President Donald Trump suggested he would pull federal funding from the University of California Berkeley after it cancelled a talk by alt-right cheerleader and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. The cancellation followed violent protests damaging university property.
"If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?" the President wrote on Twitter early Thursday 2 February. If Trump followed through with his threat the university could stand to lose billions in funding. In 2013-14 the school received $2.9 billion in federal research funding, according its budget.
Wednesday night's talk by Yiannopoulos at the university was cancelled after violent protests against it broke out. He was invited to speak by Berkeley College Republicans.
"The violence was instigated by a group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest," said a statement issued by the university. The violence started about 45 minutes before the talk's doors were set to open.
Fires were set outside the university's Amazon outlet, Molotov cocktails were thrown causing generator-powered spotlights to catch fire, fireworks were thrown at police officers, and barricades pushed into windows. Nearby banks and shops were also vandalised.
"Amid an apparently organized violent attack and destruction of property," the school said, "the UC Police Department (UCPD) determined it was necessary to evacuate controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos from campus and to cancel his scheduled 8 pm performance."
Police ordered the protesters to disperse and the student newspaper The Daily Californian reported rubber bullets were fired.
Last year Yiannopoulos told Britain's Channel 4 that he and the alt-right are "fellow travellers on some issues" but that really he's out to act as their megaphone and "give them a fair hearing" on Breitbart.
The news and opinion website has drawn attention after its former chief executive Steve Bannon became President Trump's chief strategist soon after the US election. Bannon referred to Breitbart as a "platform for the alt-right."
The alt-right is a loose collection of people with far-right views that came into prominence during Trump's election campaign. Many members operating online profess views related to white supremacism, nationalism, anti-feminism and Islamophobia, amongst others.
Some federal government funding also goes to help support students and campus infrastructure, according to the school's budget. UC Berkeley has a long history of protest movements. Major vivil rights movement, free speech movement, and Vietnam war protests took place at the school in the 1960s.
Yiannopoulos issued a statement following the cancellation criticising the protestors and the police response. "There was a sort of sit back, let it happen approach," he said of law enforcement's reaction. "I was evacuated, really, at the first sign of trouble."