Berkeley, CA - What started as peaceful protests against scheduled speaker Milo Yiannopoulous turned quickly violent at the UC Berkeley campus on Wednesday night. A masked group of rioters showed up, and began breaking windows, setting fires, and attacking students.
President Trump responded on Thursday morning suggesting that he may withhold federal funding from UC-Berkeley as a result.
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
According to Fox News, a peaceful crowd of non-masked protesters carrying signs had been protesting outside the campus student union building for most of the day. Shortly before Yiannopoulous was scheduled to speak, the second group showed up and began throwing smoke bombs and flares at the building.
He later said in an interview that "Violent left-wing protesters stormed the building and forced me to be evacuated by police and by my security detail." His location was not disclosed but he said that he was safe.
Yiannopoulous, age 32, is a self-admitted internet troll, vocal supporter of President Trump, and an editor for Breitbart News. He had planned to speak about cultural appropriation - the use of elements by one culture by members of another.
In a statement, UC Berkeley said that the decision to cancel was made less than two hours before Yiannopoulous was scheduled to speak. The University also said that it 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."
Margo Bennet, UC - Berkeley Police Chief, said "This was a group of agitators who were masked up, throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers." The group was dressed in black and wore hooded sweatshirts in an attempt to conceal their identity.
They used metal barricades to break windows and a diesel generator to start a large fire outside the student union facility. Videos of the incident went viral on social media last night and a Trump supporter who was giving a speech outside the student union was pepper-sprayed by an unknown suspect in the crowd.
Trump supporter sprayed in the face during UC Berkeley riots!
PLEASE RETWEET and if you know him contact @UCPD_Cal.#MiloYiannopoulos #Milo pic.twitter.com/uGkJ8oZExn
— Tennessee (@TEN_GOP) February 2, 2017
Police Officers in riot gear responded and issued multiple orders to disperse, according to USA Today. The entire campus was placed on lockdown and everyone was told to shelter in place. The police officers used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the rioters.
The visit was not sponsored by the University but by its Republican club. A spokesman for the club said that they didn't support everything Yiannopoulous said but that "he gives a voice to repressed conservative thought on American college campuses." The spokesman also said that its "constitutional right to free speech was silenced by criminals and thugs."
On his Facebook page, Yiannopoulous later posted that the event was cancelled and he would update when he had more details. He also said in the post that "...the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do anything literally to shut it down" and "not to give up," that they cannot and will not win.
It is also interesting to note that Hollywood is again involved in support of this type of activity. Hollywood director Judd Apatow posted on Twitter in a tweet that has since been deleted that the riots at UC-Berkeley on Wednesday night "were just the beginning", according to The Daily Caller. In the tweet, Apatow shared a link to CNN's coverage of the riots. He also said that "when will all the fools who are still supporting Trump realize what is at stake?" I consider that a terrorist threat. Backlash against the tweet was immediately apparent, with other tweets stating "Hollywood has declared civil war" and that Apatow "condones violence against average Americans for the crime of having opposing political beliefs."
The First Amendment guaranteeing the right to free speech doesn't apply at UC-Berkeley, or perhaps it only applies to left-wing speakers. The violence by the rioters is another incident among several that attempt to silence anyone who believes differently than they do. It is unacceptable and asinine that these incidents continue to occur. I have to wonder who was behind the masked group of rioters who showed up in the middle of a peaceful protest. Rioting and assaulting those who share different beliefs is condoned by the left and is certainly not protected activity by the First or any other Amendment.
Do you think free speech is still protected in America, or that it's become one-sided? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below.