In efforts to prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from delivering a speech on campus, over 1,500 University of California (UC), Berkeley students took to the streets and protested. The protest was organized by a Berkeley Against Trump, a student group.
On the Berkeley Against Trump website, students wrote that they were protesting “the presence of Milo” in their campus and did not tolerate “hate speech, misogyny, and transphobia.”
“I feel that the students had every right to protest because it’s not like they were trying to bar him,” senior Josef Del Mundo said. “The protest was about the message he trying to send. The students don’t want that message on their campus and the majority of the people [were protesting] in a peaceful way.”
What began as a peaceful protest by Berkeley students transformed into a chaotic riot as a group of 150 masked agitators came onto campus and instigated violence. The masked individuals damaged campus and city property, setting fires and breaking numerous windows.
Unable to ensure Yiannopoulos’s safety, the UC Police Department escorted Yiannopoulos off campus and the event was canceled.
“[The Berkeley College Republicans] should have a peaceful platform to discuss, but they definitely need to take into consideration how the campus would feel about their messages,” Del Mundo said.
The Berkeley College Republicans, a student organization, invited Yiannopoulos to speak to students and worked closely with UC Berkeley officials to organize the event. Yiannopoulos, an outspoken President Donald Trump supporter, was banned from Twitter for encouraging his followers to harass Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones.
In response to the events, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks issued a message condemning violence and defending free speech.
“UC Berkeley condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of individuals who invaded the campus, infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students and used violent tactics to close down the event,” Driks wrote. “We deeply regret that the violence unleashed by this group undermined the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence.”
With their original goal accomplished, the student protesters celebrated; some stayed behind to help clean up the mess left behind, earning praise from the university.