Violent protests have forced University of California at Berkeley to call off a speech by an editor of Breitbart, a news agency that has close ties with President Donald Trump.
The violence broke out when more than 1,500 protesters gathered outside a venue where Milo Yiannopoulos was slated to address an event on Wednesday.
Hurling smoke bombs and breaking windows, the students even sparked a huge bonfire and showed their determination to disrupt the event by chanting “shut him down” and “Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech.”
“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.
It was at this stage that police put the university on lockdown and cancelled the sold-out event.
Yiannopoulos, 32, has been a vocal supporter of Trump. The right-wing provocateur’s online comments have often stirred controversy due to their racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim and white supremacist nature.
He reacted to the protests in a Facebook post, by accusing the left of violating his right to free speech.
“The event has been cancelled,” Yiannopoulos wrote. “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.”
The Berkeley College Republicans called the protesters “criminals and thugs.”
“Their success is a defeat for civilized society and the free exchange of ideas on college campuses across America,” read a statement by the group.
Yiannopoulos’ speeches have been a source of unrest across the US over the past weeks.
On January 21, a man was shot during protests against his speech at the University of Washington. A week before, campus Republicans cancelled another one of his speeches at UC Davis. He was also scheduled to give a speech at UCLA, but the invitation was also rescinded.