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Berkeley campus chaos spurs questions at free-speech bastion

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Two women walked past graffiti on the wall of a Bank of America branch in Berkeley, Calif., today.

BERKELEY, Calif. >> The chaos at the University of California, Berkeley, was shocking: Protesters set fires, smashed windows, hurled explosives at police and ultimately achieved their goal of canceling an appearance by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

The scene gained worldwide attention not just because of the mayhem but because of where it took place. UC Berkeley is the birthplace of the free-speech movement and has been known for more than a half-century as a bastion of tolerance.

As the university cleaned up today, it struggled with questions about why the violence spun out of control and what has happened to the open-minded Berkeley of the 1960s.

“It was not a proud night for this campus,” school spokesman Dan Moguluf said, later adding, “We are proud of our history and legacy as the home of the free speech movement.”

Officials knew there was a potential for violence and went to “extraordinary lengths” to prepare for the event, Mogulof said in a statement. But school authorities say they believe the instigators were not Berkeley students.

Berkeley was the last stop on Yiannopoulus’ college tour, which had sparked protests and sporadic violence around the country. He is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump and a self-proclaimed internet troll whose comments have been criticized as racist, misogynist and anti-Muslim.

Dozens of police were called to Berkeley from nine UC campuses. The student union where the talk was scheduled was locked down hours before the event. Layers of metal barricades were erected around the building with riot police standing guard inside.

But Mogulof said what transpired Wednesday night was unprecedented.

The protests started peacefully around 4 p.m. As night fell, the crowd swelled to more than 1,500, police estimated, and “more than 100 armed individuals clad in ninja-like uniforms who utilized paramilitary tactics” infiltrated the crowd and began hurling commercial grade fireworks, Molotov cocktails, rocks and other objects at police, Mogulof said.

They toppled the metal barricades and used them to bash windows of the student union and then set fire to a kerosene generator, sparking a blaze that burned for over an hour.

Later that night, after the crowds dispersed, a small group took the chaos off campus and into the nearby city streets of Berkeley.

Workers at several banks downtown were replacing broken windows Thursday, repairing damaged cash machines and cleaning graffiti from brick walls.

Amid the cleanup, a 21-year-old student who supports Trump was brazenly attacked on campus. The student, Jack Palkovic, was wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap as he headed to class when a white SUV slammed to a halt, and two students jumped out and pummeled him. Police arrived and arrested both men.

Many students shook their heads at the violence and what it means at a place like Berkeley.

“Berkeley has always stood for self-expression,” said Russell Ude, a 20-year-old football player. “Things like this discredit peaceful protest.”

Freshman Grace Schnetzler, 18, said she worked hard in high school to attend Berkeley and was upset outside demonstrators were diminishing the campus’ reputation for free speech and tolerance.

“On the other hand, I don’t know why he picked Berkeley,” Schnetler said about Yiannopoulos. “What kind of reception did he expect?”

The unrest sparked a debate Thursday on the floor of the state Senate, where Republicans bemoaned what they characterized as a campus culture that devalues free speech.

“Universities should be the most open, the most welcoming harbor of all ideas, left or right,” Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines said. “But they have turned into rigid ideological prisons where stepping outside the latest progressive liberal path is considered a thought crime.”

The comment was echoed in a tweet by Trump who questioned whether Berkeley should be granted federal funding: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

Democrats condemned Trump’s tweet, saying administrators worked hard to facilitate the speech and only canceled it once the security became untenable.

“Today, it’s academic freedom,” Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener said. “Tomorrow, Lord knows what it’s going to be, and it has to stop.”

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Associated Press writers Paul Elias in Berkeley and Jonathan J. Cooper in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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    • IRT WhyBother
      You are partially correct – Liberals prohibit Free Speech if the message is contrary to their views. Not so from Conservatives. If the college student body was conservative, a liberal speaker would have been permitted to speak.
      Liberals feel that they possess the moral high ground, and when challenged, they respond with violence and personal attacks. Just read one of Klastri or Vector’s responses in this forum. Conservatives will disagree with the message, but do not as a group engage in personal attacks/insults or violence.
      Free Speech has been dead on campus for a very long time. Liberals expect America to drink the kool aid. Liberals are not Progressive, but they are Oppressive. That is one reason why Liberals are losing ground in this country – those who work for a living are sick of them.

  • This is horrifying.

    It is okay to disagree with another person’s opinion, but silencing their ideas through violence should never be allowed. While the “protester’s” may have won when Milo’s speech was canceled; the University and the democratic process have ultimately lost.

    • I don’t recall where I saw this, it was an editorial cartoon depicting a liberal activist standing over a speaker drenched in gasoline holding a lighter. The message was, “I represent to voice of free speech and tolerance and protest you right to same!” Go figure. The University, the Community, the City and the State has to stand up and take action against these anarchists.

  • I was born in Berkeley, i’m a UC Berkeley grad, I can’t stand Breitbart and everything it represents, I wish Yiannopoulus would disappear back under his rock but I still think the 150 non-student so-called “anarchists” responsible for last night are jerks and deserve to be arrested and prosecuted.

    • Yiannopoulus has an opinion, right wingers have their opinion and liberals have their opinion. What’s wrong with listing to what everybody says and make your own decision? I agree that most of them are all about themselves.

  • The Left should not be smeared by the extreme arm of the liberal anarchists. Still the fact that it was leftist anarchists that attempted to silence a conservative speaker with fire bombs and flares demonstrates how all the hate speech the Left like Nancy Pelosy, spews everyday at the President, fans the flames of hate by Leftist fascistic anarchists.

  • The only free speech allowed at UC Berkeley and many other colleges now days is what the leftists and progressives believe. If you have other views, you are not welcome
    and will not be allowed to state your views just as was demonstrated yesterday. Milo is a very interesting guy, who is very humors, witty, smart, very articulate and has common sense
    conservative views. On top of that he is jewish, gay, and an immigrant to American from the UK which is why the left hate him so much.
    I would not be surprised if a move is made against his life.

  • Yes, back in the late 60’s and into the 70’s Berkley had great reputation for peaceful dissent and tolerance. I was around so I can attest. Society’s culture has changed and the age of anarchy is rearing it’s ugly head. I believe the silent youth is going to take a stand and bring back the decency of peaceful and tolerant behavior. I survived 60’s and the 70’s and then benefited by the changes brought about by President Reagan in the 80’s and 90’s. Give the Trump administration a chance and really ferret out the truth of the new feed. In my opinion, the SA seems to have taken on a more fair and balanced position on reporting the news. In my opinion, SA not bad (be wary of new feed), scan the Hawaii Fee Press for headlines finally avoid the Civil Beat and tune into Fox Business News…yes their business channel. Just saying.:)

    • Liberals are the new fascists. Like their climate change religion…the “science is settled.” They consider any contrarian opinions as attacks. They have actually said that disagreeing with them should be classified as a criminal act.. There is no room for discussion or debate…you must submit or face violence.

    • WizardofMoa> Isn’t it about time that these spoiled brats be subjected to the big stick? They should get their dumb asses kicked and send them to GITMO, I hear there’s a lot of rooms available since BHO released a whole bunch of bad, bad, bad terrorists. Hawaii should openly declare that BHO is no representative of our good state of Hawaii.

  • It seems like liberals are afraid that the words out of a conservative’s mouth may change a fellow liberal into a conservative. They do whatever they can to prevent free speech. Liberals project an image of people who think they’re smarter than everyone else. They belittle people who hold onto beliefs and values learned years ago. They define everyone who doesn’t think like them as haters, evil and stupid. They stand with signs asking for tolerance which is a joke because the only tolerance they seem to have is for people who share their opinion. If things don’t go their way they either riot or go into therapy.

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