Chaos ensued at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) campus when thousands of students protested against a scheduled speech by alt-right icon, Milo Yiannopoulos, on Wednesday night.
Protesters could be seen shouting, destroying property, setting fires, and smashing windows around the university campus.
Yiannopoulous, who is a senior editor for far-right American news site Breitbart News, was invited to speak at Berkeley by the university’s College Republicans. The event was supposed to be the final show for his “Dangerous Faggot” Tour at campuses across the U.S.
Before the event was scheduled to start at 8pm, the university had directed its Police Department (UCPD) to maintain public safety and order. While the university does not endorse Yiannopoulous’ views, the chancellor sought cooperation from all parties to respect both the speaker’s right to freedom of speech as well as the values of tolerance and diversity.
A Night of Violence
"When fascists come to town, what do we do? Shut it down." Also, "nazi scum your time has come" chants here. pic.twitter.com/XFIijlIycV
— gillian (@GillianMae123) February 2, 2017
The protesters were heard chanting “Nazi scum your time has come” and “When fascists come to down what do we do? We shut shit down.”
Some held signs saying “Queers bash back”, “Become ungovernable”, and “No safe space for fascism, no platform for Nazis.”
“We won’t put up with the violent rhetoric of Milo, Trump, or the fascistic alt-right,” said a Berkeley history student who was carrying the “Queers bash back” banner.
“We are willing to resist by any means necessary,” he added.
Another protester, Lana Wachowski, said extreme tactics were necessary to deny Yiannopolous a platform.
“The moral imperative is to win,” she said. “There’s something to be said for fighting according to a code, but if you lose, people are going to die. People are going to get deported.”
The crowd was boisterous but peaceful until about 6pm when a group of black-clad students with black face masks carrying glittering flags arrived. A dozen of so of them then quickly breached the police barricades and began shooting firecrackers at the buildings. Some of them also smashed windows.
Fires that were deliberately set – one outside the campus’ Amazon outlet; Molotov cocktails that caused generator-powered spotlights to catch fire; commercial-grade fireworks thrown at police officers; barricades pushed into windows; and skirmishes within the crowd – were among the evening’s violent acts.
Eventually the university cancelled the event and tried to get the crowd to disperse. Yiannopoulos was escorted from the building and left campus.
Protesters could be seen celebrating after the cancellation was announced.
Celebration after Milo at Berkeley was canceled pic.twitter.com/7tW2ka8qcZ
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) February 2, 2017
Berkeley News reported that the violence was instigated by some 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an “otherwise non-violent” protest.
At least one person could be seen with blood on his face, according to Buzzfeed News. The man told the news site that he had been hit by an anti-fascist demonstrator.
The police continued to ask the crowd to disperse but they stayed on until around 9.30pm.
Hordes then marched through the streets near campus, breaking storefront windows, smashing ATMs, and spray painting walls.
Campus, American President defend free speech
In its statement, UC Berkeley condemned “in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display and deeply regret that those tactics will now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives.”
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
The American President, Donald Trump, also took to Twitter to comment on the event, the content of which had led some to believe he is threatening to withdraw federal funding to the Californian university.
Speaking to Fox News via phone call, Yiannopoulos said: “Students who come to my talks don’t necessarily agree with me but want to see the other side.
“They were prevented from doing so this evening from violence from the left. The left that is terrified from [sic] anyone who might be persuasive or interesting or might take people with them.”
Yiannopoulos has been described as “right-wing internet troll” by the Guardian and “a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to ‘entertain’, but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas” by the university itself.
Since 2015, Yiannopoulos has traveled to university campuses as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour, frequently provoking student protests.
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