President Donald Trump, in a tweet posted the morning after a violent demonstration led to the cancellation of a Breitbart News editor’s appearance at the University of California at Berkeley, questioned whether the university should get federal funding.
Protesters hurled smoke bombs, broke windows and started a bonfire Wednesday night, prompting university officials to cancel a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos out of safety concerns.
Trump tweeted Thursday, "If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?"
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Yiannopoulos, a 32-year-old right-wing provocateur, is a vocal Trump supporter and a self-proclaimed internet troll whose comments have been criticized as racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim and white supremacist.
The cancellation came two hours before the scheduled talk. About 1,500 people had gathered outside the venue.
But officials said it was a smaller group of protesters dressed in black and in hooded sweatshirts that showed up as night fell to break windows, throw smoke bombs and flares, and start the raging blaze outside the building.
"This was a group of agitators who were masked up, throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers," UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennet said.
Bennet said police determined at that point they couldn't guarantee security, canceled the event and evacuated Yiannopoulos from the building.
The university and the UCPD went to “extraordinary lengths” to plan the event and assemble the necessary resources to ensure order and security, the administration said in a statement.
“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 protests against the performer’s presence and perspectives,” the statement said.