Protest organizer Yvette Felarca defended the demonstration claiming it was “self defense.”
"We have the right to defend ourselves," she said "This shutting down Milo Yiannopoulos, and doing whatever's necessary to do that, is our right to self-defence."
However, the protest spiraled out of control after violent protesters tore down metal barriers, set fire near the campus bookstores and damaged a new dorm room construction site. Some students were even pepper sprayed in the face.
"It's horrible. It's disgusting, what's going on right now. It's one thing to protest someone's right to come here and speak, but it's another thing to create this much amount of destruction and violence," said student Pranav Jandhyala.
The behavior at UC Berkeley turns off independents, alienates moderate Dems, and enrages anyone right of center.— Leah the Boss (@LeahRBoss) February 2, 2017
Good luck at midterms.
Dear UC Berkeley Rioters,— CHRIS REE GUN (@ChrisRGun) February 2, 2017
You're driving people to the right. It's people like you who will ensure Trump has two terms.
DIAL IT BACK.
"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 protest against the performer's presence and perspectives," UC Berkeley said in a statement.
“While Yiannopoulos' views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own, we are bound by the Constitution, the law, our values and the campus's Principles of Community to enable free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective,” it stated.
Hundreds of protesters at the University of California at Berkeley on Wednesday smashed windows, set fires and clashed with police as they forced a right-wing speaker to cancel his appearance at the liberal-leaning institution.
Two hours before far-right Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos was to give a speech at the student union, protesters tossed metal barricades and rocks through the building's windows and set a light generator on fire near the entrance, footage from news outlets showed.
Police ordered protesters to disperse as the school put the campus on lockdown. Protesters also tossed bricks and fireworks at police in riot gear who fired rubber pellets back at the crowd, according to SFGate.com, a news outlet in San Francisco.
"We shut down the event. It was great. Mission accomplished," a protester told CNN.
Some 150 "masked agitators" were responsible for the violence during the otherwise largely peaceful protest of about 1,500 people, the university said in a statement, noting that the school "is proud of its history and legacy as home of the Free Speech Movement" in the 1960s.
President Donald Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, previously headed Breitbart News and CNN reported that many of the protesters voiced opposition to the Republican president.
Many of Trump's executive orders and proposed policies, including his suspension of the U.S. refugee program and temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, have been met by largely peaceful protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people across the United States.
One protester at Berkeley held a sign that said "No Safe Space for Racists" while other protesters danced to hip hop music, footage from a Facebook Live feed showed.
Protesters later marched along streets near the campus where some smashed storefront windows and car windshields while clashing with police, the feed showed.
Yiannopoulos, whose account on Twitter was suspended last year after he was accused of participating in the online harassment of an African-American actress, criticized "the Left", saying in a statement it was "absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down."
He also said on Fox News that he was evacuated by police after protesters began throwing rocks and other objects at the building.
"Obviously it's a liberal campus so they hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses," he said. "They particularly don't like me."
Banner / Thumbnail Credit : Reuters