The University of California Berkeley is the main campus of the University of California educational system. Berkeley has laid the groundwork in support of the First Amendment.
“From a group of academic pioneers in 1968 to the Free Speech Movement in 1964,” Berkeley is recognized as a collection of bright minded individuals from around the world who have gathered together to not only ask questions and explore ideas, but to “improve the world.”
On Wednesday, February 1, Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak as part of his book tour. In opposition to the appearance of Yiannopoulos, a crowd of over 1,500 people gathered together on campus at Sproul Plaza. They were exercising their first amendment rights, holding protest signs that read anything from “No safe space for racists” to “This is war.”
Unfortunately, these protestors used violence, as a group of masked individuals, who were dressed in black, interrupted the peaceful display. They began throwing rocks, commercial-grade fireworks, and Molotov cocktails at police. Fires ignited as the violence continued. They smashed out the windows of the union center where Milo Yiannopoulos was supposed to speak.
The University of Berkeley blamed “150 masked agitators” for the turmoil that was taking place, declaring that they came to the “campus to disturb an otherwise peaceful protest.” Two hours prior to the Breitbart editor’s speech on the same campus where the Free Speech Movement began in 1964, administrators of UC Berkeley canceled the Yiannopoulos event and had him removed from the campus. Berkeley administrators stated that “amid the violence and destruction of property” they removed Yiannopoulos “out of concern for public safety.”
A UC Berkeley spokesman, Dan Mogulof, said that at least six protesters were hurt during the violence. Some of them were assaulted by the black-clad agitators, who belong to a radical group identified as the “black bloc.”
The black bloc has been around for years, but over the past few months, they have made themselves particularly visible. Dressed in head-to-toe clothing and masks, these protesters take to the streets provoking police in large public demonstrations, leaving fire and broken glass in their wake. They created chaos in Portland the week of Donald Trump’s election with spray-painted buildings and smashed electrical boxes.
Hundreds of black bloc members showed up in downtown Washington for Trump’s inauguration in January. They vandalized the Bank of America and Starbucks and set fire to a limousine. On Wednesday, they came out again to put a stop to the planned speech by alt-right conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, and as usual, they made their presence known.
According to CNN, “The violent group of protesters tore down mental barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm.”
The Yiannopoulos event was canceled after black bloc demonstrators began to throw smoke bombs and flares, the Associated Press and local media reported.
Black bloc members shooting fireworks where alt-right speaker is set to give speech: pic.twitter.com/f5eIjwgBHE
— Anonymous (@AnonyInfo) February 2, 2017
A woman named Kiara Robles, wearing a red cap resembling that of a Trump supporter, took a shot of pepper spray to the face while she was being interviewed by a reporter. Her red hat made her and the news crew a clear target. The incident was caught on camera.
Woman wearing Trump styled hat gets pepper sprayed at Berkeley protest.https://t.co/qtdMzg4LZi
— Matt Keller (@MattKellerABC7) February 2, 2017
As the scene on the campus of UC Berkeley grew more and more violent, the police urged the protesters to disperse and locked down the campus buildings.
When President Trump heard about the incident, he tweeted out a message to UC Berkeley.
The message read, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
According to the UC Berkeley website, the university received “$370 million in federal research funding in 2015-2016.”
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
The UC Berkeley issued a statement in regards to the protests and violent activity.
“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.”
In a CNN interview, Milo Yiannopoulos described the events as “an expression of political violence.” In a Facebook Live video, he went on to say that he is surprised that so many people felt threatened by the mere suggestion that a “conservative speaker might be persuasive, interesting, funny and might take some people with him, they have to shut it down at all costs.”
Should UC Berkeley have allowed the Milo Yiannopoulos event to take place, regardless of the violence occurring outside of the building, or did the administrators make the right call in stopping the violent behavior and removing the cause?
[Featured Image by Shutterstock]