Born in 1970, UC Berkeley graduate Yvette Felarca is a social studies teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. She also serves on the Berkeley Federation of Teachers' executive board. In a 2012 speech to fellow union members, Felarca claimed that “public education is under an insidious and full-scale attack” from people wishing to implement “a free-market, privatized model” of education. “We are at war” with “charter school promoters,” she declared.
Felarca is best known as a national organizer with By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a self-described “militant anti-facist group.” Moreover, she has been an activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement and a participant in Black Lives Matter-connected protests on the UC Berkeley campus.
Defending the use of “militant” political demonstrations – i.e., riots – that commonly result in property destruction, Felarca told the New York Times in 2014: “Riots are the voice of the unheard.” “You can never replace the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner,” she added in a reference to two black men who had died in highly publicized altercations with police officers earlier that year, “but you can always replace broken windows.”
On June 26, 2016, Felarca and BAMN led some 400 protesters in a series of pre-planned attacks against a group of approximately 30 members of the white-supremacist Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP) who were scheduled to hold a rally on the steps of the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento. The rally never took place, however, because Felarca and her comrades violently assaulted them with their fists as well as clubs, rocks, and pepper spray. By the time the mayhem was over, numerous people had been injured, including two who were critically wounded. Felarca, at one point, shoved a TWP member and repeatedly shouted “Get the f**k off our streets!” Within a few moments, several of Felarca's male accomplices tackled that individual and viciously beat him.
On the premise that the “racist demagoguery” of newly elected President Donald Trump “gives Nazis a green light” and should not be protected by the First Amendment, Felarca, said in the aftermath of the attacks: “The goal today was to shut down the Nazis' recruitment rally [and] … [w]e succeeded in doing that.” The “Nazi scum,” she added, were “not able to hold any kind of demonstration … because of the militant, integrated direct action of the people who came out” and exercised their “right to self-defense.”
In September 2016, the Berkeley School District placed Felarca on involuntary paid leave because of her “inappropriate conduct” in Sacramento. Felarca, however, alleged that her suspension was due chiefly to the fact that she was involved with BAMN.
In February 2017 at UC Berkeley, Felarca and many of her BAMN comrades staged a loud, violent riot that forced the popular gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos to cancel a speech that he was scheduled to deliver on campus. Noting that Yiannopoulos was affiliated with conservative author and activist David Horowitz, Felarca described the latter as a “Holocaust denier.” In reality, Horowitz for decades has been a staunch defender of Israel and the Jewish people, and has written and spoken extensively about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“This is not about free speech,” Felarca said of Yiannopoulos’s speaking tour. “These are not people who are interested in any genuine debate. They hide behind that hypocritically to try to shut up and put in our places women or Muslims or minorities or oppressed groups. But what they are really trying to do is they’re trying to assert their power, threaten us, intimidate us, rape us, kill us.... I promise you, if we work together and we stay united, we can … shut this fu**er [Yiannopoulos] down, we can get rid of Donald Trump.”
All told, more than 1,500 protesters gathered at Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus, chanting and holding placards that read: “No safe space for racists” and “This is war.” Some of the demonstrators hurled commercial-grade fireworks and rocks at police; threw Molotov cocktails that ignited fires; smashed windows of the student union center where Yiannopoulos had been slated to speak; tore down metal barriers; set fires near the campus bookstore; and damaged the construction site where a new dorm was being built. “As police dispersed the crowd from campus,” said one news report, “a remaining group of protesters moved into downtown Berkeley and smashed windows at several local banks.”
In a television interview conducted after the Berkeley riot, Felarca described Yiannopoulos as a “fascist,” “an acolyte of Donald Trump,” and a “white supremacist” who “was on the UC Berkeley campus to try to recruit more fascists and to wage attacks on Muslim students, immigrant students, women and trans students.” Moreover, Felarca warned that if Yiannopoulos were to ever again schedule a speech at Berkeley, she and her allies would “make clear to him, directly to his face, that he is not welcome and we will shut him down by any means necessary!” When asked whether a nonviolent form of protest might have been preferable to what actually had occurred, Felarca replied: “You know, I think that the left has been far too timid for way too long, and it’s why we’d even gotten in this position, where we even have someone like Donald Trump leading a fascist movement as the President of the United States. We need to make sure that we have more mass protests, more militant protests that are mass and militant.” She further declared that “we have an obligation” to use any and all measures, including violence, against “the right wing and the fascists in this country,” and that the chaos at Berkeley “should be the model for how the movement needs to take things now in the future.” Acknowledging that her “movement” to thwart the Trump agenda was “not spontaneous” in any way, Felarca said: “This is about organizing and fighting by any means necessary.”
The entire Berkeley affair could have been avoided, Felarca claimed, if only the university's chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, had heeded the advice of the “hundreds of professors who demanded” that Yiannopoulos's appearance be called off “for safety reasons.” She reasoned that Dirks was “responsible for anything that happened,” since “he had a chance to cancel the event.” Felarca then shrugged off the significance of the property damage that had occurred as a result of the riots: “A few broken windows is nothing compared to the lives that are at stake. And if that’s what it takes in order to make sure that more people don’t get targeted—if that’s what it takes to make sure that Milo Yiannopoulos or another white supremacist is not welcome or allowed to come to UC Berkeley and attack our community, then good. Let’s make sure then that doesn’t happen in the future.”