Right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley on February 1st, but was cancelled due to violent protests. All buildings on campus were on lock down until 10:55 p.m. due to the nature of the demonstrators. Yiannopoulos is a conservative, gay immigrant who is known to be opinionated and outspoken. Some of Yiannopoulos’s views have been considered radical and racist.
Yiannopoulos was invited to Berkeley College by the Berkeley College Republicans group. Despite having over 100 faculty members oppose the event, it was still scheduled to happen.
Protestor’s lit fires, sprayed mace, and broke down doors and windows. They caused about $100,000 worth of damage to the UC Berkeley campus. Commercial grade fireworks and rocks were thrown at police and at the student union center where Yiannopoulos was supposed to speak. A member of the Republican student group had red paint thrown at him. The construction site of a new dorm was also damaged. At least 6 people were injured during the protests.
CCBC student Rachel Garvin said, “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was watching this unfold on the television. The violence looked like something straight from a movie.”
The University stated that at least, “150 masked agitators” turned what was supposed to be a peaceful protest into a violent riot. “This university was essentially invaded by more than 100 individuals clad in ninja-like uniforms who were armed and engaged in paramilitary tactics,” Spokesman Dan Mogulof tells the New York Times. “They were implementing a very clear plan to engage in violence, disruption and property destruction.”
Trump tweeted outrage at UC Berkeley’s behavior towards Yiannopoulos and threatened to take away federal funds. "It's a sad irony in the fact that the Free Speech Movement was founded here and tonight, someone's free speech got shut down. It might have been hateful speech, but it's still his right to speak," Shivam Patel, a UC Berkeley freshmen told CNN.
After multiple dispersal orders from the UC police were issued, the crowd moved to downtown Berkeley and smashed windows of several local businesses. Despite the riots, no arrests were made.
“This protest wasn’t attacking freedom of speech, it was stopping hate speech which is different,” said CCBC student Taylor Enders.
On Thursday morning UC Berkeley staff began calculating damages and reviewing ideas to move forward from this incident.
*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.