President Trump Defends Free Speech, Drops Open-Ended Threat on UC Berkeley Following Violence, Riots

On Wednesday night, a planned talk by controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos prompted violence and destruction across the University of California Berkeley campus.

While initially, peaceful members of the crowds had gathered to protest Yiannopoulos–who had been invited by the Berkeley College Republicans club–deviant rioters began to assault bystanders, light fires, and clash with riot police before moving into the city of Berkeley to vandalize and loot businesses.

As Yahoo! News reports, the unrest caught the attention of President Trump, who took to social media to condemn the situation:

In a tweet from early Thursday morning, Trump wrote:

If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?

For what it’s worth, UC Berkeley research projects received $370 million in federal funding during the 2015-2016 fiscal year–a significant portion of the $673.9 million in total funding.

If Trump’s threat seemed ambiguous, though, it certainly struck a chord with Representative  Barbara Lee (D-CA), who fired back at the president a few hours later:

Noting that she was “disappointed” by the violence that erupted Wednesday night, Lee–whose district includes Berkeley–said Trump’s tweet was tantamount to “blackmail”:

“President Donald Trump cannot bully our university into silence. Simply put, President Trump’s empty threat to cut funding from UC Berkeley is an abuse of power.

As a senior member of the education funding subcommittee, I will continue to stand up to President Trump’s overreach and defend the rights of our students and faculty.”

It should be noted that the chaos Wednesday night has been attributed to “a group of about 150 masked agitators,” who Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennet said were “throwing rocks, commercial grade fireworks and Molotov cocktails at officers.”

Interestingly enough, UC Berkeley is itself considered the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.

As the University of California’s Calisphere notes:

The Free Speech Movement began in 1964, when students at the University of California, Berkeley protested a ban on on-campus political activities.

The protest was led by several students, who also demanded their right to free speech and academic freedom.

Yiannopoulos, meanwhile–who, among many other things, has become a proponent of free speech –has said that the unrest Wednesday night was proof, “the Left is absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

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