A planned appearance Wednesday by controversial internet figure Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor for the conservative website Breitbart was canceled after protests turned violent on the U.C. Berkeley campus. The 32-year-old Greek-born British journalist is a senior editor for the conservative news and opinion website. He’s been called a spokesperson for the so-called “alt-right” movement for his extreme views on Islam, social justice, and political correctness.
His visit to Berkeley is sponsored by the campus Republican club. The university has stressed it did not invite Yiannopoulos and does not endorse his ideas but is committed to free speech and rejected calls to cancel the event.
Passions started flaring around 4 p.m. between both sides on the Cal campus ahead of Yiannopoulos’ 8 p.m. speech. The event is sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans. Extra police officers were called to monitor the event.
The protests turned violent shortly before 5 p.m. as the event approached, with demonstrators lighting fires and fireworks on the Cal campus. The university said fires were set, including one caused by a firebomb that ignited a generator-powered spotlight, and commercial-grade fireworks were thrown at police.
“The violence was instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest,” UC Berkeley said in a statement. Some people were attacked and police treated six people for injuries, the university said.
UC Berkeley police said multiple dispersal orders were given for the protest and people were told to leave campus or avoid the area. A campus lockdown was declared. A witness said a large crowd at Sproul Plaza yelled “No Trump, no Milo” and police used a megaphone to announce the event was called off.
“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,” UC Berkeley said in a statement.
UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett said Wednesday night she wasn’t aware of any arrests by the department. Officers used pepper balls and marking paint balls but no tear gas was used. “I believe our officers exercised tremendous restraint,” she said.
Yiannopoulos posted on his Facebook page that he was safe – and blamed the demonstrators. “I have been evacuated from the UC Berkeley campus after violent left-wing protestors tore down barricades, lit fires, threw rocks and Roman candles at the windows and breached the ground floor of the building,” the post read. “My team and I are safe. But the event has been cancelled.
“I’ll let you know more when the facts become clear. One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”
It’s the second time a planned event featuring Yiannopoulos was canceled due to protests. A Republican college group called off an event at UC Davis on Jan. 14 amid protests.
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