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President Trump tweeted that he may seek to cut federal funding for the University of California, Berkeley after violent protests forced the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative provocateur and outspoken Trump supporter.
“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning.
Yiannopoulos had been invited to speak on campus by a group of Berkeley Republicans, but the event was called off by the university after protesters clashed with police, lit fires and smashed windows outside the student union, forcing a temporary lockdown. CNN reported that some even “threw commercial-grade fireworks and rocks at police.”
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
Six people were treated for minor injuries, Berkeley officials said. About 1,500 people had gathered outside the student union where Yiannopoulos was due to speak.
The school condemned the violence, saying it was instigated by “a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display and deeply regret that those tactics now overshadow the efforts of the majority to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence at Berkeley and his perspectives,” the school said in a statement. “We 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 the home of the Free Speech Movement.”
Yiannopoulos, a senior editor for the Breitbart website and self-proclaimed “super villain,” is no stranger to controversy. He was permanently banned by Twitter last summer after he spearheaded a harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones.
And his speaking tour of college campuses has been marked by protests, threats and occasional violence. Last month, UC Davis abruptly canceled one of his speeches after protests erupted there.
“UC Berkeley officials and UCPD went to extraordinary lengths to plan for this event, working closely with the Berkeley College Republicans and putting the appropriate resources in place to maintain security,” the Berkeley statement explained. “Officials were in contact with other university campuses where Yiannopoulos had been asked to speak, and they paid close attention to lessons learned. Dozens of additional police officers were on duty for Wednesday’s scheduled event, and multiple methods of crowd control were in place. Ultimately, and unfortunately, however, it was impossible to maintain order given the level of threat, disruption and organized violence.”
Milo Yiannopoulos: “For 30 years, the left has been able to bully people into silence by name calling and they’ve forgotten how to argue.” pic.twitter.com/I2R0se8NON
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 2, 2017
Yiannopoulos blamed the violence on the partisan protesters looking to silence him.
“The left cannot tolerate anyone on their campus who does not subscribe to their own crazy views,” he said in an interview with Fox News. “I am not a scary far-right neo-Nazi, as some of the protesters claim.”
Trump’s tweet about the Berkeley protests appears to be another example of the president’s early-morning habit of reacting to cable news segments.
Shortly before Trump’s tweet Thursday morning, “Fox & Friends” aired a segment on the protests during which a guest called for the defunding of the school.
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