President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his outrage at the historically free-speech friendly University of California, Berkeley after violent protestors clashed with police over a speaking event at which conservative Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to appear.
As protests intensified — including the use of Molotov cocktails that caused generator-powered spotlights to catch fire — the event was cancelled and the campus locked down by police. In a statement posted on Facebook, Yiannopolis said he was “evacuated from the campus.”
Livestreams and Twitter posts from the demonstration show protesters shooting fireworks at the building, and at least one fire small fire was set near the event. Windows were also reportedly broken. Police ordered crowds to disperse, and fired rubber pellets at demonstrators who refused the order.
A local reporter tweeted images of “fresh” spray paint last night that featured vandalism saying “kill fascist,” “f— Milo,” and “kill Trump” at a Walgreens located near the campus.
The violence was instigated by a group of “about 150 masked agitators,” according to a UC Berkeley statement, indicating that the majority of the “more than 1,500 protesters” conducted themselves peacefully.
In light of Trump’s claim that the university didn’t “allow free speech,” the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said there was no evidence that Berkeley silenced Yiannopoulos.
“Those who engage in violent and/or destructive protests are ultimately responsible for their unlawful behavior and may be subject to arrest and prosecution by law enforcement,” the group, which promotes freedom of speech, said in a statement (via the L.A. Times). “To punish an educational institution for the criminal behavior of those not under its control and in contravention of its policies, whether through the loss of federal funds or through any other means, would be deeply inappropriate and most likely unlawful.”
Berkeley was ground zero for the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, when angry students were not allowed to use campus facilities for their anti-war and other campaigns. The movement inspired campuses across the country to allow free speech.
Yiannopoulos has been touring college campuses since last year and his appearance have drawn repeated protests. Violence erupted during one such demonstration on January 20 at the University of Washington, Seattle, when a protestor was shot in the stomach by a supporter of Yiannopoulos. The victim survived, and the shooter was arrested and released after citing self defense.
Yiannopoulos was permanently banned by Twitter in July, 2016 after leading a racially motivated harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” and “SNL” actress Leslie Jones.