After protests turned violent at the University of California-Berkeley, President Trump threatened to strip federal funds.
The protests occurred Wednesday afternoon when students learned UC scheduled Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart News editor, to speak on campus. More than 1,500 people protested the event. They carried signs saying “No safe space for racists,” and “This is war.”
Ultimately, the administration canceled Yiannopoulos’ event two hours before its start time.
Although the majority of protesters demonstrated peacefully, others turned into a violent act. Approximately 150 masked agitators showed up to the scene, injuring at least six people. The agitators tore down barriers, set fires, damaged construction sites, and attacked Trump supporters.
UC-Berkeley stated that before the violence ensued, it was a peaceful protest. Despite the reasoning, the university stated condemnation for the “violence and unlawful behavior” the agitators displayed. In an official statement, they said it’s regrettable the violence overshadows the efforts of a lawful protest.
“While Yiannopolos’ views, tactic, and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own, we are bound by the Constitution, the law, our values and the campus’s Principles of Community to enable free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective,” they said.
After the incident, President Donald Trump stated Feb. 2 that the students did not want to acknowledge free speech for the far-right.
“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” he tweeted.
UC Berkeley’s college Republican asked Yiannopoulos to speak at the college as part of his college tour. The student group scheduled Yiannopoulos to discuss cultural appropriation. After Yiannopoulos discovered UC canceled the event, he took to social media to express his reaction.
“Violent left-wing protesters tore down barricades, lit fires, threw rocks and Roman candles at the windows,” he tweeted. “One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”
Later, he recorded a live video on Facebook, saying the event was “an expression of political violence.”
“I’m just stunned that hundreds of people…were so threatened by the idea that a conservative speaker might be persuasive, interesting, funny, and might take some people with him,” he said. “They have to shut it down at all costs.”
The agitators belong to an anarchist group called the “Black Bloc,” which has affiliates worldwide. Accordingly, group members dress in all black, hiding their identities for protests and riots. This is not a student-run group and members have caused problems in the areas for years.
“This was a group of agitators who were masked up,” UC-Berkeley Police Chief Margo Benhet said. “Throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks, and Molotov cocktails at officers.”
Similarly, protests occurred the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. A Black Bloc group called #DisruptJ20 rioted through Washington, D.C.