U.S. President Donald Trump condemned what he called “professional anarchists” after two consecutive nights of violent protests on college campuses forced a pair of Trump supporters to cancel speaking engagements this week. Trump made the comment in a tweet posted Friday.
Things quickly turned violent Wednesday night when a group of about 150 masked agitators gathered on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley to protest a speech scheduled to be given by Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, the university said in a statement.
That group of agitators proceeded to shoot commercial-grade fireworks at police, smash windows of campus buildings and use a Molotov cocktail to set a generator on fire, university police said.
“Agitators also attacked some members of the crowd who were rescued by police. UCPD reported no major injuries and about a half-dozen minor injuries,” the UC Berkeley public affairs office said in a statement.
A VOA request for comment regarding the incident was not immediately returned by NYU’s public affairs department.
Numerous protests have been staged across the country since Trump was inaugurated on January 20, including a Women’s March that attracted an estimated 500,000 people in Washington the following day. Most have been peaceful but a few have been marred by small groups of violent protesters, including self-declared anarchists dressed in black.
The California speaking event was organized by the Berkeley College Republicans group and approved by the university, but was canceled before it began because of the violent incidents.
Yiannopoulos is a vocal supporter of President Trump. He is also a self-proclaimed internet troll and was banned last year from Twitter after leading a harassment campaign against Ghostbusters movie actress Leslie Jones, who is African-American.
Since late 2015, he has been touring college campuses across the United States and has had several of his speeches shut down by protesters.
Speaking in an interview Thursday night with Fox News Network's Tucker Carlson, Yiannopoulos called the incident “political violence” aimed at discrediting his views, which he described as “perfectly mainstream.”
“I don’t have opinions that millions of Americans don’t share, I just happen to say them in a slightly more provocative and interesting way and on a slightly larger platform,” he said.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks condemned the violent agitators. He said the school brought in additional police officers to deal with the crowds of protesters, but they “could not plan for the unprecedented.”
“The Berkeley campus was invaded by more than 100 armed individuals clad in Ninja-like uniforms who utilized paramilitary tactics to engage in violent destructive behavior designed to shut the event down,” he said in a Thursday statement.
In response to the incident, Trump threatened to pull federal funding from the school if it continues to allow violent protesters to shut down speakers with divergent opinions.
Trump’s threat received a quick response from California’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, who referred to Yiannopoulos as a “white supremacist” and said “hatred has no home” at California public universities.
“That's why the President and his extremist acolytes like Yiannopoulos need to hear from the resistance, loudly and repeatedly. We must continue to step in and stand up to resist reckless rhetoric and actions in a peaceful and forceful manner,” he said in a statement.
A similar event took place at New York University Thursday night when right wing internet personality Gavin McInnes attempted to hold a talk on the school’s campus.
Police say 11 people were arrested after fighting with officers outside the building where McInnes was scheduled to speak. The disturbance was organized by the self-described NYU Anti-Fascists group, which, in a Facebook post, encouraged protesters to stand up against “bigotry, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny on our campus.”
“Gavin McInnes has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy,” the posting said.
McInness, a conservative comedian and co-founder of Vice Media, was invited to speak at NYU by the school’s College Republican group, but was prevented from doing so by protesters who stormed the building and began shouting over him.
According to police, eight men and three women were arrested on charges including criminal mischief and drug possession after a skirmish with police outside NYU’s Kimmel Center, where McInnes was attempting to speak.
Videos posted on social media show protesters cursing at and shoving McInness as he was escorted by police into the building.
In a statement following the event, the College Republicans group said it was disappointed about what happened, and called it a “shame” protesters couldn’t “be respectful of McInnes.”