UC Berkeley Protests Cause $100K in Damage on Campus
President Donald Trump criticized UC Berkeley for cancelling the event and threatened to pull the university’s federal funding.
People protesting a University of California Berkeley event by the controversial right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos caused more than $100,000 in damage to the campus Feb. 1.
There were over 1,500 people on campus to protest the event, but university officials blamed around 150 “masked agitators” who they say joined otherwise peaceful protests and caused the destruction.
“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 protests against the performer’s presence and perspectives,” a UC Berkeley statement read.
The event was cancelled “out of concern for public safety” as protesters wearing all black smashed windows, started fires with Molotov cocktails and threw fireworks and rocks at police on campus, reports CNN.
UC Berkeley Spokesman Dan Mogulof said the rioters were part of an Oakland anarchist group known as the “Black Bloc” and that at least six people were injured.
The people taken into custody by campus police were not affiliated with the university and only one arrest was made.
In anticipation of the protests, campus police officers dressed in riot gear and gathered on the balcony of the Student Center where the event was set to take place. Although several windows of the building were broken and protesters gained access to the first floor, police did not move into the crowd during the height of the chaos.
Some students have criticized that tactic, according to CBS San Francisco, but university officials defended the decision, arguing that staying back prevented injuries to protesters and bystanders. Multiple people being attacked in the crowd were rescued by campus police.
“In the context that we have had no reports of serious injuries, we are satisfied with the police department’s performance,” Mogulof said.
University police ordered protesters to disperse at 9:54 pm Wednesday and multiple campus buildings were locked down.
In response to the incident on Thursday morning, President Donald Trump threatened to pull federal funding to the university if it did not allow free speech.
U.S. Representative Barbara Lee of Berkeley called Trump’s message “an empty threat” and there is disagreement among lawmakers if the president has the authority to pull funding on his own.
The Berkeley College Republicans had invited Yiannopoulos as part of the conservative commentator’s speaking tour, which has led to violence on other campuses.
After police removed the crowd from campus, protesters smashed windows at several banks in downtown Berkeley. City police made no arrests.
“Our primary objective with the resources we had was the protection of life,” a Berkeley police spokesperson said.