The University of California, Berkeley was the scene of angry student protests on Wednesday, Feb. 1, prompting the university to cancel a scheduled appearance by controversial Brietbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who was on the last leg of his self-titled “Dangerous Faggot Tour.”
Yiannopoulos, a known right-wing provocateur and vocal Trump supporter has made a recent career out of making incendiary remarks toward Black people, Muslims, women and social justice causes. In his recent stop at Depaul University, Yiannopoulos mused that “I’ve worked out why there are so many Black girls here. ‘Cause I f—-d their brothers” and “I give it 20 minutes; the statistics of Black incarceration are about to go up.” Yiannopoulos, who is gay, claims he is a libertarian trying to counter political correctness.
UC Berkeley ultimately called off Yiannopoulos’ speaking event around 6 p.m. PST, citing “violence, destruction of property and … a concern for public safety” for the sudden cancellation. Witnesses told NBC News they heard protesters shouting “No Trump, No Milo” after the cancellation was announced via megaphone and Twitter. University officials reported fires set across campus, including one sparked by a firebomb that ignited a generator-powered spotlight, according to NBC News. Cell-phone footage from the fiery protest also showed demonstrators launching commercial-grade fireworks at police.
“The violence was instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto our campus and interrupted an otherwise nonviolent protest,” UC Berkeley said in a statement. “We condemn 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.”
— Raquel Mª Dillon (@RaquelMDillon) February 2, 2017
On Thursday, Feb. 2, in an extraordinary show of public support, newly elected President Donald Trump took to Twitter to defend the Breitbart editor. Trump threatened to pull federal funding of the public university for not protecting the “free speech” of Yiannopoulos. This show of support by the president of the United States for someone openly known as a hero of the white nationalist movement is breathtaking in this day and time.
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
Just last year, Yiannapolus was banned from Twitter after waging a racially offensive verbal attack on African-American comedienne Leslie Jones, calling her a “black dude” because he took offense at an all-female lead cast in the remake of “Ghostbusters.” He often used his Twitter account to mock liberal opponents of the alt-right/white nationalist movement.
The university reported that some people, namely supporters of Yiannopoulos and President Donald Trump, were attacked during the protests, while authorities treated about six people for minor injuries. As demonstrations reached a fever pitch, campus police said that multiple orders for protesters to leave the area were given, after which a campus-wide lockdown was declared.
In a statement, the university expressed regret that “the threats and unlawful actions of a few have interfered with the exercise of First Amendment rights on a campus that is proud of its history and legacy as home of the Free Speech Movement.” However, this is not the first time the institution has dealt with intense protests sparked by a Yiannopoulos appearance, which also resulted in a cancellation.
NBC News reported that a Republican student organization at UC Davis called off a campus event featuring the far-right writer on Jan. 14 amid student demonstrations. Yiannopoulos, who is an avid Trump supporter, hasn’t received the warmest welcome at other universities either, as a group of Black Lives Matter activists disrupted his speaking event a Chicago’s DePaul University in May of last year, according to Atlanta Black Star.
“The whole reason we’re here is for free speech,” UC Berkeley sophomore Jonathan Gow told the San Francisco Gate. “Milo’s hate speech is not allowed here. When it’s hate speech, our free speech is to shut him down.”
Fatima Ibrahim, a junior at the university, echoed Gow’s sentiments, adding that the timing of Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus was hurtful, especially following Trump’s executive order barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and suspending travel from seven predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East.
“As a black Muslim woman, all three of those identities have been targeted throughout [Trump’s] campaign,” Ibrahim said. “To have someone like [Yiannopoulos] come into my campus and affirm those people’s beliefs, it’s very, very hurtful.”
Yiannopolous put out his own statement on Facebook blaming progressives and the left for the cancellation. “One thing we do know for sure: The Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”
Campus police reported no arrests at the demonstrations Wednesday.