’m doing this job so that these kids don’t feel like they’re alone on campus, because they’re not. They’re just being intimidated and silenced, sometimes with force,” he said.

The Leadership Institute called for Williams’ alleged assailant to be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

“This event is shocking, but it is not isolated. Conservative and libertarian students have faced violence and intimidation for sharing their political philosophy on campus from coast to coast in this country,” said Bryan Bernys, vice president of campus programs at the Leadership Institute, in a statement.

UC-Berkeley police said Friday the suspect has been identified and is not believed to be a student or in any way affiliated with the university. Police have not released his name, but they requested the public’s help locating and apprehending him.

In a statement to the campus community, UC-Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton called the attack “intolerable.”

"Let there be no mistake, we strongly condemn violence and harassment of any sort, for any reason. That sort of behavior is intolerable and has no place here. Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering," they said.

Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact the University of California Police Department Criminal Investigations Bureau at (510) 642-0472 during business hours or (510) 642-6760 at any other time.

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