Demonstrators march away from violence
Demonstrators marched away from the scene of a violent protest after a canceled speaking event by controversial far-right writer and speaker Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California at Berkeley tonight as police staged nearby to intervene.
Campus police placed the campus on lockdown and ordered students to leave the area earlier Wednesday evening. A shelter-in-place order has been issued for the area due to the protest, which police described as a “dangerous situation.” They announced a dispersal order on Twitter at 6:45 p.m., but as of 6:55 p.m. there were few officers on the plaza to enforce it.
UCPD announcing dispersal order from balcony threaten chemical agents, batons, give 10 minutes. Few police on plaza though pic.twitter.com/UvUPyHh3br
— Scott Morris (@OakMorr) February 2, 2017
Around 7:20 p.m. officers issued a 10-minute warning, threatening to use less-lethal weapons including chemical agents and batons if the crowd failed to disperse.
An attendee at the event was hit with a pole by protesters. He was hiding a Make America Great Again hat under his hood, according to a witness who asked to have his name withheld.
When the victim revealed the hat, he was knocked to the ground.
Other protesters attempted to strike him while he was down, according to the witness. Police watching from a balcony above observed the situation and came down to help him out of the crowd.
After the attack, blood was seen on the ground in the plaza.
At least one pyrotechnic device was thrown at police by the demonstrators earlier Wednesday evening. It exploded near one of the officers, according to UC Berkeley student Russell Bierle.
The event barricades were breached and used to smash the windows of the campus bookstore, where the entrance to the event was located. A large fire has been burning in front of the building. It briefly spread to a nearby tree.
The barricades directly in front of the bookstore were dismantled by protesters in masks. Many from the crowd gathered on the bookstore’s steps.
Around 8:05 p.m. the protesters marched south on Telegraph Avenue, away from the scene of the demonstration. They smashed ATMs at a Bank of America branch and set several trash fires on Telegraph Avenue.
Hundreds of protesters were observed at Wednesday evening’s event. Over 2,100 people responded to a Facebook post that they would be attending.
Yiannopoulos’s events have drawn tense protests throughout the country, including a recent event that was canceled shortly before it was scheduled to begin at the University of California at Davis due to angry protests outside.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said that they have studied how the protests have escalated at other campuses and planned accordingly.
“The concerted effort was to really take a close look at lessons learned at other events.”
After Yiannopoulos was invited by Berkeley College Republicans, students at UC Berkeley called for the school to cancel the event and ban him from the campus.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks responded to the outcry with an open letter to the campus community last week, affirming that Yiannopoulos would be allowed to speak because of the free speech rights of the campus Republicans, but said that Yiannopoulos’s message is at odds with the values of the campus.
Dirks called him a “troll” and “provocateur.” Critics have said that Yiannopoulos is misogynistic, anti-Islam and racist. Campus republicans called him “amusing and provocative” in the event invitation.
Yiannopoulos has been a journalist for right-wing news publication Breitbart under Steve Bannon, now an advisor to President Donald Trump. He has a book coming out later this year published by Simon & Schuster, a deal that was widely protested.
Yiannopoulos issued a statement about the turmoil at Wednesday evening’s event on Facebook.
“I have been evacuated from the UC Berkeley campus after violent left-wing protestors tore down barricades, lit fires, threw rocks and Roman candles at the windows and breached the ground floor of the building…My team and I are safe. But the event has been cancelled. I’ll let you know more when the facts become clear. One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”