By Elizabeth Llorente
Published February 21, 2019
University of California police want the public's help tracking down a suspect whose brutal alleged assault of a conservative activist on the Berkeley campus was caught on video.
The campus police website said that two men on Tuesday approached a table where the activist was recruiting members to his group, and an argument ensued. The alleged victim, identified by Turning Point USA as Hayden Williams, held up his cell phone and began filming the two men who were allegedly harassing him. One of the two men knocked over the table, police said, and then punched Williams several times, causing injuries to his face. Much of the incident was captured on a witness' cellphone, but it was unclear what, if anything, Williams may have said before the attack.
The suspects had left by the time police arrived.
Although Williams was helping Turning Point USA, he is not actually a member of the group. Williams is campus representative for Leadership Institute, according to Campus Reform, a conservative news site that the institute operates.
A witness told Fox News the recruitment table had a sign that said: "Hate Crime Hoaxes Hurt Real Victims," in reference to the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who is accused of staging a bias attack against himself in downtown Chicago last month.
On its website, Campus Reform, which interviewed Williams, reported that the alleged attacker cursed at the activist, calling him a racist and threatened to shoot him.
The Berkeley incident is the latest in a growing series of ideological clashes that have turned violent on college campuses. Conservative groups claim students who lean to the right have been targeted for harassment and even assault over their views.
“College campuses have become increasingly unsafe for conservatives,” Charlie Kirk, the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, told Fox News. “Our amazing Turning Point USA team was talking and then confronted by the hateful left which resulted in the assault and punching in the face just because of a difference of opinion. If the attacker was wearing a MAGA hat, this would be classified as a hate crime and all over every news channel.”
Guillermina Castro, a UC-Berkeley freshman who is trying to establish a Turning Point USA chapter on the campus, said it was her idea to set up the table to offer information to potential recruits.
She said that harassment of conservative students is so common these days that she felt nervous about leaving Williams at the table alone as she sat in a class.
When she returned to the table, she found her concerns had been well-founded.
“I saw our sign ripped up, all our papers were on the floor, Hayden was covering his [injured] eye,” Castro told Fox News. “I said ‘Oh my God, what happened?’”
“He said that a guy had just punched him in the face.”
She added that when she tweeted about the incident, she received hateful messages from people applauding the violence.
“One woman called me a white supremacist,” she said. “I said ‘Wait, I’m Latina!’”
Castro said that while she has come to expect taunts from other students over her political views, Tuesday’s violence had a chilling effect.
“I was shocked,” she said. “You’d expect students at Berkeley to be smarter, to be more open about different points of view.”
Campus Reform quoted Williams as saying: “Some students nearby tabling were laughing, even one guy was smiling while I was being attacked and trying to hand me his flyer as a joke. The idea is free speech has consequences.... which include you getting assaulted if they find you promoting ideas others don't agree with.”
Alex Szarka, a junior who happened to be passing by when the altercation broke out, filmed it to ensure that there would be documentation and that the man who punched Williams is held accountable, he told Fox News.
“I was walking by when I saw it, it escalated so quickly,” Szarka said. “The Turning Point USA table had signs that on a campus like Berkeley, would be seen as provocative. I was surprised to see [the reaction] be this bad. I would like to see the guy get arrested, and expelled immediately. In any other situation, without the politics, this would absolutely be a very well-publicized thing. I was in disbelief.”