SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Chancellor Nicholas Dirks of the University of California, Berkeley, tried Thursday to distance the public university from violence during a protest the previous evening that turned a radical far-right political figure away from making a speech on campus.
Referring to the cancellation of an event scheduled for Wednesday evening for Milo Yiannopulos, an editor for the conservative website Breitbart in the wake of protest, Dirks stated that "UC 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."
However, he noted that "Mr. Yiannopoulos was in marked opposition to the basic values of the university, we respected his right to come to campus and speak once he was invited to do so by a legitimate student group. "
The statement came after U.S. President Donald Trump posted a message Thursday morning on his Twitter social media account in response to the incident, threatening to defund the university. "If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?" he wrote.
Invited by the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) , Yiannopulos was scheduled to speak at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building next to Sproul Plaza on the campus.
Deeming Yiannopulos as part of, arguably a spokesperson for, the so-called "alt-right" movement that allegedly prompted Trump into the White House during the presidential election last November, some 1,500 student protesters chanted "No Milo, No Trump, No fascist USA!"
While the students tried to block the entrance to the building, a group of masked protesters, apparently from outside the university, turned violent trying to break down barricades and throw fireworks towards the venue. Windows were smashed at the building, fires set and fireworks thrown towards police officers.
By 6:15 p.m., UC Berkeley posted a message on its Twitter account that the "performance" was canceled. About 15 minutes later, UC Police, Berkeley, updated that "Milo (Yiannopoulos) has left campus."
Yiannopoulos, who was permanently banned by Twitter for abusive rhetoric, later posted on Facebook that he was evacuated from the campus after protesters breached the ground floor of the building. "My team and I are safe," he wrote.
While all UC Berkeley buildings were on lockdown, police issued repeated orders for immediate dispersal of the crowd.
After students left the campus after 8:00 p.m., a group of about 200 people continued march through Berkeley, a city northeast of San Francisco, in Northern California.
Known for his extreme views on feminism, Islam, social justice and political correctness, Yiannopulos, 32, a Briton born in Greece, has been criticized for being racist and misogynistic.
Labelled by mainstream media as a "political provocateur," Yiannopulos began touring U.S. universities last year. On January 20, the same day Trump was inaugurated, he spoke at the University of Washington and sparked large protests. A 34-year-old man was shot at the event by a 29-year-old supporter of Trump, Yiannopoulos and the National Rifle Association (NRA), suffering life-threatening injuries.
Steve Bannon, now chief strategist and senior adviser to Trump, is the former head of Breitbart. He has described the news site as the platform of the alt-right, or alternative right, a loose group of people with far-right ideology who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States. The term alt-right was coined by U.S. white nationalist Richard Spencer in 2010.