Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw federal funds from the University of California at Berkeley after protesters caused a talk by the senior editor of Breitbart News to be cancelled.
Demonstrators hurled smoke bombs, started fires and smashed windows ahead of Milo Yiannopoulos’ scheduled visit on Wednesday.
“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” the President tweeted. It was unclear how the threat would be carried out.
Mr Yiannopoulos is a “senior editor” of Breitbart News, whose former executive chair Steve Bannon has been appointed as Mr Trump’s chief strategist.
The outlet, described as “alt-right” supported the President throughout his campaign and has been accused of propagating “fake news” with its vehemently anti-immigration agenda.
Around 1,500 people gathered to peacefully protest Mr Yiannopoulos’ visit before a smaller group of people dressed in black started a wave of vandalism.
“This was a group of agitators who were masked up, throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers,” said UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennet.
As police decided that could not guarantee Mr Yiannopoulos’ security, officers cancelled the event and removed him from the building. There were no immediate reports of arrests or serious injuries.
“The Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down,” the commentator said.
Comments by Mr Yiannopoulos, a vocal supporter of Mr Trump, have been criticised as racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim and white supremacist. A harassment campaign against “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones led to him being banned from Twitter last year.
Berkeley University said it did not endorse his ideas but was committed to free speech and rejected calls to cancel the event, which was sponsored by the campus Republican club. The Berkeley College Republicans said its “constitutional right to free speech was silenced by criminals and thugs”.
Dan Mogulof, the university's assistant vice chancellor, told The Independent: "C Berkeley condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of individuals who invaded the campus, infiltrated a crowd of peaceful students, and used violent tactics to close down the event.
"We deeply regret that the violence unleashed by this group undermined the First Amendment rights of the speaker as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence."
Additional reporting by AP
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