Last month, 26-year-old conservative activist, Hayden Williams, was assaulted at UC-Berkeley while helping students recruit for their club.
Williams is a field representative with the Leadership Institute, a non-profit founded by veteran activist Morton C. Blackwell, which, according to its website, "provides training in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots, organizing, youth politics, and communications" to future conservative leaders.
Part of Williams’ job requirement includes helping conservative college students start clubs on their campus, which led him to table with students at UC-Berkeley on February 19. While tabling, Williams was assaulted by someone who police claim is 28-year-old Zachary Greenberg.
Less than two weeks after the assault, Williams was telling his story to thousands of people alongside the President of the United States.
In an interview with The Daily Wire, Williams said he started calling himself a conservative in college but has always held conservative views.
"I became a conservative by thinking for myself — not following what everyone was telling me to think," Williams said. "When I cut through the trendy opinions, I came to appreciate conservative values like free speech."
Williams said he looks up to Morton Blackwell, Antonin Scalia, and President Donald Trump.
"Also, freedom of speech is important to me because political correctness is a corrosive force to the arts, specifically comedy," Williams added.
Prior to his trip to Berkeley, Williams said he had some concerns due to the Berkeley community's reputation for intolerance against individuals with opposing views, but said he "didn’t expect it to be this bad."
While at UC-Berkeley, Williams was tabling with two conservative students while holding signage that referenced the Jussie Smollett controversy.
"A guy approached the table and was cussing and I didn’t know if he was going to try to hurt us or the signage," Williams said, explaining why he started to film the encounter.
"He took a step back as he was walking away, and then [Greenberg] smacked my phone out of my hand which hit the guy that was cussing at me," Williams explained. "It landed on the ground and then he flipped the table and smacked my phone out of my hand again."
"At one point, he took my phone ... and when he punched me in the head, my phone was in his hand."
Williams said he got his phone back after he grabbed Greenberg’s sweater and thought the assault was over.
"I look down at my phone because I thought that he was done yelling in my face, and that is when he hit me with the big one."
After Greenberg left, Williams said the police were quick to respond and even brought along two fire trucks and an ambulance. Williams did not use the ambulance, but he did go to a hospital a few days later due to concussion symptoms.
"My sinuses were damaged and the punch caused internal bleeding within my face," Williams said. "My ears were ringing and I was sensitive to light and sounds and had a headache. [The doctors] said that there was a high likelihood that I had a concussion."
When asked if the school’s administration has reached out to him, Williams said he has only heard from the university’s police department.
With his black eye healing, Williams made his way last weekend to the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, where he was scheduled to speak about being assaulted with Campus Reform’s Editor-in-Chief, Lawrence Jones.
"This was my first time ever going to CPAC," Williams stated. "It was just so comforting to have an outpouring of support from people who were just outraged about what happened to me."
The next day, Williams said he planned to "take it easy" and enjoy the conference, but then he was told that he may be meeting President Trump.
"I was very excited about this and I had no idea if I would actually meet him, but it was phenomenal. Right after I met him, I was being escorted to the audience by a staff member who told me that 'we’re going to put you close to the stage for easy access,' and that’s when I realized that I might go on stage.’”
Williams said he started immediately planning out what he would say if Trump asked him to come on stage.
"I saw somebody that was violently punched in the face, violently punched, and I said 'that’s disgusting,' by a bully — I’d like to do a lot of things but — but of course we would never do that," Trump said during his CPAC speech. "So, the man’s name is Hayden Williams. Where’s Hayden? Where is he? Where is he? Hayden come up here, please."
Williams then made his way to the stage.
"So, at the Leadership Institute, we are committed to making campuses great again and I thank you so much for bringing me up here to let me speak," Williams began. "It’s great that I am being recognized, but there are so many conservative students across the country who are facing discrimination, harassment, and worse if they dare to speak up on campus. So I am glad that we could, we could, you know, bring this to the forefront."
"And these students do it because they have a love for our nation and freedom and a love for you Mr. President," Williams added. "If you keep defending us, we’ll keep defending you."
Trump then asked Williams to remain on the stage and congratulated him.
"I learned a number of things — first of all, he can take a punch," Trump said. "Muhammad Ali could take a punch, he can take them. You weren’t going to go down no matter how — that was a hell of a hard punch, he was a strong guy."
"When I went up, it was unreal and a dream come true for him to allow me to speak at one of his longest speeches to date," Williams said. "I was incredibly nervous, but who wouldn’t be?"
On Wednesday, Greenberg pleaded not guilty to three felonies for assault, battery, and criminal threats, The Daily Wire previously reported.
Williams’ attorney, Harmeet Dhillon, said that it was not surprising that Greenberg pled not guilty.
"It is customary for criminal defendants to enter a not guilty plea, so I’m not surprised by that," Dhillon said, adding that Greenberg has also had "several instances in civil court."
Williams said he hopes Greenberg is "held fully accountable for his actions, so that campuses can be safer for all students and that people like him don’t feel so emboldened to use violence to express their disagreements with others."
While Williams is happy that his situation is raising awareness, he said there is a lot more work still to be done.
"It is clear that there is a problem that needs to be addressed concerning the dehumanization of conservatives," Williams said.
In the interview, Williams stressed that conservatives should not be afraid to speak up, even if violence is a possibility.
"With no risk, there is no reward and it is certainly a risk to put your beliefs out there if they are counter to the dominant culture," Williams said, adding that he believes his situation has not deterred conservative activism but has actually encouraged it.
"Many students have contacted me saying that they were inspired to get more involved," Williams said. "Now that they’ve seen how big the problem is, they feel that now is the time to get involved. They can’t be apathetic anymore."
Although Greenberg is not a student, Williams said hostility happens on other campuses and that the incident is a sign of an issue with our culture.
"He represents a certain culture that is enabled by these left-wing faculty. The media also contributes to this problem because we were protesting the hate crime hoax by Jussie Smollett and the media fan the flames of this hysteria." Williams said. "Berkeley is a special case certainly, but this happens on campuses across the country, and this guy represents this culture that is enabled when culture of harassment against conservatives is encouraged."
Fox News reported that one UC-Berkeley employee, Yuvi Panda, cheered on the assault in a now-deleted tweet, writing "OH MY GOD THE MAGA PEOPLE ON UC BERKELEY CAMPUS YESTERDAY GOT PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY SOMEONE THIS MAKES ME FEEL EMOTIONALLY SO MUCH BETTER."
"Berkeley led the way in the free speech movement and now they’re leading the way in the anti-free speech movement," Williams said.
Williams said he does not plan on leaving politics any time soon and plans to continue "to help young conservatives get involved in the public policy process" and raise awareness "about the vital importance of free speech to keeping the peace between us all."