Violent protests force cancellation of speech by Breitbart's Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley

Breitbart editor's college grant for white men draws fire

A college grant program for white males that is now taking applications is being blasted as fanning white nationalism.

Breitbart News senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos announced the Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant in July. The program, which is funded by the right-wing provocateur and private donors, began taking applications on Tuesday, Breitbart reports.
"No this isn't a joke," he said.

Yiannopoulos has received condemnation by critics in the past. In July, he was banned from Twitter for tweeting abusive comments toward specific users, including African-American comedian Leslie Jones.

Asked about the scholarship program, UC Berkeley law professor Ian Haney Lopez said Wednesday that affirmative action programs were undertaken "to welcome historically excluded and dehumanized groups into every school, neighborhood and workplace."

"Affirmative action for white men is not social repair. Affirmative action for white men is a stunt to mock the moral and social importance of integration and to increase social strife," he told CNBC.
Princeton University professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. said the program was part of "a white nationalist agenda clearly and unapologetically."
"We should all be deeply troubled by the connection between Steve Bannon in the White House and Milo Yiannopoulos at Breitbart," Glaude told CNBC by telephone. Bannon, a top advisor to President Donald Trump, was the executive chairman of Breitbart News. He joined the Trump campaign a month after the grant program was announced.

Yiannopoulos, Breitbart and the White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

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A speech by conservative firebrand and British writer Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled at UC Berkeley on Wednesday amid violent protests that sparked a fire in a campus plaza.

University officials called off the event about two hours before Yiannopoulos was to speak at the student union, where more than 1,500 people had gathered outside. Some hurled metal barricades and others smashed windows at the student union.

“This is not a proud night for this campus, the home of the free speech movement,” said Dan Mogulof, a Berkeley spokesman. He noted that the vandalism interfered with the ability of the Berkeley College Republicans — who hosted Yiannopoulos — to exercise their 1st Amendment rights.

Yiannopoulos, 32, writes for Breitbart News — a popular website among the far right — and he is an avowed supporter of President Trump. He’s also a flamboyant provocateur who has been denounced for propagating racism, misogyny and anti-Islam views, but he styles himself a champion of free speech.

This summer, he gained notoriety for encouraging a barrage of harassment against “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, which prompted Twitter to ban him from the social media platform.

Controversy, unrest and, occasionally, violence has followed his speaking tour at colleges across the U.S., for which Berkeley was to be the final event. Last month, a man was shot outside a University of Washington hall where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak.

Wednesday’s decision by Berkeley officials is the second time in two weeks that rowdy protests have forced the cancellation of one of his lectures. UC Davis also canceled one of his speeches last month.

At Berkeley, police clashed with protesters, and much of the university was placed on lockdown. Campus police repeatedly ordered protesters to leave the area, threatening the crowd with arrest. Most refused to leave.

At one point, some toppled a generator that was powering a flood light, and the machinery caught fire in the plaza outside the student union. The flames made for dramatic images, and TV helicopters captured the on-campus blaze.

On his Facebook page, Yiannopoulos said that “violent left-wing protesters” had broken into a building’s ground floor, ripped down barricades and thrown rocks.

“My team and I are safe,” Yiannopoulous said.

In characteristic fashion, he pointed to the mayhem on campus to highlight his agenda: “One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

The protesters seemed as much drawn by Yiannopoulos’ platform as by the broader ascendance of far-right politics.

De’andre Bitter, 72, brought a large sign with LED strips that brightly said “No!”

A retired ship worker originally from Fresno, he stood near the rear of those assembled and said he brought the sign to a slew of recent protests, including a recent women’s march, the airport demonstrations over Trump’s travel restrictions and a protest at UC Davis.

“We go anywhere people are opposing Trump and his fascist regime,” Bitter said. He viewed the vast majority of protesters as peaceful and attributed the violence to a handful of anarchists, who wore mostly black apparel.

Others handed out yellow leaflets, calling Yiannopoulos “a tool of Trump’s possessive fascist government.”

“He has no right to speak at Cal or anywhere else,” the leaflet declared.

By 8 p.m., the crowd had dwindled to a few hundred and spilled into the streets, marching down Telegraph Avenue. The group had a carnival-like element, with a five-piece jazz band that came together by serendipity, with tuba, trombone and clarinet players marching in step.

“Some came on purpose. Some came on accident,” said one of the band members, who declined to be identified.

But the levity was eclipsed by bursts of violence. A handful of demonstrators smashed dowels into a bank of ATMs. Photos on social media showed shattered windows at businesses.

The sprawling group halted traffic at Telegraph and Durant avenues, where one driver plowed a white sedan into the crowd. One of the demonstrators grabbed on to the car for a block, then rolled off uninjured.

Another motorist was injured by the crowd. Bryan Quintana, 29, who delivers food for an Italian restaurant, was in a car near the assembly when he said he was hit and pepper-sprayed by some of the demonstrators.

“I was driving really slow. And somebody hit my car and somebody hit my arm, and hit my head,” Quintana said. His eyes were red and his arm was swollen. He was rattled, but protesters stopped and rushed to pour water on him, to reduce the sting of the pepper spray. He later drove off to deliver an order about a mile away.

On Tuesday, Yiannopoulos spoke at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where the university braced for large protests and stationed more than 100 police officers. About 150 protesters arrived and remained peaceful, and there were no reports of arrests, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

In his remarks there, Yiannopoulos extolled Cal Poly for having a student population that was mostly male, railed against abortion and provided instructions on how to apply to his male-only scholarship fund, the “privilege grant,” according to text of his remarks published by Breitbart.

The cancellation of his talk at UC Davis sparked debate about the limits of free speech and hate speech. Davis College Republicans decided it was unsafe to continue the event after a large number of protesters blocked access to the venue, according to a release from the school.

UC Davis interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter said he was “deeply disappointed” by the protests and the cancellation and said he worried that outside groups are using college campuses to trigger conflicts intended for the national stage.

“I get very, very alarmed with folks who don't treat [freedom of speech] for the treasure that it is,” he said two weeks ago.

So far, the UC system has resisted calls to cancel Yiannopoulos’ talks. At noon, just hours before Wednesday’s event, Berkeley administrators issued a statement saying they were committed to tolerance as well as free speech.

In the weeks before Yiannopoulos’ planned Berkeley appearance, administrators received hundreds of letters from faculty, students and others demanding they bar him from speaking.

One letter from a dozen faculty members argued that his talk could be canceled on the grounds that his actions — which they called “harassment, slander, defamation and hate speech” — violated UC Berkeley’s code of conduct.

UC Berkeley: Protesters shut down Milo Yiannopoulos event, clash with police

BERKELEY — UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, was rocked Wednesday night by a violent demonstration seeking to stop right-wing lightning rod Milo Yiannopoulos from delivering a talk there.

The event was called off at 6:15 p.m. as more than 1,500 people gathered outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union to protest. At one point, a splinter group wearing all black clothing and clutching shields made out of cardboard launched fireworks at police on a second-floor balcony. Metal barricades set around the building also were thrown into windows and a light generator was knocked down and set ablaze.

Police dressed in riot gear responded with orders to disperse and fired tear gas into the crowd. Most demonstrators cleared the plaza around 8:30 p.m. and began marching down Telegaph Avenue toward Bancroft Way. A few members of the university’s marching band joined the crowd, as they energized protesters celebrating the canceled event. Protesters began marching back to campus around 9:30 p.m.

As of 10:30 p.m., the crowd of demonstrators dwindled down to about 200.

Police received reports of protesters vandalizing businesses on Telegraph Avenue, Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. Some demonstrators set small fires to banks in the area. BART trains did not stop at the downtown Berkeley station for about an hour.

Police received unconfirmed reports of a hit-and-run collision involving a white BMW at the intersection of Durant and Telegraph avenues. No victims had been found as of 8:40 p.m.

University police reported at least five people were injured from fights in the area. A Yiannopoulos fan took offense at a burning Trump hat, which was placed on top of a pole, and a few punches were thrown between him and a protester.

UC Berkeley police Chief Margo Bennett estimated that at least 1,500 protesters attended the demonstration. She believes that at least 100 protesters were “agitators,” and that none of the masked demonstrators were students.

“It was a very practiced group that came in,” Bennett said.

A smaller group of about a dozen protesters wearing all black with bandanas around their faces held up makeshift shields made out of cardboard as they tossed fireworks at police on a second-floor balcony.

Some protesters yelled over a microphone in unison: “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA.” After the event was canceled, many revelers danced to loud music while ticket-holders to the event watched the chaos in disapproval.

A heavy police presence surrounded the event venue before it was shut down. The university issued a shelter in place around 6:22 p.m. Police advised the public to avoid Sproul Plaza in the southern area of campus, where authorities shut off lights in the area. The campus lock down was lifted around 11 p.m.

The Alameda County sheriff’s deputies and Oakland and Berkeley police officers responded to the university for crowd control.

Tensions rose shortly after a group of protesters wearing bandanas set fire to wood pallets and debris near a barricade. Protesters threw fireworks in the direction of police officers, who wore full riot gear and returned fire with tear gas. A light generator was knocked down and set on fire as demonstrators surrounded the blaze with their signs in the air.

UC Berkeley graduate student Pike Long was glad the event was eventually shut down, but she believes university administrators should have canceled it sooner.

“I’m very happy we shut the event down and didn’t give this fascist a platform,” Long said. “On the other hand, I am frustrated with the escalation of setting things on fire because ultimately I think it’s counterproductive to our movement.”

David Pedersen, a student from University of San Francisco, planned on attending the sold-out event with a group of classmates. He watched the revelers, who were mostly peaceful with the exception of some masked protesters.

“Kids from this school, smashing their own building,” he said disapprovingly. “They don’t want to talk politically. They just want violence. No free speech.”

His classmate Anthony, who would not give his last name, said “it’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ out here.”

The controversial Yiannopoulos responded to the protesters on Facebook.

“One thing we do know for sure: the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it,” he wrote.

Advertised on Eventbrite as “The Dangerous Faggot Tour,” the self-proclaimed gay conservative’s traveling show also included stops at UC Davis and UCLA. A British national, Yiannopoulos writes for the right-wing Breitbart News.

Part of Yiannopoulos’ shtick is to antagonize people on the left while thrilling his right-wing followers with expressions of misogyny, racism and hostility toward Islam, and the brazenness of his disdain for “political correctness.” His recent actions include publicly outing a transgender student activist at a University of Wisconsin event in December.

Earlier last month, protests caused cancellation of scheduled speeches at UC Davis by Yiannopoulos and former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, sponsored by the UC Davis College Republicans, whose UC Berkeley counterparts were sponsoring Wednesday’s event at Cal.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin spoke out against the event on Twitter.

“Using speech to silence marginalized communities and promote bigotry is unacceptable,” he wrote. “Hate speech isn’t welcome in our community.”

But UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, in a Jan. 26 statement, resisted calls to cancel Wednesday’s event, even as he denounced Yiannopoulos as “a troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to ‘entertain,’ but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas.”

“He has been widely and rightly condemned for engaging in hate speech directed at a wide range of groups and individuals, as well as for disparaging and ridiculing individual audience members, particularly members of the LGBTQ community,” Dirks added.

“Since the announcement of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s visit, we have received many requests that we ban him from campus and cancel the event,” Dirks said in the statement. However, “Consistent with the dictates of the First Amendment as uniformly and decisively interpreted by the courts, the university cannot censor or prohibit events,” he added.

Yiannopoulos’ supporters say leftist students’ attempts to silence him demonstrate their hostility to freedom of speech and closed-mindedness to differing opinions. Detractors who call for Yiannopoulos to be barred from speaking counter that his statements conjure up hate and that shutting him down is a matter of protecting the safety of his targets.

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