Protesters at California University Stop Speech by Controversial Alt-right Speaker
A protest turned violent Wednesday night at the University of California at Berkeley campus, where the polarizing head of an iconoclastic far-right website was scheduled to speak.
Milo Yiannopoulos was invited by the campus Republican club to speak, but university officials canceled the event shortly before it was to begin, citing safety concerns.
By Wednesday evening, about 1,000 people had gathered on the campus, local media reported. Protesters threw fireworks and smoke bombs, and started a small fire on the campus.
Yiannopoulos, 32, is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump. He is also a self-proclaimed internet troll and was banned last year from Twitter after leading a harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, who is African-American.
The Berkeley student Republican club had sponsored his visit to the campus.
Pieter Sittler, a spokesman for the Berkeley College Republicans, told the Associated Press the club doesn’t support everything Yiannopoulos says, but “he gives a voice to repressed conservative thought on American college campuses.” He uses “levity and humor” that should not be taken literally, Sittler said.
University officials stressed they do not endorse Yiannopoulos’ ideas, which have been criticized as racist, misogynistic, anti-Muslim and white supremacist. But they say the university is committed to free speech and so did not initially prohibit his appearance.